|The queue of political leaders and public figures who affirm "the equality of men and women" as a fundamental value of European civilisation is getting longer and longer these days. This appeal to "women's emancipation" is particularly popular among political leaders and parties who advocate "integration" intended as assimilation of communities of migrant origins. This integration goes hand in hand with closure of borders and restriction of immigration into Europe as well as re-invention of Europe in terms of a homogeneous white civilisation, a process which once again denies the obvious multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious realities of Europe.
But in response to the long lists of concrete demands from our women's movements these same leaders have remained suspiciously quiet. Let's also not forget how quickly and easy the principle of equality between men and women was ousted from the first version of the European Convention. A look at the repressed memories of European colonisation teaches us that this pattern is not new. European colonisers consistently legitimised their rule in the name of "civilising the colonies." This "civilising mission" was fundamentally gendered: it was often presented in terms of "protecting" women from their "oppressive cultures and men". Back in their "motherlands" however, these same colonisers were often found among the most vehement opponents to the women's stuggles of the first feminist wave.
Neo-imperialist and right-wing agendas are increasingly popular nowadays. They try to sell us a "clash of civilisations" world view and they play out the "women's emancipation card" as part of "Western civilisation." It is particularly fashionable for political leaders to profile themselves as the "saviours" of "the poor Muslim girl." Muslim girls and woman with a headscarf are then represented as passive objects or victims, or the very embodiment of the oppression of women. We firmly reject this all-too-familiar "divide and rule" strategy that presents white women in Europe as "liberated" and puts the "weight of emancipation" on the shoulders of black, migrant and refugee women and "their oppressive cultures." The logic of this strategy is perverse, and it prevents us from working together in solidarity. What the staged hysteria around the headscarf these last months effectively obscures, is the intolerable fact that a great part of women and men of migrant origins in present-day Europe are still second-rate citizens, who daily face racism and discrimination in the educational system, on the labour market and on the housing market.
On the occasion of International Women's Day we want to insist that our various struggles against all kinds of oppressions that mark women's lives continue to be very necessary. A serious engagement for women's emancipation means we need to fight against the normalisation of violence and the current "culture of war", and against the ways in which that violence is sexist, racist and homophobic. We need to fight against the violence of neoliberal politics - sold to us as "truths" or "inevitabilities" of the free market - that dismantle all kinds of social security and result in a continuing precarisation of our lives. We need to fight against structural and every day sexism, racism and homophobia we encounter in our lives, and we need to build all the necessary alliances to wage these struggles. We need to fight against the ways in which women get represented and do not get represented - in our political and economic systems, in dominant culture and media, in advertisements and bill boards in the streets. We need to fight against the systematic cut-back of resources for emancipatory politics and the closing down of spaces that allow us to develop our feminist politics.
To the new crop of self-proclaimed "guardians of women's rights", whom we have never encountered as participants in nor supporters of our women's movements and struggles over many years, we say determined: NOT IN OUR NAMES! Their cynical use of "women's emancipation" and 'the equality of men and women' is as appalling as it is inveracious. As feminists and women truly concerned with women's emancipation we will not allow them to use 'the emancipation of women' for anti-immigrationist, assimilationist, islamophobic and ethnocentric politics. We will continue to fight all the oppressions women are confronted with in their lives. Happy International Women's Day!