Recently I've found two of my closely held liberal values at odds. As a writer, I choose to explore this conundrum here in this blog. More and more, I'm my love of writing is connecting with my passion for social justice.
On New Year's Eve in Colgone, thirty-one men, eighteen of them asylum-seekers, attacked, robbed and assaulted women. The mob refused police orders to disperse, in some instances fighting back.
There is some thought that differing social and cultural mores and traditions about women's behavior and dress in public is one possible reason for the assaults.
As a liberal, I have believed in the rights of asylum-seekers. I have decried calls for walls at our borders and bans on Muslim applications for immigration. I've been heart-sick watching news videos of steams of people crossing seas in flimsy rubber boats then walking across whole countries.
But as a woman and a feminist, I admit to thinking that those men, the ones who attacked and robbed and -- in at least three instances -- sexually assaulted women out to celebrate the new year, should be kicked out of Europe. I admit to formulating in my mind a policy that allows women and children to immigrate, but no men. Before I realized what I was thinking and feeling, I sounded like a conservative radio host.
I was shocked at myself. I don't condone my reflexive reaction against the men involved, and how quickly my anger morphed into a wider condemnation of all immigrant men and whether they should be allowed any rights. It's a natural reaction, I think, but is nonconstructive. It denies the nuance inherent in the problem and pretends to present a quick and easy solution to very complicated matters.
Yet when it comes to choosing between my passion for women's rights and women's safety and autonomy, immigrant advocacy clearly takes a back seat. I'm having trouble even allowing it a seat at all, I'm that angry.
Women's safety and rights must be of paramount importance in this world. For the simple humanity and compassion of it, men's violence toward and contempt of females must be considered the social justice issue of our time. At the very least because the actions of these eighteen men, aside from the inexcusable violence they perpetrated on women in Cologne, have jeopardized the lives and safety of their mothers and sisters and children who are desperately searching for a home.
We live in a world in which Isil, Bokol Haram, and mobs of Indian men kidnap and kill and rape and torture women and girls with impunity. Because at some basic level or in their very religion, they believe it their right as males.
Women's issues are human issues, are children's issues. Are economic issues. Are basic rights issues. Women's issues include and embrace the rights of minorities and all oppressed peoples. Feminism in the United States began as a middle-class female movement, but must continue to expand, responding just as passionately to all inequalities in this country.
Women's rights, safety and autonomy can serve as a foundation to focus and bring to intelligent debate and reform the needs of humans everywhere.
I don't know what to think about how the violence of a few should impact the policies of nations. I'm still too angry and upset to think about it rationally. But even as I seek to balance my anger with compassionate understanding of the wider difficulties of asylum seekers and the countries to which they flee, I believe we will continue to flounder unless we anchor our discussion in what will make this world safe for women.