updated on 25.07.2002

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On this page, you will find the invitation to the Crossover Conference, some texts from the conference reader and an article about the conference by some participants. To download the reader as a pdf-file, click the button on the top left of this page (to read pfd files, you need Acrobat Reader, which is available as freeware on the net).

Invitation to the

Crossover Conference

of the

Antiracist Antisexist Summer Camp Project

17.-20. January 2002, Bremen, Germany



We start from the assumption that all relations of power and domination are intimately bound up with one another.

That's why we are putting nation, patriarchy, capitalism, heterosexism, antisemitism and racism in their interrelations on the agenda.

By doing this, we hope to open up new perspectives for resistance.

At the meeting, we want to investigate the processes by which different dimensions of identity (i.e. gender, ethnicity, class) are produced. What is the relation of these processes to power, domination and resistance? That's one of the many questions that we want to deal with in workshops. Some will be mostly talking, in others we'll perform or train...

The goal of the meeting is to bring people from different political backgrounds together, find intersections, make new alliances, work on forms of political intervention and thus give new impulses for a radical, emancipatory, libertarian, left& political practice.

You are invited!

Antiracist Antisexist Summer Camp Project


Gender Binarism, Sexual Violence, the Military and War. Towards an Antisexist Antiwar Resistance.

With Samira Fansa, Berlin.

Internal Security, Ethnicization and Criminalization. Racist Mobilization after 11. September 2001.

With Hito Steyerl, Berlin.

Stealing the Stolen.

A workshop on reappropriating the female body.

With the Siostry Frankenstein, Warsaw.

Children's Games.

You're Out. A workshop about exclusion.

With the Siostry Frankenstein, Warsaw.

Radical Cheerleading, Pink Silver, Confrontation - Chances and Limitations.

A direct action workshop with the emancypunx, Warsaw and N.N., Bremen.

A New Perspective on Prostitution, the Traffic in Women and Society.

With Ewa Majewska und Joanna Garnier of La Strada, Warsaw.

Gender Beats Class. Or: In the Brothel all Men are Equal.

A workshop on prostitute's clients.

With Crazy Horse, Bremen.

Postmodernity, Education and Class.

With Erich Landrocker, Muenster.

Radical Gay or Queer or What? Questions from Homoland.

A ten-year-old project introduces itself.

Differences in Sexualities and Masculinities.

With the workgroup Sexualities and Masculinities, Berlin.

What's Normal?

The Body in Discourses on Disability and Normalization.

With Anja Tervooren, Berlin and Rebecca Maskos, Bremen.

In Search of an Understanding of Patriarchy and Antisemitism.

With Tanja Berg, Berlin and Gregor Samsa, Bremen.

Varying Perspectives.

Debates on Identity and Difference: Consequences for Feminist-Antiracist Agency.

With Anette Dietrich, Andrea Nachtigall and Ronja Eberle, Berlin.

Transgressions and Cultural Hybridity as Antiracist Resistance?

With Umut Erel, Hamburg.

Postcolonial Critique and Queer Politics. Border Regimes, Subalternity and Resistance.

With Encarnacion Gutierrez Rodriguez, Hamburg.

Reproductive Accounts Online Banking: Sexuality, Greencard and the Love of Work.

With Renate Lorenz, Pauline Boudry, Brigitta Kuster, Berlin.

Enterprise Yourself.

Governmentality of Sexual and Gender Dis/Identifications.

With Katharina Puehl and Queer N.N., Frankfurt/Main.

Subjectivity under Neo-liberalism.

Scenes from the film 'Billy Elliot', leading into discussion of a new form of capitalism and its impact on one's own life.

With Nancy Wagenknecht, Berlin.

Strategic Silence - The Gender Relations of Globalization.

With Ariane Brenssell, Berlin.

Women Refugees, Gender and Migration.

With N.N.


Once were Warriors.

High Art.

La difference.

The Battle of Tuntenhaus.

No Border No Nation.

Die letzten Männer.

Digo? Soll ich's sagen?

Unsichtbare Hausarbeiterinnen.

Wir sind schon da!

Performing the Border.


Exhibit: "Images from the Transit Zone"


Thursday, 17.1.:

6pm- 8pm check-in

8pm opening gala night

Friday, 18.1.:

10-11am breakfast

11am-3pm workshops

3pm-5pm break

5pm-6pm dinner

6pm-10pm workshops

Saturday, 19.1.:

10-11am breakfast

11am-3pm workshops

3pm-5pm break

5pm-6pm dinner

6pm-10pm open space + workshops

10pm party

Sunday, 20.1.:

10-11am breakfast

11am-3pm synthesis- & perspectives-workshops

3pm departure


Check-in and info-center:

"Paradox", Berhardstrasse 12, 28203 Bremen.

How to get there from the train station:

Leave the station through the main exit. From there, you can see the central tram station. Take tram no. 10 in the direction of "Seebaldsbrück", get off after 3 stops at the stop called "Sielwall". Go straight across the intersection and take the first street on the right, that's Bernhardstrasse. The "Paradox " is the first house on the right.

How to get there from the highway:

Whichever direction you're coming from (Hamburg, Hannover or Osnabrück), when you get to the "Bremer Kreuz" (highway intersection near Bremen), take the A1 and get off at the exit called "Hemelingen". Stay on the highway feeder road until you reach a traffic light and you can only take a right or a left. Hang a left and stay on this road (called Osterdeich), pass a big sports stadium (Weserstadion) on your left, then take a right at the next corner (there's a newsstand on the left side). Look for a place to park around there and ask someone where the "Paradox" in Bernhardstrasse is.

The number for our info hotline from 16. january 2002 on is: +49-(0)177-7577615.


All of the conference will be conducted in two languages, English and German. We will try to organize translations into other languages where needed.


Between 10 and 25 euros on a sliding scale according to income. The price of food is not included, calculate another 15 euros for that. Accomodation is free.

Our postal address:

summercamp c/o A6-Laden, Adalbertstrasse 6, 10999 Berlin

Our e-mail address:




Some texts from the conference reader:

(To download the complete english version of the conference reader as a pdf file, click on the button at the top of this page.)

> "What is normal?"

> A new perspective on prostitutionm, the traffic in women and society

> No accomplices


"What's Normal?"

Text by Rebecca Maskos

"Experiencing ableism. The unusual body as a sign of Otherness"

1. Approaching ableism and the power of normality

In December 2001 a group of German disability rights activists celebrated an important anniversary.

20 years ago, they have set up the ”Krüppeltribunal” of 1981, - a ”court of cripples”, collecting and presenting violations of human rights of disabled people in Germany.

Why did they hold a ”court”? What kind of human rights violations were they claiming?

One of the main discriminations they were protesting against was the fundamental segregation of people with disabilities from mainstream society.

It is an expression of a deeply rooted prejudicial assumption: that people with disabilities are somewhat different, alien to able-bodied people; that they are even not quite human at all.

Additional to this fundamental doubt concerning the nature and value of disabled people’s lifes, there is a widespread notion of suffering that disability supposedly is causing inevitably, calling for medical treatment and control, cure and prevention.

