For years I have shared with my daughter my views on what it means to be a woman, on how to be and behave as a woman. Together we have talked about gender equality, about how to be resilient, strong or, at times, belligerent. We have discussed the glass ceiling, the place of women in the world of science to which my daughter belongs. We have talked about how often, still, women are threatened because of their sex. We ruminate on the themes of feminism, equality, respect, sexuality, safety.
My credo with regard to the latter has always been simple. Don’t be afraid, be careful. Now, in light of the New Year’s events across Germany – where my daughter lives by the way – I stand corrected.
In the heart of Europe, in what should have been a happy, peaceful celebration, women were suddenly reduced to game, hunted by men on the prowl. No longer men but predators. No longer women but meat.
Women groped, their underwear torn from their bodies, rounded up like cattle, verbally assaulted and robbed.
Sexual assault versus migration sensitivities?
It took five days, five days of silence, for the truth to finally emerge. So why this time lapse? Because the victims were women? Because the perpetrators were said to be men of Arab and North African appearance? Was it self-censorship of the media as the offenders remain mostly unidentified but clearly risk being linked with the influx of asylum seekers? Is the management of social tension and the fear to name social realities now more important than our citizen’s, read, in this case, women’s safety?
Cowardly, criminal, unacceptable. These men need to be apprehended and punished. Severely punished by an unbiased justice system that defends our values, rights and liberties, unashamedly so.
As for prudence and fear, I would like my credo to hold, despite the events. But I feel a shift in my perception, a reluctance and a hesitation.
In my book, there are no inferior races. I do not esteem one group of people superior to another group of people. But value systems vary and clash and old demons readily resurface. Women as easy targets. Blind disregard for propriety, decency and morality.
A year after “Je suis Charlie”, for me, the slogan has changed.
Today, “Ich bin Köln”.