A Step Backwards for Women's Liberation*

Opinion by Bianca Talbot


There has been an overwhelming amount of quiet in our mainstream media in the wake of the Cologne attacks in Germany on New Year’s Eve. To add fuel to the fire, news has come out about similar mass attacks elsewhere, in Finland, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden—a country which is hailed for making gender equality one of the cornerstones of its society, yet failed to report similar attacks by recent immigrants at a music festival.



In contrast to what we would expect from civilised Western societies, German authorities and journalists maintained a deathly silence over the issue, with police publicly stating they experienced a ‘largely peaceful’ and ‘relaxed’ night. It was only when hundreds of German women protested outside of the Cologne Cathedral that light was finally shone on the attacks which the German Justice Minister Keiko Maas described as being seemingly ‘coordinated or prepared’. Over 600 German women have since come out with statements concerning assaults on that same night.


This flies squarely in the face of the very women’s liberation movement generations before us fought so hard for. Something is profoundly wrong if women in societies similar to our own are being assaulted en masse, in public. Cologne’s group of 1000 attackers have been identified as being mostly of Middle Eastern and North African appearance, but these details were kept quiet over fears of fuelling anti-foreigner sentiment amidst the current migrant crisis.


The relevant Arabic phrase here is Taharrush gamea, which refers to a type of sexual assault and harassment involving large groups of men against women in public spaces. Indeed, this is what occurred in the Egyptian Tahrir Square revolution in 2011, when groups of young men surrounded women, including the British journalist Natasha Smith, and violently assaulted them.


The World Economic Forum has published a Global Gender Gap Report in 2014 in which all the bottom countries on the list are Muslim-majority nations from North Africa and the Middle East: Yemen, Pakistan, Chad, Syria, Mali and Iran. This should serve as a warning to Australia. These are the countries of which we are obtaining the majority of our asylum seekers from. There is no doubt that a culture of female subjugation will travel with them as well.


With the arrival of refugees from these parts of the world, a dialogue needs to be had regarding how we are to address this issue. In this context, of course, advocating for more assimilation is completely acceptable when it results in further enhancing the dignity of women.


While compassion needs to be displayed towards those that are in need of safety, we should not forget the well-being of the women within our own community.


Unfortunately, however, today’s Western feminists have been for too long concerned with their own victimhood to trouble themselves with the plight of women elsewhere. But while we begin to import those seemingly distant troubles into our own homes, they will no longer have a choice but to address these issues.


Naturally, the type of cultural relativism that is normally embraced by today’s feminism will no longer have a leg to stand on now that its incompatibility with our standard of women’s rights is coming to light. Above all, the current fetishizing of multiculturalism cannot be maintained at the expense of Australian women’s health and safety. Now is the time to end the silence and start discussing how we are to best address the integration of newcomers into our country.


*This article also appears in Menzies House here.