The treatment of the ”alien” thus includes segregation in every sphere of societal life: Housing, working, education, leisure time, relationships and so on.

Not just physical barriers such as inaccessible buildings leave some disabled people out, segregation is mostly fundamentally of economical nature: The personal assistance judged as being too expensive, forcing people to move into a nursing home, where a self-determined life style is almost impossible.

The establishment of specially equipped and designed workplaces leading to the banning of some people with disabilities into highly exploitive ”sheltered workshops”.

The judging of integrative schools as being too costly, preventing disabled students from attending a regular school.

And above all, the economic logic of disability being a burden to society, calling for the prevention and elimination of disabled people, legitimated by specific ”bioethics” or other philosophical, allegedly scientific ideologies.

Continuing the list, one would find that disability prejudice is so deeply entrenched in society that almost every interaction can be fueled by ideological assumptions about disability and thus is potentially segregative.

In this, disability discrimination shares features of racism in its power to stigmatize and categorize humans as a – negatively valued - abberation from the norm, or as Robert Miles characterizes the function of racism as ”the assigment of significations to specific phenotypical and/or genetic features in a way that it leads to an establishment of a system of categorizations, with assigning the persons subsumed under these categories additional (negatively valued) features” (Miles, R., 1991, p. 9).

Disability prejudice can not only be linked to race, but also to gender, obvious for instance in Simone de Beauvoir’s notion of ”Otherness”. Foundational to her existentialistic concept is non-person status as a core symbolic category for marking a difference from the male, heterosexual white norm. In reference to Hegel’s notion of the other as the marker of the self’ s boundaries, she introduces the idea into a feminist theory of women as the fundamental Other in light of the normative male. The differentness is, according to de Beauvoir, established and maintained through the objectifying, male gaze, serving males to set up own identity boundaries: Once the subject seeks to assert himself, the Other, who limits and denies him, is none the less a necessity to him: he attains himself only through that reality which he is not, which is something other than himself. (de Beauvoir, 1976, 171).

The female Other thus is needed not only in economical and biological terms, but in a sociocultural way to establish and confirm male identity markers. Parallel to de Beauvoir’s comparison of the utility of women as being cast as the Other in order to signify gender and to the utility of Africans and African Americans to the establishment of a racial, white identity.

Disability Studies scholar Tom Shakespeare (1994) is linking the concept to the social position of disabled people. He finds the commonality between the position of women and other disadvantaged groups especially striking in light of de Beauvoir’s indication of the Other’s body’s link to nature, in order to set up a counterpart to the male dominated sphere of culture, while undermining the status of the Other. ”I am”, writes Shakespeare, "…suggesting that disabled people could be also regarded as Other, by virtue of their connection to nature; their visibility as evidence of the constraining body, and their status as constant reminders of mortality. If original sin, through the transgression of Eve, is concretized in the flesh of women, then the flesh of disabled people has historically, and within the Judeo-Christian theology especially, presented divine punishment for ancestral transgression. Furthermore, non-disabled people define themselves as ‘normal‘ in opposition to disabled people who are not." (Shakespeare, 1994, p. 292).

With that, a definition of ableism as being a way of perceiving and categorizing certain kinds of physique as abnormal and –which is even more important – attaching a negative value to this category becomes comprehensable. Moreover, by being categorized as being a deficit to the bodily norm, certain bodily condition are judged to be burdensome, suffering, frightening and dangerous, or, awe-inspiring and heroic. Judgment of a person in an ableistic manner generally surrenders the regard of individual features and expressions to the sole regard of ideological, prejudicial assumptions about a person.

2. Perspectives on disability – a false thinking about the unknown body.

A big part of the knowledge about disabled people is the basis but also derives from the societal practices that are imposed upon them.

Historically, these practices have been ones of exclusion and confinement, of pathologization and eradication. Their broad segregation from the able-bodied world denied disabled people a voice, which could make their experiences, thoughts and insights be heard. Though disabled people were largely out of the picture in the industrialized western cultures, their place in the belief system of able-bodied people was always secured.

Everyone knew and knows that aberrations from the ”normal” body occur, however, instead of a public, open and clarifying discourse of disability, the regular omission of the topic fueled false, mystified notions about the differing body. In addition, some of these notions had a great utility for the establishment and the maintenance of a capitalistic system and thus became ideologies of disability. Ideologies are a false but necessary thinking, they are taken up if the pursuing of an interest (as for example the placement of a ”burdensome surplus population” in nursing homes or sheltered workshops) has to be legitimized. As Karl Marx and Frederic Engels write in their critique of contemporary German philosophy

"The thoughts of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling thoughts, i.e. the class which has the material power of society is at the same time its power of mind. … .The ruling thoughts are nothing else than the idealistic expression of the ruling material conditions, the ruling material conditions put into thoughts; the conditions that turn one class into the ruling one, therefore the thoughts of their rule." (Marx and Engels, 1845,46, p. 46; transl.from german orig.)

I will now point to four of such frameworks of false thinking, which represent central, but definitely not all notions about disability. I found that most common notions can be connected to either one of these, but the list could also be much longer and more detailed.

a) From the marvelous spectacle to the medical object –historical perspectives on disability

Since the beginning of human culture, man has attempted to interpret the unusual body. Testimonies of disability representation date back as early as to prehistoric Egyptian culture and to the Greek culture BC (Evans, 1983, p.157). Disability has historically been used as a symbol – with varying content. The dominant interpretation was thus contaminated with fear of the unknown body, naming it beast or monster. This term derives from the Latin verb monstra, indeed ”simply” meaning to warn, to show or to sign, and led to the modern verb to demonstrate.

The fact that disability never stood for itself, and always had a – mostly dreadful – meaning attached to it, contributed to all kinds of treatments of disabled people, and the treatment itself influenced the production of the meaning. The most common one especially in the Middle Ages was the eradication of disabled people, or their confinement and sometimes display in specific public locations. Notable for instance is the ”idiot’s cage” in a tower of the city walls of Hamburg, Germany, where mentally retarded people were confined in 1376 (Evans, 1983, p.159). A small number though was ”chosen” throughout the ages to entertain people – for example as court jesters.

After centuries’ passing, in light of the onset of modernity, the mostly religious explanations were gradually replaced by a beginning scientific inquiry. ”Teratology”, ”the study of monsters”, presented its results in cabinets of human curiosities, which commercialized with the establishment of sideshows in the 19th and 20th century (Garland Thomson, 1995). Here, and especially in the popular American freak show of the 20th century’s early decades, people with all kinds of bodily differences like missing or additional limbs, extraordinary growth, hermaphrodites, obese people, people with mental disabilities etc. were exposed to a paying, gawking audience, marveling at these wondrous ”mistakes of nature”. In order to achieve ” freakdom”, the mere fact of their bodily aberration had to be fused with a certain symbolic text, often their supposedly extraordinary biography narrated and presented by the showmen. As Robert Bogdan explains,

"While being extremely tall is a matter of physiology, being a giant involves something more. Similarly, being a freak’, a ‘human oddity’, or a ‘human curiosity is not a personal matter, a physical condition people have." (Bogdan, 1996, 24)

So displayed disabled people – often cast as the ”missing link”, marked the boundaries of humanity and crossed them at the same time. It is this ambiguous state that both fascinated and abhorred the audience, as Elizabeth Grosz analyses:

"The freak is an object of simultaneous horror and facination because, in addition to whatever infirmities of abilities he or she exhibits, the freak is an ambiguous being whose existence imperils categories and oppositions dominant in social life. Freaks are those human beings who exist outside and in defiance of the structure of binary opposition that govern our basic concepts and modes of self-definition. They occupy the impossible middle ground between the opposites dividing the human from the animal, one being from another [e.g. conjoined twins], nature from culture, .. ., one sex from the other,…, adults and children [e.g. dwarfs and ”midgets”]." (Grosz, 1996, 57)

After the last flickering of mythology in the course of the American freak show, science gained firm hegemony upon disability knowledge and explanation. In this movement from the narrative of the marvelous to the narrative of deviant, medical science seized the abnormal body for scrutinizing investigation and pathologizing categorization.

