#iphiGENIA 2018 Award Ceremony Keynote Speech by Robert Franken

On November 8, 2018, I had the opportunity as well as the honour to hold the keynote speech at this year’s #iphiGENIA Award ceremony at the Museum für angewandte Kunst MAKK in Cologne, Germany. The full speech has been published at IGDN’s website (verbatim). This is a an edited and abridged version of the keynote, in which I talked about (male) privilege, awareness, solidarity, feminist impact and changing norms.

(Photo by Florian Yeh)

My name is Robert Franken. I became an activist for gender equality and  diversity, more or less. And, admittedly, I became an activist of privilege.

My privilege is a privilege that I share with quite a few people, I believe: I’m a 45 year old, white, heterosexual, tall, cis-gender male who is living in Germany (in case you don’t know what the term „cis-gender“ means: cis-gender is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth. The opposite, of course, would be transgender.)

And here’s a piece of advice for all the guys: You are not suposed to be ashamed of your privilege – but you need to be aware of it!

Again: white, heterosexual, tall, cis-gender, German – You can’t be much more privileged than I am in this world, even if you tried very, very hard.

And my privilege of truly global scale is the number one reason why it took me so long to realize that there are quite a few things going terribly wrong in this privileged world of mine. Not for me, though, but for a lot of other people.

Have you ever thought about your privilege? Have you ever made up your mind about how your privilege constitutes your status? If you are privileged, of course.

It can be a pretty sobering experience. I mean, it sounds good: „I am privileged.“ But when you think about it: It becomes very normal very soon. It’s just your personal reality. Your routine. Your norm.

You’re getting used to it, and when you’re getting used to something you’re losing awareness of the very fact that it has always been there: your privilege. It may not feel like being fun anymore, maybe it never has. It’s just normal.

There’s this diversity awareness exercise you might have heard of or even experienced yourself. Imagine a group of people forming a line, holding hands. They’re being asked questions. Questions such as „Do you think your gender is properly represented in the media?“ or „Did you have access to a full school education?“. If the answer to one question is „Yes“, then the participants are being asked to take a step forward.

You can also add questions where a „no“ as an answer would mean a step back. And you can use very tough and challenging questions. For instance: “Have you ever been a victim of sexual harassment?“.

The goal of this exercise is, of course, to challenge privilege and to create awareness for discrimination; to prove that the particular group is much more heterogenous than you would think in the first place, and, that privilege sometimes leads to discrimination – and vice versa.

So eventually, when the exercise is over, you would ask the people standing in the back how they’re feeling. And they wouldn’t feel that great, actually. And that’s because they, once again, are being confronted with their personal discriminatory past and/or present. They’re probably quite used to that, but nevertheless, this exercise sometimes works as a kind of trigger.

The most interesting part of this exercise, however, is how the people in the front are feeling. The people who would be answering „Yes“ to almost every single question. They are the privileged ones, that’s quite obvious, isn’t it? But, awkwardly enough, it doesn’t seem to feel particularly good.

In fact, the people who are standing in the front feel extremely weird. „Weird“ as in „uneasy“ as in „bad“! And that’s because they have just been confronted with their privilege. Maybe for the very first time ever in their whole life!

So, what have they been missing?

Well. There’s so much discrimination in the world of ours that it would take ages to even come close to a summary. I feel that it’s quite an obligation to confront ourselves with at least some facts that are driving inequalities. With the dark side, if you like.

We need to acknowledge a sad fact: Germany is not doing very well in some areas of gender equality. And I will spare you the discussion around the almost untranslatable phenomenon of the „Ehegattensplitting“. Only so much: We’re the only country in the world which is rewarding a husband for a stay-at-home wife… sorry: a stay-at-home partner!

There are even worse imbalances. You’ve surely heard of the vicious circle of gaps: a gender care gap leading to a gender pay gap leading to a gender lifetime earnings gap resulting in a massive gender pension gap aka „Altersarmut”. These are embarrassing facts for one of the wealthiest economies in the world.

