- Editors’ Introduction
Volume 32 of the Women in German Yearbook goes to press as 2016 comes to an end, a year that, yet again, has driven home the unequivocal urgency of feminist work across all spheres of public life, be it in the form of activist work in changing laws around sexually motivated violence or the early fostering of critical feminist thinking in education. The year began under the signs of racism, sexism, nationalism, and xenophobia; as day broke on the New Year, it brought with it news of the mass sexual violence that had occurred overnight in Cologne and in other German cities, throwing into sharp relief the political, discursive, structural, and everyday formations enabling such attacks. At the same time, however, voices of antiracist, critical feminism grew stronger, bringing with them not only a call for policy changes and better legal protection but also an intense reminder of the importance of ongoing collective, individual, and personal action at all community levels. As the group of activist-initiators of #ausnahmslos write on the English-language version of their website:
The sustained ﬁght against sexualized violence of any kind is of highest priority. [. . .] It is wrong to highlight sexualised violence only when the perpetrators are allegedly the perceived “others”: Muslim, Arab, black or North-African men, i.e., those who are regarded as “non-Germans” by extremists. Furthermore, sexualised violence must not only be taken seriously if white cis women are the alleged victims.(Gümüşay, Wizorek, et al).
They ask us here to condemn not only sexualized violence but also the racism that comes in its wake.
Such reminders of the necessity to ﬁght for ongoing political and structural changes while maintaining vigilance in combating both systemic and everyday sexism and racism continually surfaced throughout 2016 in Europe and across North America. The events in Cologne are a [End Page xi] spectacular reminder of the daily violence occurring against young Black men in confrontation with the police in the United States, but also the increasing prominence of Black Lives Matters in changing the way in which we talk about such violence; of the ongoing disappearances of indigenous women and children in Canadian First Nations communities, but also the Liberal government’s commitment to launching a national inquiry in August 2016, thereby acknowledging the ongoing devastation of settler colonialism on Canada’s aboriginal communities; of the hate crimes against lgbttq+ people seen most recently in the June 2016 Orlando shooting, but also the increased public awareness and solidarity around transgender rights on small and large scales across North American communities; of the xenophobic panic and racist rhetoric leading up to the June 2016 “Brexit” referendum that saw the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union, but also the presentation of the Ingeborg Bachmann prize to Black British-born author Sharon Dodua Otoo in that same month. When this introduction was ﬁrst drafted in July 2016, the divisiveness of US politics in the form of the vitriol produced in the lead-up to the election was prominently on our mind, as was the historic nomination of Hillary Clinton as the ﬁrst female candidate for president. As we return to this introduction in late November 2016 following the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, this vitriol has been transformed into open expressions of racially and sexually oriented hate in Alt-Right fringe organizations and media, affecting everyday life on the ground for immigrants, People of Color, members of the lgbttq+ community, the disabled, and allies of all genders. At the same time, communities small and large have come together—whether in the form of protests, rallies, and vigils across the country and around the world or in online “secret” Facebook groups such as Pantsuit Nation (nearly four million members to date)—to hold space for vulnerable and marginalized communities and to hold ground on decades of hard-won political transformations and socially liberal values. The capacity of social media to erase the space-time separation of these conversations across national and linguistic borders intensiﬁes the oscillating senses of hopelessness and empowerment in the face of competing modes of violence...