Germany’s Pirate Party: “We already have gender equality.”

Via yvi, who points out problems with the Pirate Party’s stance on gender equality. Sources are in German, but she writes:

Basic summary: “We don’t need to talk about gender equality in our party because we already have gender equality! Every woman who says otherwise is an evil bitch! The evil feminists are trying to exclude the poor men! Also, we don’t need gender statistics in our party because we don’t need to care – see above re: gender equality.”

Err, yeah.

The Pirate Party is a political party who support Internet rights and the oppose online censorship and the like — for a US perspective, think EFF as an actual political party (though yes, there is an actual US Pirate Party, as well as others internationally).

The discussion seems to have come up after an attempt to form a women’s group within the German Pirate Party. A Google translation of the Piratinnen page on the Pirate Party wiki reads:

“We are post-gender” is often claimed by the pirates. This is an ideal and for many it is so, but sometimes the reality, unfortunately, still looks different. That nobody is disadvantaged, can not be dogmatically postulated by the majority. We want to reach women who feel discriminated within the party – and women who are not going to take but the position of the other seriously. In particular, we want to be focal point for women who for network policy and issues of interest to other pirates, but have not been committed because they feel discriminated against than women with us. We want to create a communication space in which such problems can be articulated.

Sounds very much like the same discussions I’ve heard in other tech areas (open source, tech industry, etc.) Are there any German GF readers who can share a bit more insight into this particular situation?

13 thoughts on “Germany’s Pirate Party: “We already have gender equality.”

  1. Patrick

    Hey, I’m German, and I’ve had a longish discussion about that very topic on my blog (also in German, though).

    The discussion really started before the last general election when the Pirate Party (PP) really came out in force. A lot of news articles focused on the low number of women in the party, often because the stereotype was “party of videogamers” and the stereotype of videogamers is “male”. But the PP really reacted badly, imho.

    First off, part of many feminist’s program is using gendered language; as you may or may not know, German changes almost every personal noun depending on the sex of the person – compare “waiter” and “waitress”, for example. So normally, you’d end up using either a gender neutral plural form (“service personnel”) or something like “wait_ress” or “waiter/waitress” or something like that.

    So the members of the PP would normally be “Piraten” for men and “Piratinnen” for women, i.e. “Pirat_innen”, “PiratInnen”, “Piraten/innen” in this kind of gendered form – though some would then for ease of use simply use the female form. The PP decided democratically that they’d call themselves just “Piraten”, but that the male form naturally included female party members, as well. It wasn’t surprising the vote went that way, with a large majority of men in the party – the actual numbers aren’t known because the party doesn’t (or claims not to) specify gender in their member files.

    When criticized for also not nominating a woman in the general election, the PP claimed that this was all silly, that we were living in a post-sexist age and that gender issues, or at least sexism issues were a thing of the past. With that, the PP also declared that quotas for women, gendered language and any other move to make women more visible or more numerous in higher company positions were outdated policies. Which turned off quite a few feminist sympathizers, including me. Of course, the PP also pointed to the women in their party who seemingly had no problem with the way things were, and were against quotas, too – and judging from what I encountered at my university, I don’t doubt these women exist.

    Now, the issue got heated up recently at about the same time as I had that blog discussion – though I claim no correlation here –, and suddenly a few women decided to form a group specifically for women in the PP. They even published a press release, and then they got deleted by some other member, but quickly reinstated.

    Now the discussion is about different things, namely:
    1) does the PP even need such a group? This is where a lot of the shady pirates came out of hiding. The PP does have a contingent of “masculinists” – people claiming that men are disadvantaged in a lot of ways (depending on how fanatic you are, maybe even most or all ways) in society, which is true but beside the point, though it illustrates that the PP has seemingly no problem giving those people a platform whilst declaring sexism dead.

    2) Can the group issue a press release? The way the group was founded was either a very quick and spontaneous decision or designed as a publicity stunt, as normally the founders, as far as I understand it, should not have been able – speaking from the party hierarchy – to issue an official press release and thus some pirates feel they went too far.

    3) Why is the group closed? the PP is big on transparency, and some critics claim that having a group that is only open to women and only visible to women – so they can write freely about things they encountered as prejudices or the like – runs counter to the ideal of transparency. Of course, I’d say at least a few of these critics hide behind that idea in the hopes that an open group would either dissuade women from joining / posting or allow them to troll the group. To me, transparency is not letting everybody into all of my discussions, and the group founder argued that way, that it’s not a transparency issue as long as the group didn’t have the power to decide things for the other party members, but was just there as a haven for free discussion.

    that’s the state of the matter as far as I know. Any questions?

    1. Yvi

      the PP is big on transparency, and some critics claim that having a group that is only open to women and only visible to women – so they can write freely about things they encountered as prejudices or the like – runs counter to the ideal of transparency

      Interesting, seeing as the homepage of the AG Männer is password-protected. How is that for transparency?

        1. Yvi

          Nope, the page has been protected for about half a year (?) with the… interesting reason that it is still “under construction”.

          Let’s not even talk about the rather open sexism in the other ‘official’ plaxes for the AG Männer, like the subforum.