”Genetics, embryology, anatomy, teratology and reconstructive surgery – the discrete, high scientific discourses that now pathologizes the extraordinary body - were once closely linked with the showmen’s display of the freak body”, (Garland Thomson, 1996, 13) asserts Garland Thomson.

Medical science declares every bodily difference from the norm as an affliction, as disease – whether it causes suffering or not – and sees its objective in finding the appropriate cure to it. By being colonized from medical science, bodily differences turn from a cultural to a medical curiosity that needs to be fixed and normalized. In order to perform the medical control of the condition, scientists have to take up a certain medical gaze (Foucault, 1963) by which they are able to abstract from any individual traits of their patients. It allows them to employ them as their ”work-material”, measurable and manageable in certain standards of bodily norms. The former subject of inquiry turns into the controllable object of scientific scrutinizing.

While some parts of medicine perform an important contribution to the well-being and range of motion of disabled people, this objective is only marginal within the greater goal of medical adjustment. Rehabilitation for instance, though stressing the reintegration of disabled people into society, has the primary goal of (re)gaining the workforce of their patients. Medical science can also be used to back up political and economic notions of disability as a burden to society that has to be avoided and eliminated. Hence medical science and theory played a major role for example in the establishment of the Eugenics movement around the turn of the 19th century, which cast disabled people as a threat to the nation and its economic well-being.

In the medical gaze disabled people are first and foremost seen as suffering from their condition, and it is better for them and for society if their body becomes fixed and adjusted to normative standards. Disability becomes located within the body, which has to adjust itself to a standardized environment. The personal story and definition of disablement, as well as the disabled person’s own knowledge and competence concerning the body are rendered insignificant.

b) Disability as a tragedy – the passively disabled, object of pity

A consequence of medicalized notions of disability is the attribution of suffering to disablement, or as social psychologists Dembo, Leviton and Wright call it, ”the requirement of mourning”(Dembo, Leviton & Wright, 1975, p.32). Disability is frequently seen as a personal disaster, as a ”fate worse than death” which has to be avoided at all costs. In connecting it to illness, it is seen as an affliction, of which the affected person wants to be healed and which is to be prevented in the first place. Accordingly, able-bodied people frequently react with pity when encountering a ”victim” of a disability. Probably by imagining what kind of loss they would face if they would be ”afflicted” with the same ”ailment” themselves, they keep away from the encounter by this pretended empathy. At the same time this stance offers them protection from the prospect of acquiring disability themselves – and in this kind of patronization they are able to assert their superiority towards ”suffering” and disablement.

The media provides ample witness to this common practice. Pity and charity narratives range from stories like ”Whose life is it anyway?”, in which assisted suicide is regarded as the best option for a quadriplegic adult, to TV shows such as the ”Telethon”, in which charity societies use a patronizing display of disabled people to raise money for their medical treatment and adjustment. Jack A. Nelson stresses the passivity and pathologizing view by which disabled people are portrayed in telethon shows, in which they were ”usually depicted as childlike – as in Jerry Lewis’s Kids – or as incompetent, needing total care, as nonproductive in our society, and as a drain on taxpayers”. (Nelson, 1988, p.5)

c) The disabled hero, the cheerful sufferer

As there seems to be a ”requirement of mourning” for someone ”fallen prey” to disability in common notions of disability, there is simultaneously a great astonishment about any disabled person not miserable or obviously suffering. Whether the disabled person is just ”putting a good face on it” or is indeed not unhappy with her or his life – in the eyes of the able-bodied this must be a tremendous and extraordinary achievement of will. As it is supposedly ”natural” to suffer from disease or disability it is consequently ”natural” to be sad and depressed - or worse – bitter about it. Thus the ”not unhappy” disabled person is ascribed a kind of supernatural quality, which turns her or him into a kind of super-human hero.

But this form of glorification yields something, which again does not serve the needs and psychological realities of the disabled person – but of the able bodied one. It is another means to set themselves apart from bodily aberration, this time not in a patronizing, dominating way, but from a standpoint of awe and admiration, which has the believe of ”I am not like her/him” at its core.

At the same time that able-bodied people wonder why and how the disabled person ”copes” and ”manages” so well, they in fact expect the disabled person at least to strive for adjustment to his or her situation. While they want the disabled person to accept his or her role, they also acknowledge that it is actually ”unfair” that not they but the other person became disabled. A cheerful disabled person therefore can relieve able-bodied people from their perceived guilt of being healthy, and it is the easiest way for them to deal with their own vulnerability to disability and illness. That the disabled person has to do most of this interactional management is a price most disabled people have to and are willing to pay in order to be accepted and tolerated in the able-bodied world.

The sociologist Talcott Parsons (1951) has initially theorized the privileges and duties connected to a certain bodily condition in his conception of the sick role. He argued that when being sick, a person’s ordinary roles and duties are temporarily suspended in order for her or him to get well. The recovery, in turn, becomes one’s new duty: one must make every effort to get well again, and surrender one’s body fully to the hands of medical science. If one fails to do so, one has to face various judgments. It can be assumed for instance that either one complains too much and takes advantage of the ”freedom” of the sick role, when symptoms are not obvious enough. On the other hand, one can also be found to be neglectful of oneself and one’s social responsibilities, if the recovery is not proceeding fast enough. Thus, as Robert Murphy puts it, one can be good or bad at being sick, - and to be good at it implies a positive stance towards the healthy world:

"A key rule for being a successful sick person is: Don’t complain! The person who smiles and jokes while in obvious physical misery is honored by all. …. Hospital visitors also value cheeriness, and the sick person soon finds that he is expected to amuse them, and thus relieve their guilt at being well."

(Murphy, 1987, p.20)

Thus ”the hero” is one of the rare positive roles open to persons with disabilities. It is not surprising then that some of them not only avoid complaints about their situation and put their nondisabled peers at ease with a serene compliance, but also go beyond this by ”overcoming” the odds of being disabled. The ”supercrip” – the ambitious paralympics athlete, the paraplegic single mom working full time and volunteering for a charity organization, as well as the blind man climbing a mountain – is accepting the treatment imposed on him by an inaccessible and ableist world, but does not accept his own bodily limitations. He too plays into a socially desired role of the achiever, which is, however, not only expected from disabled people, but from everyone in a capitalistic society. The ideology of the self-sufficient individual that is capable of ”pulling himself up on his bootstraps” is a common legitimization for blaming failure, especially economical, on the victim. In societies where the responsibility for the well-being of its citizens is largely relegated to themselves, achievement and endeavor in the competition is expected.

