On January 20 2017, The Coalition, “organizations and individuals, with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and nationalities, who have come together in the spirit of solidarity to push back against the rising tide of far-right politics and extremism around the globe,” rallied against the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States. Feminist sociologist Sabine Hark, director of The center for interdisciplinary women’s and gender’s studies at the Technical University of Berlin gave the speech reproduced below.
On January 20, 2017, a practicing representative of rape culture took his place in the White House. With him came racism and sexism; came hatred for women*, lesbians and gays, trans*, inter*, and queers; came marginalization and debasement, insult and contempt.
This can revive the age of men who beat and rape without censure; of resentful, homophobic nuclear families and colonial fantasies of omnipotence; of wars and devastating racism.
We have gathered here today because we will not accept that, and because we strive for a different world together; because we say NO to a politics of hate and disrespect; because we say NO to a politics of violence and intimidation. Disrespect invites disrespect, and violence incites violence. We are refusing that invitation.
Here in Germany, as well, we have long had to witness even the educated mainstream presenting itself as the victims of a supposed “virtue terror” exercised by feminists, leftists, and other do-gooders and expressing hatred and defamation, taunts and insults, with less and less restraint.
Many of us — women*, queers, refugees and other displaced persons, people with disabilities, People of Color and Black Germans — have to deal daily with the full force of these angry elites and the class struggle from above, which is no longer being fought only on the battleground of semantics. It is a struggle that denies the equality of all human beings and violates their physical and emotional integrity.
But homophobic, transphobic, heterosexist, and racializing policies do not impact everyone to the same degree. Violence targets some bodies and not others. It is crucial that we recognize the difference between privileged bodies and vulnerable bodies. It is crucial that we address our participation in violence and oppression, in ignorance and passivity, our involvement in regressiveness, in racism and sexism, and that we actively say NO.
Right now, all over Europe xenophobic, nationalistic parties are exploiting notions of equal rights in order to present male Muslim citizens — and non-Western male newcomers in general—as being incapable of respecting the rights of women and LGBTIQ people. Again, we say NO. Sexism and sexualized violence are never acceptable. But decrying sexism should never be misused as a way of granting legitimacy to racist politics.
Seventy-five years ago today, on January 20, 1942, in the Wannsee Villa in Berlin, the Nazis resolved the “final solution,” confirming the already ongoing extermination of European Jewry. Today we have a choice, and we must make a decision. We can join Trump and Orban, Le Pen and Farage, Kaczyński and Modi, Rasmussen and Petry, Erdogan and Putin and repeat the horrors of the twentieth century. Or we can recognize the danger and pool our strengths now, in order to enter a twenty-first century that practices global solidarity. A century that focuses on equality and on forming a coalition of the diverse.
Right now, all we have is our present situation, however broken it is. It is our only chance. It is the life that we have, and the only source from which we can draw our strength. Let us begin today!
(Translation by Allison Brown and Kate Sturge.)