Why do feminists think it's about equality

Nature, culture, genderFeminism and the small differences

Washing, cleaning and looking after children are just a woman's nature. That is why women should not be overwhelmed and left to care for them as a purpose in life - while affairs of state, science and the fine arts belong entirely to those who are naturally gifted: men. With this argument, the press, politics and journalism reacted in the 18th and 19th centuries to the first tentative but also emphatic attempts by women to achieve the same rights, the same education and the same status. For these early feminists, let's say since the French Revolution, everything was at stake. Increasing numbers of them attacked the prejudice that they were naturally confined to the home. They had to penetrate with their desire for equality, against all odds. That is still the case today.

Equal rights, equal opportunities

What was ground up in the process and ultimately fell by the wayside is the category of nature. To the extent that scientific and philosophical thought shook off religious dogmas, the creator of nature, God, withdrew from the debate, or rather: He was pushed out. And his child, nature, too. That was his fate since the Enlightenment. The focus was now on people, and with them culture, their work. And when one argued about the nature of the sexes, one liked to leave nature aside. The women had particularly good reasons for this, because in the name of nature they had been deprived of equality and freedom and all sorts of deficits were granted in return: weakness, sentimentality, small-mindedness. Those who were wise understood that this devaluation was caused by power struggles and not by nature. In the women's rights discourse, the postulate of equality, which was supposed to dissolve the hierarchy between the sexes, took the place of the natural differences to which men and women had to submit. Equal rights, equal opportunities, full independence - all of this could be achieved for and by women, because it was related to politics and society and not to nature.

Remnants of the mother cult

When men, encouraged by women since the 18th century, thought about the gender difference, they stuck to the category of nature for a long time - it was simply too cheap for them, because it could be concluded from it: You can't do anything there do. It can not be helped. It is true that the existence and way of life of men also had something to do with nature. In order to define themselves, they said: "This is against nature for me" or they described themselves as "power nature", while women, in the best case, had to be content with "cheerful nature". But men grew, they themselves found, far beyond natural conditions; Women were considered to be more closely connected with nature, that is, closer to animals and further from the analytical, inventive human mind than men. For a long time women, especially the very pious, thought similarly, and even the early feminists temporarily linked the struggle for equality with remnants of the mother cult: If men had something special, their strength and their spirit, then they wanted something special too, and that was her qualification for motherhood. But little by little, at the end of the 19th century, this remnant was also relegated to the background from the ideas of nature, "equality" tended to free itself from all special cases and exceptions and remained the guiding principle. That was necessary for emancipation, and it was a successful thought strategy.

The French writer Simone de Beauvoir (imago images / ZUMA / Keystone)

Towards the middle of the last century, Simone de Beauvoir once again emphatically set the theme and strategy with the sentence: "You are not born a woman, you become one". Now the women knew: they were in control of their own fate. The quote is also often modified as follows: "We are not born women, we are made to be." In this way, responsibility for the image of women and for the guidelines that girls had to observe as children, adolescents and adults could be transferred entirely to society, legislation and upbringing. Natural conditions have been cut away. When the men emphasized their superiority, when they said: "That's the way it is", when they referred to God and his creation, then they now had to realize: This excuse simply no longer held up.

Family policy reacts

In the 20th century, emancipation took great strides towards equality: women could study, vote and file for divorce. After the Second World War, equality was written into the constitution here in Germany. And family policy reacted: freedom of movement for women was enforced, women went to work and managed their own income, and the spouse no longer had the last word by law when it came to questions of family planning and housekeeping. Many more steps followed. It was a triumphant advance. And the journalistic music accompanying these processes got along pretty well without the concept of nature. Its function as a pretext on the part of the yesterday had disavowed him so deeply that one and the woman simply could no longer endure him in the context of women's emancipation.

Faux pas in feminist discourse

In other contexts, such as ecology, nature was very important, but in feminist discourse a faux pas was committed who referred to it. No woman wanted to be told anymore that she was missing her purpose in life if she did not have children. And fewer and fewer women had to listen to something like that. A change in consciousness had taken place. Were women perhaps not just women, but also, just like men, people who wanted to choose their own goals in life? Were they perhaps even endowed with qualities, skills, longing and ambition? A great deal of thought resulted in a new politics of justice: there were women's representatives, quotas and girls ‘days ... women now made their own lives.

At the beginning of our century it looked as if emancipation was complete and it was easier to move on to other hot questions. Then it turned out: It is not true, the same wages have not been enforced, violence against women has not stopped and the proportion of practicing fathers and housewives is negligible. Just like the proportion of women in top positions. What was that? The quota became a controversial issue again, anti-discrimination laws were enacted, and funds in the education system were linked to the advancement of women. Restlessness and dissatisfaction returned with the insight: equality is not enforced.