Thus especially disabled citizens are expected to do their share, keep from being a burden on society and to view their bodily difference as a challenge to prove themselves even more capable than if they were able-bodied. Robert Murphy has identified these expectations already being effective in the Rehabilitation ward:

"Ideally, [the patient] is active, not passive, and he must try continually to outdo himself. To a degree, the patient is responsible for his own recovery, and this has many positive aspects. The negative side, however, is that if his effort can yield improvement, then any failure to improve can be an indication that he isn’t trying hard enough, that he is to blame for his condition. This load of culpability is often added to a lingering suspicion among family and friends that the patient was responsible, somehow or other, for what happened to him. And the patient, too, is often beset with guilt over his plight – a seemingly illogical, but very common, by-product if disability" (Murphy, 1987, 51f).

Critics among the disability rights movement view the public portrayal of supercrips, as for instance the appearances of disabled actor Christopher Reeves, as damaging to ordinary lives of disabled people, because it fuels high expectations of performance in an ableist society. The ideology of overcoming disability once again individualizes disablement and also distracts from access and attitudinal barriers.

d) Disability as representation of evil – the ”criminal”, ”bitter” and ” manipulating” avenger

That disabled people have to pay a high social price for their acceptance by playing into the role of the ”cheerful sufferer” already yields some information about the underlying suspicion towards disabled people. There are too many uncanny notions in cultural representations of disability – with reference to historic notions of ”monstrous disabled people” as well as in actual portrayals of disability in media depictions - as that the idea of an unconditional acceptance of disabled people could be a realistic notion. As Paul Longmore illustrates in his analysis of disability stereotypes, the idea of evil is deeply tied to disabled people in historic as well as in actual media depictions, especially in crime and horror genres:

"Disability has often been used as a melodramatic device… . Among the most persistent is the association of disability with malevolence. Deformity of body symbolizes deformity of soul. Physical handicaps are made emblems of evil" (Longmore, 1987, p.68).

As a consequence of the disabled character’s supposed resentment and hate towards the able-bodied, the dramatic pattern of crime genre stories such as Doctor No, Doctor Strangelove, The Hookman etc. and also historic dramas such as Richard III commonly includes an act of revenge on part of the disabled character. ”Disabled villains, raging against their fate and hating those who have escaped such ‘affliction‘, often seek to retaliate against ‘normals‘” (Longmore, 1987, 67). Such portrayals would allude to three common prejudices against handicapped people: disability is a punishment for evil; disabled people are embittered by their ‘fate‘; disabled people resent the nondisabled and would, if they could, destroy them.(Longmore, 1987, 67)

In addition to the notion of revenge, ”evil” disabled characters are often also portrayed with an aggressive sexual drive, especially and nearly exclusively in men. The threatening obsession of, for instance Quasimodo, Dr. Loveless, The Phantom of the Opera etc, often aims at women who the disabled character is supposed to be incapable of seducing other than in an aggressive manner.

Criminal disabled characters convey a kinky, leering lust for sex with gorgeous ‘normal‘ women. … ‘Monster‘ disabled charcters menace beautiful women who would ordinarily reject them.(Longmore, 1987, 72) states Longmore.

But not only in crime genres notions of the aggressive disabled person can be found – literature on Rehabilitation Psychology for instance is full of notions of the ”manipulating” disabled person, who wants to punish the able-bodied world for their ”health” and normativity.

Fear of disablement can turn into anger and resentment – this psychological pattern, also described as the defense mechanism projection, can be found in various stances towards minority people, such as in racism towards ethnic minorities. By attributing the own revulsion and aggression to the object, it serves the subject to relieve itself from these emotions. Longmore sees these patterns at work also in disability depictions:

"In historical and contemporary fact, it is, of course, nondisabled people who have at times endeavored to destroy people with disabilities. As with the popular portrayals of other minorities, the unacknowledged hostile fantasies of the stigmatizers are transferred to the stigmatized. The nondisabled audience is allowed to disown its fears and biases by ‘blaming the victim‘, making them responsible for their own ostracism and destruction."(Longmore, 1987, 67)

3. Experiencing and making sense of ableism

Images and ideologies about disabled people have a significant impact on the self-concept of disabled people. They have to engage in a set of behavioral strategies in order to manage interactional strains. They are forced to react to prejudiced views about them, as they are highly dependent on the maintenance of (good) relationships with able-bodied people in an inaccessible world that is not controlled by people with disabilities. Even if they don’t agree with and take on the disabling myths they are sometimes confronted with, they have to expect and deal with the fact that non-disabled people make certain assumptions about them that will have an impact on the way they interact with disabled persons. As long as false thinking about disability exists, they have to respond to it in a certain way, ranging from mere survival strategies in a hostile world to relaxed and laid-back indifference or superiority.

One of the basic shared experiences is described by Jenny Morris in her book ”Pride against prejudice” (1991). She notes that apart from open hostility, which all disabled people experience at some point but which is still quite rare, it is rather the hidden negative assumptions about disability that underlie able-bodied people’s stances toward disabled people that are ”the iron fist in the velvet glove of the patronizing and seemingly benevolent attitudes we experience” (Morris, 1991, p.22). Therefore it is often difficult for us to identify why someone’s behavior makes us so angry, or why we feel undermined. Our anger and insecurity can thus seem unreasonable not just to others but also, sometimes, to ourselves. (Morris, 1991, p.18)

And the biggest problem for disabled people with ”their values about our lives” is, according to Morris

"that these undermining messages, which we receive every day of our lives from the non-disabled world which surrounds us, become part of our own thinking about ourselves and/or other disabled people." (p. 22)

One might speculate if cultural traditions of objectification of ”human oddities”, i.e. disabled people, as it was evident in the freak show, are still influencing objectifying social treatment of disabled people as well as the ways they are experienced by the ”objects”. Writer and activist Eli Clare connects the history of ”freakdom” to her own history:

"For me, freak is defined by my personal experience of today’s freakdom. Today’s freakdom happened to me at Fairview State Hospital in 1965 when doctors first declared me ‘retarded’. … Today’s freakdom happened every time I was taunted retard, monkey, weirdo. It happens any time someone gawks, an occurrence that happens so regularly I rarely even notice. I don’t see people – curious, puzzled, anxious – turn their heads to watch my trembling hands, my jerky movements. … . I only know it happens because my friends notice and tell me. Yet I know I store the gawking in my bones." (Clare, 1999, 94)

She also links the ”freak show” to common, objectifying practices of medicine:

"The end of the freak show didn’t mean the end of our display or the end of voyeurism. We simply traded one kind of freakdom for another. Take for instance public stripping, the medical practice of stripping disabled children to their underwear and examining them in front of large groups of doctors, medical students, physical therapists and rehabilitation specialists. …. . Tell me, what is the difference between the freak show and public stripping? Which is more degrading? Which takes more control away from disabled people? Which lets a large group of nondisabled people gawk unabashedly for free?" (p. 87f)