  2. Laughingrat

    That nobody is disadvantaged, can not be dogmatically postulated by the majority.

    I really thought this was brilliant and perceptive. It’s the pithy rebuttal to all the “we’re post-sexism because we say we’re post-sexism!” non-arguments I encounter.

    1. April

      Don’t get your hopes up. The quick response to the rebuttal is “Now you’re discriminating against us! You’re saying we can’t express our opinions simply because there are more of us.”

      And yeah, it’s a bullshit response, but what else can you expect from somebody who thinks simply saying they are equal makes it so?

  3. Kaonashi

    In Sweden, home of the original Pirate Party, there’s . There has been some debate about this and whether women aren’t interested in the issues or if they’re just not very interested in the Pirate Party itself.

    However, the party’s board is 50% women and one of the two PP representatives in the EU Parliament is a woman. While the percentage of women in the party overall is low, the absolute number of female members (5000 last I heard) is higher than the number of female membership in many established parties — even the feminist party, which is mostly women. Also, there is a female network in the Swedish Pirate Party.

    1. Marco Confalonieri

      I am a member of the Italian Pirate Party. I found this discussion quite interesting because I started just yesterday a thread in our ML on the presence of women in our party. The problem is that there is just one woman active in the party. My position is that we (members of Italian PP) should address the problem now that it’s a relatively small problem, because if the organization grows up and we’ll have to put forward a list of candidates it will be a big problem.

      One of the members who replied put a link to Val Henson’s “HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux”. By reading it I discovered that just mentioning the problem I violated rule 3.9 of the HOWTO (weird… :-/ )

      Generally speaking, I would avoid artifacts such as the Sweden’s policy on the matter (that makes 13% of the members of the party detain 50% of the decision-making power), but since the problem is practical and IMHO becoming more urgent every day, it can be a solution… I don’t know. Anyone has suggestions there?

  4. Yvi

    I hope no-one got the impression that what I said is their official stance. But a lot of their members think like that and the official party line always seems to me to be “we don’t have sexism in our party because it can’t be true”.

    My boyfriend read through the entire forum thread yesterday – I couldn’t because it hurt too much. Anyway, it seems like a big part of the discussion is that many members think there is no need for a female-only space (even though they have their own password-protected male-only space, no, I am not kidding ) and regularly disrupt discussions and derail when gender debates take place.

    I get the very distinct impression these people think if you don’t talk about gender equality it doesn’t exist. Hence, lost my vote for the NRW election.

  5. Paula

    Patrick pretty much sums it up. I just wanted to clarify the following sentence, because it seemed unclear to me: “They even published a press release, and then they got deleted by some other member, but quickly reinstated.”

    The PP discusses and publishes everything in an online wiki which is pretty much generally accesible. Thus the group and its press release could be deleted and reinstated.

  6. spz

    I’m German, and while I’m not a member of the Piratenpartei several of my female friends are.
    Some observations:

    – while there is not a huge number of women in the Piratenpartei, a surprising number of those who are wield quite a lot of influence. Look at who e.g. the leaders of the state party organizations are.

    – supplying the Binnen-I has been used, a lot, to pat uppity women on the head, hand them their knitting, give them some inconsequential quota post, and put them on ice in their playpen. It is an empty symbolism that does not come with giving women any actual influence, quite the opposite (a good way to keep them occupied with something that does not actually change anything real), and a lot of geek women who see that happening prefer getting actual power to empty symbolism that has come to resemble mockery more than anything else. I believe there is some dissonance between more humanities oriented (“consciousness determines being”) and more science&engineering oriented (“gravity does not stop if you don’t believe in it”) people involved. As a member of the latter, I’ll forgo having job descriptions tailored to my sex and rather have equal pay, an equal chance at interesting work and equal chances to advancement, kthx. According to the latest statistics, in my line of work (system administration) the female workers are better paid than the males, so that approach doesn’t seem to be hopeless either (see Heise for the statistics).

    – re transparency: that party is seriously wacky about that. I hope for their sakes they’ll grow out of it.

    1. Paula

      spz, symbolism is only empty if there is no action to back it up. The nomenclature is not the most important critique point, but the stipulation of being post-gender, and the viciousness against the women who wanted to discuss their reality in a safe space.

      Humanities have a lot to teach us sciency and engenineering types, specifically the concept of constructed reality. We do make our own reality through what we know and our experiences. That’s the reason why diversity is so great, everyone has a slightly different reality and differences are greater the more the experinces differ. What we are talking about here is societal reality and not scientific reality. I’m not going to dispute that gravity is acting on me, but I will dispute that our society is post-gender, because these are two different classes of fact.

      What the humanities can also teach us about, is the way human interaction works, they can teach us what is needed to actually increase representation of women, or men, in certain professions, in politics and in the home sphere. We would do well to listen, because we sciency types may have the answer to why soap cleans the dirt of a childs face, but not to why it is usually women who do the face cleaning ;)

      By the way, anecdata like having several women friends in the PP who are happy there, does not mean the PP is genderbalanced or friendly towards women, we sciency types have strict rules about statistics, too ;)

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