(dpa / Federico Gambarini) Why gender research is so controversial
Criticism comes not only from right-wing populists, gender research is also attacked from the feminist side. In particular, the thesis that the division of people into "men" and "women" excludes non-heterosexual forms of identity is controversial.

It could have been the moment when the reference field "nature" wanted to steal itself on the agenda again - but it turned out differently. Anyone who referred to nature in the feminist discourse, for example who wanted to explain the tendency of large parts of the young generation of women to sacrifice their professional ambitions for the family, with biological factors, was quickly thrown out. Nothing can be explained by nature here, rather it should be darkened. The new superstar among the thinkers who gave the discourse its structure was the American philosopher Judith Butler after the French Simone de Beauvoir. She agreed: "We are not born women." But with her the sentence continues differently. Freely interpreted their gender philosophy says: "We are not born women. And we are not made into them either. We are only made to believe." Because the concept of nature is also a social construct.

Woman and man constructed socially and culturally

Accordingly, women and men are socially and culturally constructed as phenomena because, according to Judith Butler, these Poles do not even exist. It is true that conservative society, which persistently adheres to this polarity, does a lot to bind its children to one pole or the other, but ultimately it cannot be successful in this because the sex as such is much too iridescent and fluctuating and fluid and ghost around volatilely between the imaginary poles than that it can ever be fixed and identical with itself and defined once and for all. Gender is not subject to a binary code, it is a spectrum. It is a kind of puzzling game whose desire for change only needs the appropriate freedom to show that it is much more and something completely different than "male" or "female" - according to Judith Butler's theory.

Bang! With this, the idea of ​​natural conditions had gotten its final kick, which permanently pushed it out of the gender discourse. Feminists and interested men looked at this process with fascination: Did that mean you could choose your gender freely? Or do you want to move the options to the front or hide them here and there? No, it is not quite that simple, said the Butler Adepts, but one has to get used to the idea that there is gender bipolarity, that there is no such thing as "the binary", that instead a large number of gender-based possibilities in individuals slumber and the view of our ancestors that humanity is divided into the two large groups of men and women cannot be upheld. The so-called heterosexual act is by no means the "normal" act, but just one of many.

60 genders supposedly conceivable

That was pretty tough stuff, and many newspaper readers and book buyers who were interested in these connections got out here. The new orientation marks that the Butler discourse offered for understanding gender relations simply had too little to do with their everyday experiences. For her, 60 genders that were supposedly thinkable and real were nothing more than a phantasmagoria and the idea of ​​a conditioned nature never disappeared from their thinking. It was very bold of the advanced feminists to forego the connectivity of their theories with the basic assumptions of common sense. But the question is whether it was right. And whether nature as a factor in their hypotheses and concepts was not always included as a kind of subtext - just unspoken.

It starts with feminists who reject the category of nature in their attempt to understand gender relations, but always implicitly use this category when researching individual social fields that have to do with gender. Does anyone still remember the concept of self-actualization, which also influenced feminist discourse in the 1970s? In short, it meant: as men or women, when we grow up and adapt to society, we may not be ourselves at all; we should listen inside and perceive everything that is being suppressed, cropped, distorted and denied. But what was this self that was supposed to be exposed, had it possibly something to do with - horribile dictu - nature? At least with something that we hadn't made ourselves, but that had been given to us and that we were supposed to help into the world, so to speak?

Develop drugs for women

Another example: There is a field of research in medicine that is talked about a lot today and which is critically based on the premise that the model patient for whom drugs are developed and on whom tests are carried out is always male. Women, the doctors explain, bring too many uncertainties into the research field with their periods and the changed vital functions within the cycle. Things are easier with men, so they are preferred in long-term tests for the sake of comparability. So you would have to do special research for women. Feminists rightly denounce that this does not happen. But what is the Prosecutor's point of reference in this debate? But probably nature, which has designed the nerves and metabolism differently in the sexes. Or what else?

(dpa / picture alliance / Christian Charisius) "Anti-Patriarchate Day would open up new perspectives"
International Women's Day is a kind of Mother's Day that does not address the core problem, complains the director of the Center for Intersectional Justice Emilia Roig in the Dlf. She proposes an anti-patriarchy day.