Even though in the age of Enlightment disabled people commonly don’t inspire awe and wonder anymore, the aspect of exposition might still be lingering. Through staring or being asked intimate questions about the nature of the disability and the way the disabled person copes with and feels about it by entire strangers, as well as unsolicited advices, blessings or stories about own afflictions or diseases in the family it is powerfully demonstrated to disabled people that their private space does not count as much as the one of able-bodied people. The assumption that the disability and the ” suffering” it is supposedly causing is as much on the disabled person’s mind as it is on the able-bodied person’s, as well as the profound sense of surprise and sensationalism leads to the regular invasion of privacy boundaries. A sense of exposure, insecurity, fear and anger is the result on part of the disabled person, when being patted on the head or stared at. Jenny Morris sums this up by stating:

"Non-disabled people feel that our differentness gives them the right to invade our privacy and make judgments about our lives. Our physical characteristics evoke such strong feelings that people often have to express them in some way. At the same time they feel able to impose their feelings on us because we are not considered to be autonomous human beings." (Morris, 1991, 29)

Shame and the feeling of isolation is the consequence when the staring and objectification becomes internalized and taken for granted by the disabled person. Constant messages of devaluation may lead him or her to believe that it is in fact him or her and the body he or she possesses that is so repulsive and appalling to able-bodied people or at least causes their urge to respond to it. It can become so deeply entrenched in some disabled people ’s minds that it may lead to constant excuses and explanations, as an informant of Spencer Cahill and Robin Eggleston accounts:

"If I’m in the grocery store, and I need something and I ask somebody to get it [I say] ‘Oh, I’m sorry’. And I find myself making excuses, saying things like ‘Oh, it’s just not been my day’ or ‘it seems everything I want today is up too high’. I feel like I’m putting people out of their way. I feel like I ’m imposing on someone to ask for help (Cahill and Spencer, 1994, p. 306). Even if one feature of the common knowledge of disability is that disabled people ”can’t help”, that it is not their fault of being disabled, it is at least striking that a lot of disabled people feel a sense of shame and guilt. The more obvious cause might be the ”burden” that they supposedly become to their family and society by being disabled, but one might also speculate about a connection to traditional notions of sin and crime to which the disability is seen as a punishment – with the omission that it lacks the crime" (Murphy, 1987, p. 93).

But being seen as a guilty ”sinner” or a ”bitter and sinister avenger”, as portrayed in certain fiction genres described above, is sort of the worst thing that could happen to a disabled person. Not only because of the all too obvious dependency that most disabled people have on the help and assistance of able-bodied people, disabled people are forced to maintain good relationships to their social environment, if they don’t want to become even more isolated as they already are. Being constantly on the edge of becoming an outcast, disabled people cannot afford too many risks of overstressing the boundaries of able-bodied’s tolerance toward them. Thus, most disabled people don’t see much alternatives for them apart from compensating and ”overcoming” their disability, normalizing and adjusting themselves to society or even becoming a ”supercrip” (who is, according to Murphy [1997, p. 95] ”like anyone else, only better”). To achieve the able-bodied world’s acceptance, they use various strategies, such as humor that resolves potential embarrassment on both sides. In order to even gain able-bodied’s respect, disabled people have to strive for normality and fight against their disability (- not necessarily the disabling environment!). As Jenny Morris writes about the depiction of ”overcomers” in the media,

"Overcoming stories have the important role of lessening the fear that disability holds for the non-disabled people. They also have the role of assuring the non-disabled world that normal is right, to be desired and aspired to. … The status quo likes us to be seen ‘fighting back’, to resent and bewail the fact that we can no longer do things in their way. The more energy we spend on over-achieving and compensatory activity that imitates as closely as possible ‘normal’ standards, the more people are reassured that ‘normal’ equals right. If we succumb to their temptations they will reward us with their admiration and praise. At first sight this will seem preferable to their pity or being written off as an invalid. But all we will achieve is the status of a performing sea lion and not (re)admittance to their ranks." (Morris, 1991, p.101f)

If disabled people do happen to step out of their role of the thankful achiever, they indeed have to face irritated or angry reactions, and are usually seen as ungrateful, bitter or ”having a chip on their shoulder”. Cahill and Eggleston observed that

"…wheelchair users who publicly express moral outrage at their treatment must be prepared to receive what they give. Their angry protest may be met with angry resistance, creating an embarrassing and sometimes alarming public scene that they must then manage or escape." (Cahill and Eggleston, 1994, p.305)

The frustration arising of such encounters is often difficult to understand for disabled people themselves, as it is stressed by Morris:

It is often difficult for us to understand why we feel angry when people offer us help – even when we sometimes need help with a physical task. Our anger then becomes undermining because we feel unreasonable. We can start to believe the ‘bitter and twisted’ stereotype so often applied to us. (Morris, 1991, p. 33f)

One could maybe judge it as a bad sign of the power of normalizing demands when looking at the broad willingness of most disabled people to accept the standards of a society they strive to become integrated into (working hard, marrying, being a good citizen etc.). Disabled people’s whish to ”be just like anyone else!” is understandable, especially when facing their history of segregation, humiliation and discrimination, but it might also be an indicator of the powerful demands of a normalizing society, in which their social status still remains largely in question.

Thus, the ambiguity surrounding disability identity – as it is described by Goffman’s terms of the ”virtual” and ”actual” identity (Goffman, 1963), as well as by Murphy and by the concept of Otherness, is imprinting itself on the core of the stigmatized’s self. Difference and ambiguity are indeed the constituting factors of the meaning of disability – the socially imposed indefinition of the ones trapped in the ”twilight zone” (Murphy) leaves them in constant doubt about what they are and imposes regular demands of interactional dilemmas upon them.

Therefore Disability Studies scholar Carol Gill is right when she summarizes the disability experience this way:

"In certain ways, many disabled people are forced to lead dual lives. First, they are repeatedly mistaken for something they are not: tragic, heroic, pathetic, not full humans. Persons with a wide range of impairments report extensive experience with such identity misattributions. Second, disabled people must submerge their spontaneous reactions and authentic feelings to smooth over relations with others, from strangers to family members to the personal assistants they rely on to maneuver through each day." (Gill, 2000, p. 25).

However, more and more disabled people realize the vicious circles in which they are trapped. Some of them are not only refusing to see themselves as a burden or as suffering, they are even transforming the values of disability and reclaiming it to their own definition. As Blacks in the Civil Rights Movement once claimed that ”Black is beautiful”, disabled people now come to conquer the stigma and turn it into an asset they take pride in. Some of them even question the society, whose mechanisms lie at the heart of their discrimination, and refuse to be integrated into the mainstream. With their criticism used as arms they are attempting not to overcome their disabilities, but the devaluating notions imposed upon them.