I am particularly interested in the gender care gap. Why? Because it is one of the main reasons for all the other economic inequalities between the genders.

According to the latest inequality report („Gleichstellungsbericht“), the average gender care gap in Germany is 52.4 percent. What does that mean? This means that, on average, women are doing 87 minutes more care work per day than men. Every day. The most dramatic care gap occurs at the age of 34: Women of that age are doing more than five hours of care work every day – men only two and a half hours. This represents a care gap of more than 100 %!

And why at the age of 34? Well, this is when there are children in the household. It’s as simple as that. With our family structures and our strange out-of-date attribution to motherhood, women are still a kind of a default option when in comes down to childcare.

This has to change if we really want to tackle the gender pay gap and all the other financial imbalances that follow and that have dramatic consequences.

I you are a woman, sooner or later, you might find yourself in the trap sociologists have called „retraditionalisation“: modern couples are entering the delivery room at the hospital – and out come couples who act like it’s 1958. It is a trap for women, because they are still the „default option“ when it comes down to childcare.

And finally, a short glance on our economic paradigms: If you look at the DAX 30 companies, you’ll have another sobering moment. 92 % of the board members are male. Germany is the only country in the world which hasn’t got a single female CEO in one of its top 30 listed companies. It’s more likely for a man named Thomas to become a board member than for a woman. We’re talking about monocultures here.

If you google for the term „Vorstand“ and switch to image search, the search results are close to satire. A smart mind once coined the term „homosocial reproduction“ which basically means that people are hiring people who are resembling themselves rather than diving into diversity. It’s a diversity horror movie with a lot of sequels. There’s not much more progress in politics, either: More men with the beautiful German name Hans have become state secretary than women.

Let’s face it: Women will not be able to initiate a turnaround here by themselves. And they shouldn’t have to!!

The obstacles that come with working in a sexist culture are beyond any individual’s control. Or, as writer and laywer Ephrat Livni has argued in a recent article for Quartz.com:

“It’s the society we operate in that needs fixing, not how we ask for money, the tone of our voices, or our outfits.“ 

We need to stop fixing women. And we need to include the other 50 % in order to make change happen. In order to find a collective answer to the question: How do we want to live and work together in the future? In order to achieve this, we, as men, need to live up to our responsibilities!

But, as you all might have experienced yourselves, there’s quite a massive backlash to gender issues at the moment. It’s a global backlash. It hasn’t started with Trump, but the unbearable misogyny, white supremacy, racism and sexism of the Trump era shows that a lot of men – and some women, too – have decided to remain a part of the problem rather than joining forces and become a part of the solution. As a matter of fact, sexism and misogyny are on the rise.

A sexual predator is president of the United States of America and a sexual offender will be in the Supreme Court until his death. The Hungarian prime minister has banned Gender Studies from the universities because he thinks that they are, “a threat to the traditional family“. An Austrian female politician has been sentenced for calling out a male harasser, because the judge doubted her evidence. The terrible stories keep on coming, day by day.

And gender seems to have become (or maybe alway has been) a battleground. Many people – predominantly men, but also women – feel offended by the mere discussion of gender-related issues, let alone by a debate on gender equality. The concept of masculinity (and of femininity sometimes) seems fragile. Or at least, I’ve been trying to explain some of the more severe attacks on feminism and feminists by fragile masculinity.

Am I wrong? Maybe.

But the concept of gender is so very personal and gets so uncomfortably close to our socialization as humans, that the only way to maintain our foundation as human beings very often is to lash about and hit all those who question this foundation. And those who want do debate gender roles and responsibilities.

As I said: The backlashes are everywhere, and they seem to be getting worse. Is it just patriarchy’s final battle? Or is that, what we call „patriarchy’s dividend“, so attractive, that a majority of people is once and for all working on upholding its systemic paradigms?

To me, one thing is cristal-clear: men have to get moving. We have to stand up and show sustainable solidarity. Solidarity in the fight to end patriarchy. This fight would be for our own good. The sooner we realize this, the better for us all.