The feminist discourse likes to use the term "biology" at this point. It means something similar to nature, but since it belongs to the sciences, it is perceived as the work of man and is therefore allowed in feminist discourse - albeit mostly as a delimitation term. In the women's movement of the 1970s, reference to "biology" was undesirable when it came to gender differences, and women who operated on biological facts or even the term "nature" were reviled as "biologists". The mainstream did not recognize physical factors and naturalness was no longer known. Everything came from the culture, from the upbringing, the power struggles, the gender images constructed by people themselves. Nature? What is that supposed to be? Canadian psychologist and feminist Susan Pinker has dared to re-allow natural factors in her studies on gender relations. She writes:

"Scientific research into gender difference is undoubtedly a surprise bag full of surprises. The prevailing belief is that men are the stronger sex and that historical and cultural advantages keep them better off. But on closer inspection, it becomes clear that men are more vulnerable to everyone biological and psychological breakdowns are possible and suffer from a variety of learning and behavioral problems. On the other hand, an increased propensity for competition and daring leads some men to excellence and spectacular success - and others to sad record numbers of accidents and suicides the question of why the notion of gender differences remains so controversial, one reason is that we have neglected biology for 40 years and that has put us in the weird and awkward position that it is ass women are afraid to admit their own wishes. "

For a work-life balance with more life

What Susan Pinker is referring to here are not just everyday observations, but also research results on the fact that when their careers are forked in their careers, highly successful women are more likely to seek a solution that gives them time for their children than to advance to the very top - significantly more often than Men. To this day it is taken for granted that it is the macho atmosphere in the executive suite that scares women off. Pinker opposes that women strive for a work-life balance with more life themselves and are more afraid of admitting this to themselves. She does not speak of nature, but her term "biology" can be used here as a synonym. She respectfully explains how profoundly different the architecture of the bodies of men and women turns out, and even more so their physiology, the natural endowment with hormones that control our behavior and form the "self" that we want to "realize", which we often do fails. Can't we allow this thought: that men and women are naturally different? And can't this thought lead to something other than reflections on power or above and below? In addition to recognizing equality in difference? In other words: Can't you name differences without reflexively evaluating? In any case: the state of research nowhere justifies patriarchy.

(Deutschlandradio) The pink-light-blue trap
Women's mustard and pink surprise eggs, pirate biscuits and chips for the men's evening - the range of goods is increasingly based on gender segregation and thus gives the impression that cute glitter princesses and adventurous monster fighters live in different worlds.

Young parents report strange experiences. Yes, the toy industry is terribly annoying with its main colors pink and light blue, we all no longer want to see them and disavow them wherever possible. But there is something else. The mother of a pair of twins, boy and girl, tells how the two two-year-olds play with the dresser in the hallway, in whose drawers there are discarded blue taffeta curtains. The girl asks her mother to open the drawer and pulls out the curtains. She strokes the fabric with her hands, wraps the strips around her figure and also dresses mom and doll in blue.The boy is not interested in what is in the drawer, he is interested in the mechanism of the drawer and he tries with all his might to open and close the drawer. Now you could say: So what? - Don't parents tell such stories at least 1,000 times a day. And as if researchers from all over the world hadn't shown again and again how eagerly little boys strive to make their playing fields combative, while little girls want to play around in social contexts and are not really satisfied when their cuddly toy is hungry. The imprinting from the outside certainly begins very early. But certain data regarding the individual character are there from the start. This also includes gender. After all, we are not stapled into the book of this world as a blank sheet of paper when we are born, but something is already written on it. Call it body, gender, gene pool, DNA, genetic information, character or individual - there is an inscription, and not just a few notes, but a fairly extensive narrative. Are we really supposed to ignore them?

In some cases, nature even seems to be anarchic

The fear of making nature an issue ultimately stems from the idea that everything that comes from nature has always been unchangeable. This false assumption has already helped the old patriarchy to push aside women as unsatisfactory. Feminists now fear that the idea of ​​nature, if allowed in the debate, could continue to produce such harmful effects and immediately plunge the female desire for freedom back into the orcus of determination, the commitment to second fiddle for all time. But it can also turn out quite differently. If you let nature into the debate again, you could reinterpret it and its potentials as a contribution to "self-realization". Especially since what is there on paper from the beginning is supplemented, expanded, overbuilt and also overwritten by the human work of culture.

Nature is in constant motion. We know the terms evolution and adaptation, and we know what they mean. In fact, we've known that pretty well since Darwin. They mean change, change, renewal, even our genes modify themselves and have a memory that contains the call for change. Nature seems to be playing and is constantly breaking its own rules. Even a person's sex chromosomes can deviate from the normal distribution and have, for example, XXY instead of XX and XY, nature does not mind that at all. Furthermore, the frequency of homosexuality among higher animals is likely to take the wind out of the sails of those conservatives who distinguish between natural and unnatural sexual acts and make life difficult for gays and lesbians. So nature seems to be quite liberal and libertarian and in some cases even downright anarchic. It is therefore unlikely that there will be danger if it is introduced into the feminist discourse. You can talk to her, so to speak. In any case, its determining power does not claim to be absolute.