Once we can put aside any need to prove ourselves equal to the able-bodied, cease to battle against ourselves, cease to be brave, stoic or resigned, we can then accept ourselves unreservedly as implicitly equal, able to go beyond the limits others impose on us. Once we cease to judge ourselves by society’s narrow standards we can cease to judge everything and everyone by those same limitations. When we no longer feel comfortable identifying with the aspirations of the normal majority we can transform the imposed role of outsider into the life-enhancing and liberated state of an independent thinking, constantly doubting Outsider who never needs to fight the physical condition but who embraces it. And by so doing ceases to be disabled by it. (Morris, 1991, 188)


de Beauvoir, Simone, (1949, reprinted 1976), ”The Second Sex”, Harmondsworth, Penguin

Bogdan, Robert (1996) ”The social construction of freaks”, in: Garland Thomson, Rosemarie, p. 23-37, in Garland Thomson, Rosemarie (1996) ” Freakery. Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body”. New York: New York University Press

Clare, Eli (1999) ”Exile and Pride. Disability, Queerness and Liberation”, Cambridge, MA: South End Press

Dembo, T., Leviton, G. L., Wright, B.A.(1956) ”Adjustment to misfortune. A Problem of Social-Psychological Rehabilitation”; reprint in Rehabilitation Psychology, 1975, (22), 1-100

Evans, D.P. (1983) ”Historical Antecedents of Stereotypes about Mental Retardation”, in Hey, C., Kiger, G., and Seidel, J. (1983) ”Social Aspects of Chronic Illness, Impairment and Disability”, p.157-196

Foucault, Michel, (1973) ”The Birth of the Clinic. An Archaeology of Medical Perception” New York: Vintage Books

Garland Thomson, Rosemarie (1996) ”Freakery. Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body”. New York University Press, New York, NY

Gill, C (2000) ”Divided Understandings: The Social Experience of Disability” in Albrecht et.al. (eds) (2000) ”Handbook of Disability Studies”, Sage, Thousand Oaks

Goffman, Erving, (1963) ”Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity”, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Grosz, Elizabeth (1996) ”Intolerable Ambiguity: Freaks as/at the limit”, in Garland Thomson, Rosemarie (1996) ”Freakery. Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body”. New York University Press, New York, NY, p. 55-66

Longmore, Paul (1987) ”Screening Stereotypes: Images of Disabled People in Television and Motion Pictures”, in Gartner, A. and Joe, T. (Eds) (1987) ” Images of the Disabled”, p. 65-78

Marx, K and Engels, F. (1845/46),”Die Deutsche Ideologie”, Marx-Engels Werke, 3, Berlin (East): Dietz, p. 46

Morris, J. (1991) ”Pride against Prejudice. A Personal Politics of Disability”, London: The Women’s Press

Murphy, Robert F. (1987) ”The Body Silent”, New York, NY: Norton

Nelson, J.A. (1988) ”Broken Images: Portrayals of Those with Disabilities in American Media” in Jack A. Nelson, ed. (….) ”The Disabled, the Media, and the Information Age”

Parsons, T. (1951) ”The Social System”, New York: The Free Press

Shakespeare, Tom (1994), ”Cultural Representation of Disabled People: Dustbins for Disawoval?” in Disability and Society, 9 (3): 283-299


A new perspective on prostitution, the traffic in women and society

Text by Ewa Majewska and Joanna Garnier

Prostitution seems to be the last sector of groups that remain in the background. We find it quite signifying, that the analysis of prisons, hospitals and army are now recognised as important factors of social criticism, while the sex - work and trafficking in women are still hidden behind the "curtain of ignorance". We assume, that this state of affairs should be changed, because it is the only way to transform the social theory from a theory speaking about male society (that does not exist !) into a theory speaking about the more real things. In the problematic of sex - work the gender relations are crucial and we think that we can look at the society from the perspective of sex - work instead of looking at the prostitution only.

The first part of the workshop will be a rather theoretical introduction basically about the characteristic of the connections between the prostitution and society, especially about the relations between the prostitution and :

- something that one would call "the women's world";

- individual men, clients and represents of official institutions especially;

- the society as a whole;

- the cultural factors, with church included ( in Poland it is important, actually the church could be also treated as institution).

We plan to discuss this theoretical perspective and the differences between the "situation of prostitution" in Poland and in Germany, because we find it quite different.

In the second part we would like to organise a workshop on trafficking in women. We will try (if possible) to use some interactive materials from polish LaStrada, we will:

- present the definition of the traffic;

- show the work and methods of some organisations against the trafficking in women;

- present the economical, social and psychological factors, that make the trafficking possible;

- present the specific elements of the situation in Poland;

- speak about the "becoming the victim".

Because the second part will be more interactive (we will "work in group" rather, than speak all the time, and there will be some presentations of materials), we think there will be space for less, than 30 people. In the first, there can be as many people, as the space allows, because it will be just a shity boring lecture and discussion. We will speak about the prostitution in general with some special inclination to the problems in Poland, because we assume, that you can never work on social problems without entering the details and specific factors of culture, society and history. It will also lead to some critic of the state and institutions .


No accomplices

Text by Ariane Brensell and Waltraud Schwab

The strategic silence about gender relations does play a role in the current war against Afghanistan. Women and women's rights are merely a matter of negotiations. In order to make war seem a reasonable solution, feminist or antipatriarchal points of view - especially in this country - must be ignored, because this is the only way to maintain the conviction that the status quo of western countries can be perpetuated. (taz, 24.12.2001; woz 1st week of January 2002)

The correlation between war and gender-relations is complex. To reduce it to the slogan "war is masculine" doesn't pay tribute to the chance that an analysis of the gender-related aspects of the current political situation does offer. A deeply gender-biased view provides a critical perspective on the dominant argumentative context that professes that war is the only solution when it comes to responding to the terror of September 11th . What we should be thinking about however are alternatives to this assumptions.

War is the political response of some of the countries of the west to the terror-attacks in New York and Washington. Women like Susan Sontag, Arundhati Roy or Saskia Sassen who fairly immediately commented on the terrorist attacks put the events in a context beyond terror and retaliation. Instead they demanded, that the 11th of September should be read in terms of the politics of the countries of the west and the bloodletting that these politics do cause in most other countries. Thus they analysed the terror-attacks and the war, that was started on the 7th of October, outside of or beyond the context given by the countries of the west that is to say the USA. But whoever dismisses this given context, does not consent to war as a solution. The critical zone for demagagogues of war begins at this point, because nobody should ever doubt that war can solve problems. In visionary terms Susan Sontag commented on the impact of this in society when she wrote in her article of September 15th in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together".

Civilisation, barbarism and women

The USA did define the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as a declaration of war. Aside from the power to define "when war begins", "against whom a war is fought", "when a war is a success" and "when a war is finished" the USA has also taken hold of the power of defining "why there is a war". A simple and comprehensive scenario is being laid out in which defining the good side automatically points at that party which stands for the bad side. Marianne Schuller, an academic of literature and her collegue Volker Kaiser have found marvelously appropriate words for this dualism. Referring to the 11th of September they wrote: "Understood as an attack against the whole (western) civilization, this immediately demands a counterpart in form of the uncivilized. As a consequence of this, the USA does not only become an incarnation of the civilized world but at the same time it is forced and legitimized, to fight the war of civilization against counter-civilisation." Civilisation versus barbarism - this dualism lends plausibility to the idea, that war is a solution. Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, pointed out who in this scenario holds the position of the good side and who the position of the bad side. On a visit to Berlin he publicly declared that the west is culturally superior to the islamic world.