Victoria Bissell Brown, a retired history professor at Grinnell College in the U.S. has written an article for the Washington Post in which she’s calling on all men. She writes:

„In the centuries of feminist movements that have washed up and away, good men have not once organized their own mass movement to change themselves and their sons or to attack the mean-spirited, teasing, punching thing that passes for male culture. Not once. Bastards. Don’t listen to me. Listen to each other. Talk to each other. Earn your power for once.”

So again: Gender equality is a responsibility for all men. Yet, men seem to have a problem with their responsibility. We still haven’t organized ourselves around the task of creating a gender equal society or to ensure fair and inclusive systems of mutual support. We still don’t engage at scale.

Let me give you just one example: Women in Iceland went on general strike because they feel discriminated against by a gender pay gap of 13 percent. The pay gap in Germany is 21 percent. No strike. Not by men, not by women. I am asking you: Where’s our consternation, where’s our rage and where’s our solidarity for this fundamental issue? We all have our answers. And maybe we have to turn those answers into collective action.

If I had something to say, I would make the diversity awareness exercise I have been talking about a few minutes ago a monthly routine. Maybe with a changing set of questions. Why? Because it is so utterly important to challenge our norms and biases on a regular basis. By doing so, we would be training ourselves to change our perspectives. To learn to walk in other people’s shoes. To create an understanding of systems and norms and privilege and discrimination. To develop an empathic approach to diversity & inclusion.

Before I end, I’d like to sort out one or two things, so we all wouldn’t be confusing them any more. I want to do this by quoting Canadian author Justine Musk who is commenting on basic truths:

“The enemy of feminism isn’t men. It’s patriarchy, and patriarchy is not men. It is a system, and women can support the system of patriarchy just as men can support the fight for gender equality.“

Well, good luck for all of us!

#men4equality – Why we won’t speak at all-male panels any longer

Events and panels, where only men are talking to men, are unrepresentative, one-dimensional and incomplete – and therefore boring and irrelevant. It is better, for audiences, participants and organizers, to call off such one-dimensional events rather than allowing a conversation on a low-quality level. This is why the signatories to this declaration have decided not to take part in all-male panels any more.

With #men4equality we are creating awareness for the fact that the very casting of panel lineups has a massive influence on the quality of the debate itself. We understand men#4equality as an invitation to event organizers to take this important matter into account when preparing their programs. If you’re still planning to have an all-male event, we will have to cancel our participation. Events of such kind simply do not live up to our expectations concerning quality.

List of initial signatories:

  • Rowan Barnett, Senior Director Market Development & Media, Twitter 
  • Torsten Bittlingmeier, Founder TalentManagers
  • Leonhard Dobusch, Professor Universität Innsbruck
  • Thomas Feinen, Geschäftsführer Hoffmann und Campe Verlag
  • Robert Franken, Digitaler Potenzialentfalter
  • Stephan Grabmeier, Chief Innovation Evangelist Haufe-umantis AG
  • Joachim Graf, Zukunftsforscher & Publizist
  • Hendrik Haase aka wurstsack, Aktivist
  • Ralf Heimann, Journalist & Autor 
  • Vincent-Immanuel Herr, Autor & Aktivist HERR & SPEER
  • Tom Hillenbrand, Journalist & Autor       
  • Mark Hoffmann, Co-Founder & CEO Vertical Media GmbH
  • Simon Hurtz, Journalist      
  • Christoph Kappes, Geschäftsführer Fructus & Sobooks.de
  • Friedemann Karig, Journalist & Autor 
  • Dr. Ralf Kleindiek, State Secretary Federal Ministry for Family Affairs BMFSFJ 
  • Johannes Kleske, Co-Founder Third Wave
  • Wolfgang Lünenbürger-Reidenbach, Geschäftsführer Cohn & Wolfe PR
  • Stephan Noller, Founder ubirch
  • Christian Schiffer, Journalist
  • Igor Schwartzmann, Co-Founder Third Wave
  • Michael Seemann, Autor    
  • Martin Speer, Autor & Aktivist HERR & SPEER
  • Hakan Tanriverdi, Journalist
  • Tarik Tesfu, YouTuber und mastermind behind “Tariks Genderkrise”
  • Dirk von Gehlen, Journalist & Autor     
  • Leander Wattig, Veranstalter & Publisher          
  • Felix Wegener, Veranstalter & Blogger    

