This is my non-fiction instalment for German Lit Month. It hasn’t been translated because it only just came out (and the context is very specific to the German-speaking world and Germany in particular), but its title roughly translates to “Because an #Outcry is not enough: for a contemporary feminism”. It’s difficult to write about this book because I wanted to love it so much that I find it hard to acknowledge that I thought it was a bit of a disappointment. BUT, let me get this out first: I think it’s a hugely important book, especially for those who are sort of drawn to feminism but haven’t made contact yet. It provides a good introduction to some of the main issues and above all, it makes clear that feminism isn’t some sort of man-hating club of bitter female professors who sit around in stuffy offices and hate on each other and all things male. I just wish it was a bit better executed.
I can’t stress enough how important feminism has become for me over recent years. The older I become, the more impatient I get with issues like the glass ceiling, male privilege, and everyday sexism. And I think the events of the last few weeks only prove me right. An ESA scientist wore a hugely unprofessional shirt on the day of us landing a robot on a comet and no-one thought to prevent him from it (if you’re going to read one final article about “that shirt”, please make it this one, it’s simply brilliant, and if you want one more, this one is also very good)*, resulting in Lewis’s Law being proven right on about a million articles. The morning after pill has to become prescription-free by order of a European agency and against the will of Germany’s most important political force, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The compulsory 30% quota for women on the boards of listed companies in Germany – that will affect just over 100 companies in total because smaller companies are not obligated to implement it – is pushed through after years and years of negotiation and vitriol (the vitriol, of course, continues to be spilled all over the place). I think we have plenty of reason not to become complacent about “how far we’ve come” on gender equality.
All this is to say that in theory, books like Anne Wizorek’s modern defence of feminism are absolutely necessary. It was inspired by the #Aufschrei (#outcry) campaign on Twitter several months ago that exposed the sexism women are exposed to on a daily basis. The campaign went viral overnight and created a huge debate (and of course the accompanying backlash – Lewis’s Law all over again) in the whole country about the pervasiveness of sexism and harassment in our society. Anne Wizorek was one of the initiators of the campaign, and in Weil ein #Aufschrei nicht reicht she wants to provide a manifesto for a contemporary feminism that is accessible to all women. This is, in and of itself, an impressive and awesome undertaking. We need this, and she does a good job. But I think she wants too much. Because she also wants to narrate the story of #Aufschrei, and detail her own journey towards feminism. I think we have three books here, not one, and this makes Weil ein #Aufschrei nicht reicht a bit jumbled.
The other issue I had was that she didn’t decide on a writing style. Parts of the book are written in a way that seeks to appeal to the generation of Internet-savvy 20-something to 30-something year-olds, so they’re very informal and down-to-earth. Other sections are super didactic, I’d even say they sound a bit school teacher-y; again I think this has to do with the fact that she was trying to pack it all into the same book. Of course in a way this makes sense and I can see the appeal: a contemporary manifesto of feminism is that much more credible if you accompany it by the life story of how one young woman got there. And the #Aufschrei campaign just makes for a brilliant story of women coming together to trigger a much-needed debate. Plus, it had to be published quickly after the campaign so it would stay relevant. But as a result of all this, the book sometimes seems a bit carelessly written, confused, and alternates between chumminess and condescension.
Can you see why I find it hard to write about this? Especially because I hate it when feminists crawl all over each other and damage the cause through infighting. I have many, many more comments and thoughts on Warum ein #Aufschrei nicht reicht, but that would be a much longer and more detailed post. As I said initially, I really, really, really desperately wanted to love the book and for various reasons I ended up thinking it could be better. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that we need many more women like Anne Wizorek in this world. You go woman!
* Note that I profoundly disagree with the way the criticism was turned into a personal witch hunt by some people, but this is a problem with the media nowadays (in all formats, including social networks), not with feminism, as some invariably chose to believe.