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Germany

The Dishonored Sex: German Writer Pleads For Male Emancipation

Acclaimed author Ralf Bönt says it's high time men "claim a place of their own." In a new manifesto for the "Dishonored Sex," the trained physicist notes that while men dominate the top of the social scale, mos

Where to next? (brennan.v)
Where to next? (brennan.v)

By Marko Martin
DIE WELT/Worldcrunch

BERLIN - Thirty years ago, German singer Ina Deter had a hit song about her country's need for "new men" – a need so urgent, she was going to "spray the message on every wall."

What has happened since? Nothing – or, at least, nothing positive – says Ralf Bönt, 49, a Berlin-based writer, in a newly published book called "Das entehrte Geschlecht. Ein notwendiges Manifest für den Mann" (The Dishonored Sex: A Necessary Manifesto for Men).

A physicist by training, the writer gets straight to the point. "When women began to resist rigid roles, men did not ask for more freedom," he writes. "Like soldiers, they go on serving their employers, the state and their family until they keel over and die. Men's greatest mistake was not claiming a place of their own. Three words sum up the male life story: career, competition, collapse."

This may sound subjective, perhaps a tad sniveling, but statistics back up what the author writes. On average, men in Germany die six years earlier than women. Interestingly, the author points out that where the lifestyle of both sexes is equivalent -- among monks and nuns, for example, or those living in Israeli kibbutzim – there is no such difference in life expectancy.

Bönt, a former researcher at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), has a surprising take on male dominance: "Men dominate the top-end of the social scale," he writes, "but also the lowest: the chronically ill, the homeless, migrant workers, are mostly men." Women have always and continue to make up the middle, he says.

Latin Lover's "fragile" reality

Couldn't there be some halfway solution? That's the problem, not the solution, says Bönt, and it's turned what we expect from men into an unrealizable catalogue of contradictory expectations. Men not only have to deal with the moods and demands of their bosses, but also the unwritten expectations of society and loved ones: be a genius and a Latin Lover at the same time.

The result, Bönt says, is that the "cool" ones are viewed as dominators that we simultaneously build up and tear down. But the major and fundamental mistake of our feminist times, according to Bönt, is the idea that there is any freedom in the classic male life story.

Bönt's book focuses on feminists like Simon de Beauvoir and Alice Schwarzer, leaving out such feminist voices as writers Fanny Lewald or Erica Jong. More information about where he himself, the intellectual and family man, is coming from -- Western, Protestant, Socialist -- would also have helped his cause. If nothing else, it would have lightened the weight of the argument, which sometimes is so resolutely serious it becomes unwittingly comic. At one point, for example, he defends the fragile penis (there's even a text-book-style picture of one!). No, it is not an insensitive "male weapon," he says. Bönt goes on to analyse the "active" components of the vagina.

None of this, however, makes the essay's main arguments any less viable: that the self-liberation of men – emancipation – is urgently needed, and still lies ahead.

Read the original story in German

Photo - brennan.v

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China

How China's Mass Protest Took The World By Surprise — And Where It Will End

China is facing its biggest political protests in decades as frustration grows with its harsh Zero-COVID strategy. However, the real reasons for the protests run much deeper. Could it be the starting point for a new civic movement?

Photo of police during protests in China against covid-19 restrictions

Security measures during a protest against COVID-19 restrictions

Changren Zheng

In just one weekend, protests spread across China. A fire in an apartment block in Urumqi in China’s western Xinjiang region killed 10, with many blaming lockdown rules for the deaths. Anti-lockdown demonstrations spread to Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu and other cities. University students from more than half of China's provinces organized various protests against COVID restrictions.

Why and how did the movement spread so rapidly?

At the core, protesters are unhappy with President Xi Jinping's three-year-long Zero-COVID strategy that has meant mass testing, harsh lockdowns, and digital tracking. Yet, the general belief about the Chinese people was that they lacked the awareness and experience for mass political action. Even though discontent had been growing about the Zero-COVID strategy, no one expected these protests.

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