Here’s a short list of things you as an event organizer should take into account when trying to make your panel relevant and successful:

  • If you are an event host, get the balance right. Reach out to organizations like e.g. the Women Speaker Foundation or speakerinnen.org in Germany, they can help you find excellent female speakers on virtually any topic.
  • When you are preparing for an event, make sure that you make gender balance your objective and not just some goal. It needs to be an integral part of your conference or panel setup.
  • Think about involving women in your planning process.

And here are just three ideas how you as a man can be(come) part of the solution rather than remain part of the problem:

  • If you’re invited to speak at a conference: Make sure that there’s a balance in diversity among the speakers.
  • Before you take part in a panel discussion: Ask the question whether there are just men on stage or men* and women* in a balanced diversity setup – hostess not included. 70% men may be o.k. in some industries, but more would only mean a lack of effort.
  • Speak out about the reasons for not attending male-only events. If you remain silent, you miss the chance of creating awareness for this problem.
  • Create awareness among your peers. Ask them why they wouldn’t bother reflecting on this issue. Help them make up their minds, too.

Always Remember:

All-male setups are simply boring.

Balanced lineups must become the norm.

Help us change the ratio. Spread the word: #men4equality

The feminist debate is still relevant – and a law against internet hatred and harassment has become a necessity

Author: Henrik Marstal (author and musician) 

In the often heated debate about feminism, it has become customary for debaters to promote their great difficulties with the very word. Some have even argued that this is the movement’s greatest challenge.

Others argue that we should talk about “equality” instead of feminism, for this is what feminism is actually about. Or that feminism simply means “reverse discrimination of women”. These are relevant objections because feminism may appear a bit restricted at the very definition of the word.

Let’s begin with the latter: No. There are very few feminists who want women to dominate the world by establishing a matriarchal system – i.e. the equivalent of the current patriarchy which seems to be the actual cause of the problems of equality which all people might be subjected to. Continue reading “The feminist debate is still relevant – and a law against internet hatred and harassment has become a necessity”

Feminism is for all of us

Author: Henrik Marstal (writer and musician) 

Some time ago, the international initiative #WomenAgainstFeminism flourished on various social media. Within a remarkably short period of time, thousands of women united because they felt repelled by feminism.

In Denmark, a 23-year-old female educationalist caused a stir in the national media by stating that because feminists hate men, they make her feel ashamed of her own sex. A Danish female blogger even opposed to any kind of feminist thought and compared feminism to religious fanaticism – and me, an outspoken feminist and a blogger myself, being her only example.

Thus, for many people, feminism is simply a word they do not bother to learn (more) about. Moreover, it is a word that apparently is connected with something negative and annoying because feminism is perceived as sincerely superfluous and irrelevant. But I am pretty sure that this resistance is primarily an expression of a universal truth: pressure causes counter-pressure. While a feminist approach as being a solution to many of the world’s problems has shown growing attention among people all over the Western world, the resistance to this approach has been on the rise, too.

This resistance comes not only from men, who regard the movement as a serious threat to inherited patriarchal privileges. It also comes from privileged women, who do not want to be reminded of the fact that they still find themselves in a highly unequal position compared to men concerning economic matters, power, justice etc.

Many people subscribe to the notion of feminism as being a totalitarian ideology with its  primary purpose being to spread misandry (male hatred), to claim womanhood as a victim, to promote a matriarchal world order and to offend patriarchal matters, even in places where women feel quite satisfied with the state of affairs.