There is one argument which guarantees broad approval among advocates of war but also among its sceptics for this dualism or division of the world into good and evil and the idea it entails of retaliation: It is the plight of women in Afghanistan. The circumstances of life of women in Afghanistan is deplorable. They were made prisoners in their own country just because of their female sex. Feminists wanted this to be put on the agenda already at the UN conference of women in Beijing in 1995. The breach of human rights on women by the Northern Alliance and later the Taliban has however never made western governments to feel compelled to intervene, neither politically nor militarily.

It causes some disbelief when politicians and journalists suddenly focus on the fate of the women of Afghanistan in order to legitimate the war based on the concept of human rights. Considering that 90% of the victims in a war are civilians, mostly women, children and elderly people shows that this argument may well be a farce. (UN figures of 1990)

War, women and everyday-life

It is in the interest of the politicians in the USA to maintain that their wars are clean wars and that in their wars almost no civilians are being killed. What about the refugees? In thousands they die of hunger, illness, failing hygiene, expulsion, injuries caused through explosions of mines, hypothermia. Are they no victims of war, because they are not hit by bombs directly? The USA has thrown scatterbombs in the thousands onto Afghanistan, although these bombs are internationally outlawed. Victims hit directly are considered ‚collateral damage'. Victims who are going to be killed later when they step on duds, die in ‚accidents'. The question must therefore be allowed, whether the concept of war has to be extended to where it has so far not yet been applied to: That is everyday life.

Under genderspecific consideration the organisation of everyday-life and everyday-existence are major tasks of women worldwide. Women are responsible for the reproduction, education, and in many cases also the production or procuring of food, and the maintenance of family. "Economies of care" are the equivalent UN-terms. This is domain of women.

For women it is of utmost priority also in wartime to organize everyday-survival. With this however in mind women already act beyond all logic of war. From a female point of view neither terror nor war but a fair distribution and justice come into focus. But when you do not only look at distribution in gender-neutral terms but under gendered perspectives the injustice of the worldorder is further highlighted: Two thirds of the poverty of the world affects women. Two thirds of all analphabets are women. Two thirds of the work done worldwide is being done by women.

War and gender-hierarchies

Feminist sociologists of military issues like Ruth Seifert have pointed at the correlation between the ideology of the armed forces and the degradation of women in general. In this context the production of gendered stereotypes is of utmost importance. In military logic emotion is female, rationality is male. Emotion looses, toughness wins. This is a preliminary condition for hierarchies within military structures.

The German chanceller Schröder (male) and the chief of the Green Party Claudia Roth (female) had an encounter which shows clearly what is at stake. Like Mary Robinson, the High commissionar of human rights at the UN Claudia Roth demanded publicly that there should be a halt to the bombing in order to be able to care for the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people. Because of her intervention Schröder called her a "whiner". Because she was no military expert she couldn't make an informed judgement of what is necessary, he said. While Schröder was praised by the media as a real statesman when he showed his feelings at his visit at Ground Zero, Claudia Roth is being derided as woman because she is touched by the misery of the refugees plight.

The peace researcher Astrid Albrecht Heide proved in her work on the correlation between military forces and gender, that military forces can be considered a "direct proof of patriarchal power relations". Linked with it is a "Ramboisation of everyday-life" as Maria Mies, a pioneer of the feminist movement in Germany said. The situation in Afghanistan serves as an example. The wars of the last twenty years in Afghanistan - representative wars of the super powers - provided the conditions for installing the rigid gender-hierarchies which deprived women of the rights of education, health care, and a self-supported existence. The "war against terror" may have as one positive result that the plight of the women in Afghanistan has become an issue of public interest to the media and the politicians in these parts. However only blind confidence in the logic of war will take a now unveiled face of a women in Afghanistan as proof that war in general liberates women.

War-business and the bodies of women

There are however even more genderspecific dimensions of war. The female body itself is an object of discussion. Theoretically the rape of women in war is now considered a warcrime and is prosecuted at the international court in De Hague. This impresses neither the Taliban nor the armed forces of the Northern Alliance as the UN reports. In any case sex as a means to appease the soldiers will play a part in Afghanistan too. Rape is just one aspect. Prostitution is another one.

Take the prolonged presence of armed forces of the west in Indochina. It shows how prostitution and trafficking in women has created new local economies. The profits are enormous. They can be compared to the profits in drug-dealing. Women profit the least from it all. With the military presence of the West in Afghanistan there too such a new sex-market will get established. War is a platform for businesses, one of which is business with women.


Whoever analyses the events of September 11th and its aftermath under a gendered perspective will touch upon contradictions within the argumentative context of those governments which try to purvey the idea that war is a solution. These contradictions should not be revealed. They harm the image and self-image of the western countries and they unmask their mission.

Does this explain why feminists of the western countries whose analysis of the war and of the politics of the USA did not comply with the standard version of why war is an adequate answer to terrorism are faced with prosecution like the Canadian professor Sunera Thobani? Does it explain why others are being ridiculed like the north-american writer Barbara Kingsolver? "I have already been called every name in the Rush Limbaugh handbook: traitor, sinner, naive, liberal, peacenik, whiner" she wrote. Still: "It is not naive to propose alternatives to war."

Does this also explain, why abortion clinics of "Planned Parenthood" have received anthrax-threats since 1998? The Boston Globe reports it on the 17th of October. Neither anti-terror-agents nor the media seemed to bother until after September the 11th. The sender of the letters may well spell his name as Christian Fundamentalist. Does this also explain, why there is broad media coverage of the conference about the future in Afghanistan that was held on the Petersberg near Bonn, but no media coverage of a womens conference on Afghanistan in Bruxelles at the same time? Mary Robinson opened the conference. She said that without women there is no future in Afghanistan.

Does this explain, why members of the "Afghan Women Council" or "RAWA" have not appropriately been invited to participate at the conference in Bonn? These women's organisations, located in Pakistan and secretly operating in Afghanistan, were the only opposition that stood for years against the Taliban. They organised clandestine schools for girls, they documented violence against women, they organised health care and other humanitarian relief programs.

The influence of women on the future political development of Afghanistan will have to be watched for carefully anyway. This is crucial because the members of the conference on the future of Afghanistan which was held near Bonn did not decide on whether the juridical system will be based on secular law or the sharia.


In the first government in Afghanistan after women were given parity of rights in 1964 women were represented in high positions . 20 years of war have obliberated the memory of those times. But why do the western governments still hang on to the misogyn and fundamentalist Northern Alliance as representatives in a new government even today? With the Northern Alliance come all the Taliban fighters who deserted to the Northern Alliance, too. Must we assume, that these groups do guarantee more reliably that the interests of the Western countries and Pakistan are met. Why? "To make sure that the international corporations and global players do have access to the not yet exploited oil and gasfields on Afghan terretory" says Mariam Notten, a sociologist of Afghan origin who lives in Berlin.

Oil may not be the only reason for the war, that would ignore the terrorist attacks. At the same time anti-terror-action cannot be the only reason for the military intervention either. For that other measures would be more effective.

