Women In Submarines? Cue That Sinking Feeling

The French navy has announced it will allow women to work in submarines starting in 2017. A Le Temps columnist contemplates whether that takes gender equality too far.

French women will be able to work in submarines.
French women will be able to work in submarines.
Rinny Gremaud


GENEVA — The French navy has announced that it will allow women to work in submarines starting in 2017. Goodness, I thought to myself when I heard, are they all losing their minds? You can’t confine a woman with a hundred crewmen nonstop for more than two months.

In nuclear subs, a routine exercise usually lasts 10 months. And where can you feel more locked up than in this closed-door machine? To understand this, you just have to watch The Hunt for Red October, K-19: The Widowmaker or Crimson Tide.

What kind of woman — enraged, gullible or perverse — would want to expose herself to such a situation? We don’t want to admit it, but isn’t there a natural limit to gender equality?

And then I stopped for a moment to think about my opinions. Because what came to my mind at first was how men are all like animals in breeding season, slaves of their sexual organs and incapable of behaving correctly with a woman in the professional field.

The worst is not that certain men think this is the truth and even say it loud and clear. The worst is that I am so consumed with common preconceptions that I can’t move beyond them. I hear “women in submarines” and suddenly think about the risk of them being sexually assaulted.

As if every woman was doomed to disturb any group of men unintentionally. As if men behind closed doors never stirred each other. And as if submarines were not ranked and extremely codified places, where social control is intense.

I remember when I was young, I spent a month alone on a container ship between Europe and Asia. It had nothing to do with a nuclear submarine — but still. I found out that the merchant navy is actually a respectful environment of individuals.

Women have been working there for years and make up almost 25% of the staff in some shipping companies. But they are never transferred in oil tankers, as I was told one day. Why? Because oil tankers make few stopovers. Meaning: When the tanker stops, the crewmen can pay other women to relieve their stress.

The sailors and submariners’ life is quite strange. In movies, these characters are so romantic. But in real life, I am always wondering what type of person would do this job. And by “type” I also mean “gender.”

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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