But if these people asked feminists what they want to focus on, most of them will come up with an answer that doesn’t quite fit all the resentment. I bet that most feminists would answer that they are working to fully realize equality matters between the sexes in terms of politics, social issues, sexuality, economy and notions of power. And while they answer, they will refer to statistics, reports, studies and empirical observations rather than to their own emotions.

The Swedish author and feminist Nina Björk has said it like this:

“Feminism is a political movement with its goal being to make gender an uninteresting category in everyones’ social lives.”

Ulla Tornemand, a chairwoman from Danish Women’s Society (founded in 1871) , puts it this way:

“Being a feminist means working to end oppression, discrimination and exploitation of people just because of their gender, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation and/or other issues. The correspondence of the movement’s name with the female gender is historically conditioned. So today, to be a feminist is to believe in and work for equality.”

So, with a few radical exceptions, feminists are neither male-haters or religious fanatics. For the same reason, a rapidly growing number of men have declared themselves feminists. These men, I believe, know that true equality between the sexes will help putting an end to patriarchal norms which are of no benefit for them, either.

In the aforementioned #WomenAgainstFeminism movement, there were several women with a handwritten sign which rejected feminism, including a woman with a sign that said: “I do not need feminism because I enjoy being a stay-at-home housewife and do not feel less valuable for that reason.”

Unfortunately, this woman did not know what feminism is all about. Had she known, she would have been aware that feminists do not look down on housewives, and that the movement works for equal rights between the genders in connection with childbirths, divorces and parental rights.

One of my friends paraphrased the woman’s statement like this:

“I do not need feminism because I am totally indifferent to all the women who do not thrive in the traditional roles which men often expect us to join. I therefore give up everything that feminists before my time fought for so fiercely and sometimes paid a high price for: my voice and vote, my education right, my right to be respected for who I am, my right to not constantly be viewed as a sex object by all men (until I get about the age of 45-50 years), my right to abortion and my right not to be beaten, raped or murdered by my partner. These are all factors which, even in the 21st century, are still not taken for granted outside the Western World – and only to a certain extent within this area.”

The woman might also be devoid of empathy for other women; devoid of empathy for the 29,000 women who each year are subject to domestic violence in Denmark alone (10,000 of them are exposed to repeated, serious abuse). Moreover, she might be devoid of empathy for women who suffer from having less favourable terms in economic, social or legal matters.

Finally, she might be devoid of empathy with women for whom gender stereotyping in the media, in advertising, in fashion and in porn hampers their self-expression and drains their self-esteem. This applies not less to the many women who have repeatedly been experiencing serious problems with sexism, threats of rape as well as rape without being taken seriously by the authorities as well as their friends and families.

It seems that we could draw a parallel line between the women’s liberation movement and the labor movement: Both made enormous progress for a very large social group, and both will continue to be necessary. If not, the world as we know it runs the risk of being pulled back in time. To all of us, it is indeed true that equality never happened automatically – it has to be fought for every inch.

Not many people would have missed the trade union movement. I am sure that many people admit that something similar is true for the women’s liberation movement. So put down the reservations, all you people out there: Feminism is for all of us.

Feminism for men  –  a manual

Author: Robert Franken (blogger and digital consultant)

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been following the debate on gender equality and feminism. And the longer I’ve listening, the more I can feel how hard it seems to be for men to come to terms with the concept, the vocabulary and their own attitude towards these issues.

This very often leads to a severe lack of participation from the male side in the debate as well as in the organizational change process. And this is the main reason for the whole issue to be somehow stalled: 50 % attention rate simply isn’t enough.

Unfortunately, there is a significant degree of negative agitation and even aggressive animosity withinthis set of topics. Some of my male colleagues not only fail to support the feminist idea, their slogans are often a direct attack on one of the most important questions of our lifetime: How do we want to live and work together in the future?

One could use one’s energy for the search for reasons why male participation is so low or to campaign against more or less open aggression by the male side. But without the knowledge of where the obvious male discomfort is rooted, there won’t be much progress.

From my point of view, there are three categories of men: Continue reading “Feminism for men  –  a manual”