In order to understand terror and war it seems necessary to focus on the global world-order and its inherent injustice when it comes to access to ressources and standards of living. This fuels hate, says Fatima Mernissi, feminist, sociologist and writer from Morocco. In an interview shown on German television on the 4th of November she talks about a Mr Keller, representative of the transnational oil-company Unocal, which built pipelines in Afghanistan. Mr. Keller was happy, when the Taliban took over power in 1996, she says. Refering to the present situation she explains: "The attack, the violence against New York can be understood as follows: Mr Keller divided the planet in two parts. In one part of the planet women - such as his wife and his daughter - are protected through laws. In the other part of the planet Mr Keller supported criminals who attacked women and destroyed their laws. To him this boundary was something natural. In a bloodbath the terrorists showed, that this barrier which divides the world in two zones, one in which violence is legitimate and one in which it is forbidden, is no longer valid. This I think is the major lesson learnt", she says.

In the German parliament Joschka Fischer the exterior minister polemically asked how terrorism and the Taliban could be stopped other than with war. With that question he suggested, that there is no alternative to war and therefore no other answer than war is possible. Yet there is an answer to this question. Dialogue is an alternative, openly revealing the geopolitcal, strategic and economic interests is an other alternative, a radical change of perspective which takes into consideration the points of view of those who care of survival even under the severest conditions and politics that do not ignore all this are alternatives. In this context points of view of women do matter, because for gender-specific reasons women do until today hold all those positions in life that are most strongly affected by the negative consequences of the economic politics and the politics of war.

In order to have war seem a plausible solution, the above mentioned alternatives need to be ignored. Only then in a state of self-afflicted ignorance does the conviction that the status quo of the countries of the west must be continued make sense. Feminist economists therefore call this attitude a "strategic silence". This silence needs to be broken.


According to the German newspaper the "Tagesspiegel" of the 4th of November the former president of Italy Cossiga, not a spotless figure by the way, said, that polygamy could be helpful in the fight against terrrorism. He suggested that as a "necessary concessions" to the muslims they should be allowed to gain "legal authority" over more than one wife if this helped to shape compromises in negotiations. It can hardly be expressed more explicitly, that women are the assets that are being thrown into the arena without great regret and that women should tolerate this silently, not only in islamic countries but on the homefront, too. Once revealed however, it should become more difficult, to turn women into accomplices of the politics of war.



Article about the crossover conference by some participants

Crossover Conference 17. -20. January 2002 Bremen, Germany

Feminists, anti-fascists, dykes, gays, heteros, bisexuals, disabled, intersexuals, queers.. … came together to discuss and “attack networks of power”

In January the northern German city Bremen has been place of one of the biggest German ‘radical left’ conferences in the last years.

Over 600 people joined the ‘Crossover Conference’ to discuss and ‘attack networks of power’ – as the motto of the meeting was.

Issues had been: the links between patriarchy, sexism, racism, anti-semitism, islamophobia, globalisation, neoliberalism, nationalism and also more practical issues like the demonstration concept of ‘Pink and Silver’ and its perspectives and chances and chances and limitations of Queer politics.

The intention to organize the conference, which was planned and carried out by the anti-racist, anti-sexist summer camp project (http://www.summercamp.squat.net ) was to embed (pro-)feminist perspectives in the radical left discourse and let them become a matter of course, to observe networks of suppression systems as a whole and to bring people with different political focuses and from different countries together.

The latter was obviously successful: people from Poland, Greece, France, Spain, England, the Netherlands and other countries participated.

If the first listed intentions will become true won’t be clear until the next years, but the unexpected huge number of interested people seems promising.

There will be continuing events: 19/04/02 - 22/04/02 the ‘Crossover seminar’ in Berlin. Topics will be an evaluation of the Crossover Conference and the question how to link theoretical inspirations with practice.

03/08/02 – 10/08/02 the ‘Crossover Summercamp’ in Germany, Poland or somewhere else (it depends on the people who will join in the preparation group!) The new preparation group was founded during the conference in Bremen, but it still searches for more participation especially from other countries than Germany.

The Conference in Bremen

Two days before the beginning already five hundred people have been registered. In the evening of Thursday the 17th the majority of people arrived for registration and check-in.

Different prices for different wages or people with no income, and travel-cost- support enabled many people financially to take part..

Very soon it became clear that more than 700 people arrived and would need a sleeping place for the following days.

Many people went to the different organized sleeping places in the city, most of them really close to the different venues. Shared flats/houses and housing coops offered people space to live during the gathering.

The ‘Paradox’, a self-organized, left lecture and workshop centre became the information point and one of the eating places during the conference.

Rampenplan a cooking collective from the Netherlands prepared vegan food with help of participants.

The organizer handed out a city-map with the special locations to everybody- the result: you could see lots of searching rucksack people in the Conference district in Bremen.

For those who needed or decided for a little break it was always possible to go out for a coffee. The atmosphere was quite relaxed referred to nazi and/or police repression.

At the opening ‘gala’ on the first day (Thursday evening) some of the workshops, films and plans have been presented to the audience.

The first workshop phase started on Friday morning. The next two days several other workshop blocks followed.

A number of workshops had been prepared with texts which had been on the website some weeks in advance (The articles are still on the webside:http://www.summercamp.squat.net ). They had been also in the Conference Reader in German and English, which was handed out at the registration.

Some people decided spontaneous to offer more workshops to come to a process of interchange not only because the number of people caused particular problems especially with small workshop rooms, translation and the whish to discuss afterwards.

The workshops had been for example about: Prostitution; Gender Binarism; Sexual Violence; The Military and War-Towards and Antisexist Antiwar Resistance; Racist Mobilisation after September 11; Postmodernity, Education and Class; Gender roles in the Globalisation; Children Games under the focus of exclusion; Radical Cheerleading, Pink and Silver- Chances and Limitations; Lesbian, gay and queer issues connected to questions of capitalism; Masculinities; Power; Critique of science, about the Nato Congress in Munich in the end of January; about questions of normality in the context of disability…. Queerruption from London and the NO-Border-camp-preparation team presented their plans for 2002.

A kindergarten was organized for those who came with children.

Events like a pink and silver action, the workshop about children’s games and a cross dressing evening had been more actively.

Another important action was a spontaneous demonstration against the deportation of Kurdish-Lebanese people on Sunday morning.

The Crossover Conference showed that it is not impossible to bring people from different backgrounds together.

After the last workshop block on Saturday the ending event started: a party in different self organized venues. A colourful and long night, which allowed mobility between the different places…

On Sunday morning the last day, the different workshops presented the results to everybody, so that everybody could imagine how and what other people did on the Crossover Conference.

The Conference had been a great event in Bremen with difficulties like the problem for everybody to get out of the consumer role or to get convenient translation for everybody.

There had been complaints about too academic speech- something which hopefully will be recognized within new plans (summercamp and seminar)…

The unexpected number of participant caused overcrowded workshops, but on the other side showed the pleasant interest of many people.

Positively was also the feedback about the antisexist/(pro) feminist atmosphere of many ‘women’ who decided to come for the first time again to a mixed meeting.