(dpa / picture alliance / Jens Kalaene) From dolls, pirates and monkey children
Do toys shape the sexes? Glitter dolls for girls, construction sets for boys - the toy industry has strictly separate products for both sides. Gender researchers and feminists complain about this aggressive gender marketing.

Even so, nature has its own agenda. She simply does not move away from the fact that we all have to die someday, no deconstruction drives this determination out. And that we are all born sex beings is also one of the commandments that she does not take back. It is true that there are intersex people with ambiguous gender and those in whom a trans thought may arise after their birth: They want to switch from female to male or from male to female. It was wrong of culture and especially of religion to condemn such a step as a sin, because it too comes from nature and is in most cases a longing and not a quirk. It is therefore correct that there are not only two genders, but that the intermediate forms only exist because there is two sexes.

If there are intermediate forms or requests to alternate, they relate precisely to the two dominant forms that they presuppose with their "between" instead of questioning them. You refer to the binary code and thereby confirm it. The word "dominant form" has a quantitative implication, as it encompasses 95 to 99 percent of all people, hence a majority that is too large not to be translated into quality. This means that "heteronormativity", which is to be abolished according to the most modern feminism, will remain the norm after all - the norm, however, in the sense of lived practice, not in the sense of a role model. We do not need a new logic that teaches us to deal with a diversity of genders, but can keep our old, bisexual logic. And in spite of this, or precisely because of this, grant the intermediate forms their rights. We can continue the long-started debate about what "female" and "male" actually mean, what is possibly inevitable and what has to be opened, transformed or completely redesigned. To do this, we do not have to give up the assumption of bisexuality. Because she doesn't give up on us either. This also applies to the concept of nature.

Nature is always there when we arrive

Really? Isn't nature our adversary rather than our ally on the path to freedom? Have we not emancipated ourselves from it to such an extent that we can practically do without it? Frankenstein's experiment went wrong, but the robots of our time are a great success program, as is research and practice in the field of AI, artificial intelligence. All of these liberation movements will continue, and it looks like they are practically and theoretically pushing nature into a supporting role. Or not?

Nature in a supporting role ... Isn't that a projection of us humans, who we would like to be the Creator God ourselves? Shouldn't we shed this ambition? Our experience is that nature is always there when we arrive. That she might be stronger than us. We should allow this thought and ask what nature does to us. To do this, we must first allow them again as a factor in the markets of our ideas, convictions, beliefs, logics, discourses and theories, also in the field of gender difference. For which we also have to explain what nature should mean, where it works in the gender relationship. As long as we do not recognize and do not understand this last and greatest dependency in our life - whether as men or women - our discourses and arguments will end in a fight against windmill blades. And the political right will hijack the category and who knows what to do with it. She has already appropriated the German forest for herself, the German people rhetorically too - when will the German woman come?

Restarting the gender discourse

The nervous rejection of the category of nature that we find in feminist thinking may have this additional reason, which is also widespread in philosophy: As a thinking person, you want to be independent, autonomous, completely on your own and only committed to yourself. It is an offense for the creative human being to find forces around and within him that he has not created and understood himself, and that he basically has little else than to look at and analyze these forces that surround him and work in him to understand and to recreate. But none of this is particularly original. That's not awesome. It is not godlike. It is epigonal. As long as humanity could agree that it was a Creator God who created nature and humans as part of it, we somehow got along with nature that has determined us. Faith and reverence offset the feeling of irrelevance of one's own creative endeavors; people were able to make peace with the overall situation. But since belief has broken down and all people emerge as creative people and women want to be equal, it has become difficult.

The women had to enforce their desire for freedom not only against the men, but also against the entire previous tradition of thought. So it was obvious to them to take a sharp cut: not to allow nature to have an inch of floor space in their discourses. Feminists have tried to think along these lines, and so they succeeded for a while, but during the last two decades only for themselves, only for the manageable circles of participants in courses in gender studies, so to speak "among us pastors' daughters ". They have thus moved further and further away from the living situation of their non-intellectual contemporaries, and thus also from politics and the social problems in the lowlands of disdainful reality. What remains is an academic dispute about words and their possible new creations. Meanwhile, the goals of equality have not been achieved on many important points. So you should think again in order to finally make practical progress. And for such a desired restart of the discourse about the sexes, the rediscovery of an entity called "nature" is essential. It cannot help the faults of culture that a relationship of domination has brought into the relationship between the sexes. We can approach it with less fear and ask what limits it sets us and which horizons it opens up for us.