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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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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