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Berlin and beyond

Tamsin Walker
March 9, 2018

It wasn't until director Dieter Wedel was accused of sexual assault in the 1990s, that Germany got loud on #MeToo. But does the country's limping response imply inaction? Tamsin Walker went in search of some clarity.

Tamsin Walker with #MeToo sign
Image: DW/Tamsin Walker

WorldLink: Germany's response to #MeToo

In the months since the #MeToo hashtag hit the mainstream, its substance and essence have found their way into countless conversations with friends, family, colleagues and even neighbors. Hours of talk, throughout which I've repeatedly been struck by the nuance of interpretation.

Some I've spoken to say #MeToo has been hijacked by women who feel attacked when inadvertently brushed up against on a packed bus, or that the strength of its original message has been diluted by social media.

Others say #MeToo? 'About time too.' And regard it as means of kick-starting a debate on how teenagers learn to communicate and flirt, and as a long-overdue opportunity to address the pervasiveness of sexual objectification.

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There are also those who welcome it as a means of addressing the branch of German feminism that is campaigning increasingly loudly on an anti-immigration platform.

Pumping up the volume

Women such as those from the far-right Identitarian movement who refer to themselves as the 'Daughters of Europe'. Blaming a growing national incidence of sexual assault on immigrants, they have launched a campaign under the hashtag 120db or decibels - in reference to the volume of the rape alarms they say women across Europe now have to carry with them.

But the response to #120db has emerged as an equally loud and unequivocal counter campaign called #no120db.

The musician in a cloud of pink smoke
Musician Sookee criticized the #120db movementImage: tainted lenses

Under the slogan, 'no feminism without anti-racism', it has drawn signatures and contributions from thousands of young feminists including Berlin rapper Sookee, who penned a minute-long track in which she accuses the so-called "Daughters of Europe" of ignoring domestic violence and letting white German perpetrators off the hook. You are not, she tells them, for women's rights, but are far-right women.

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When they crashed an equal-rights event at Berlin's film festival last month, they were booed off the stage with unbridled shouts of "Nazis out."

Industry response

On the whole though, the country's film and TV business has responded to #MeToo in a quieter fashion. An industry-wide complaints point has just been set up for women who feel they are being mistreated by male colleagues to go and seek advice. What happens as a result will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

A crowd with an umbrella reading 'metoo'
The conversation is only just beginningImage: Imago/Bildgehege

Simultaneously, pro-quota groups are continuing to push for their long-held aims of greater gender equality, which, so the logic has it, would lead to more women deciding on the stories that get told, and thereby fewer female characters being drawn from a male perspective. That, in turn, the logic continues, would make a vital contribution to an overhaul in the way women are portrayed and seen both on and off-screen.

That women all over the world would welcome such progress is self-evident. As such, the #MeToo debate looks set to dominate conversation for a long time to come. Nuanced interpretation and all.

In Berlin and beyond, British-born Tamsin Walker takes a closer look at some of the quirks and perks of life in Germany, which has been her home for almost 20 years. She tweets as @TamsinkateW 

Trailer: Berlin and Beyond

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