A binary coded gender justice is too little for the Pirate Party
For the reputation of the Pirates, the press and the political class rolled out the blood-red carpet after the election success in Berlin. Many of the hamish and unreflective comments directed at the young party signaled one thing above all: fear. Fear of the squirrels1, fear of those socialized as women or men, and uncertainty about the raspberry-creamant-drinking political enthusiasts, all without eye patches.
The pirates, taken by surprise by a whopping 8.9 percent of Berlin’s electoral votes, with their now additionally acquired bumps, edges and proudly swollen chests, did not fit into any of the drawers that were ready for dwarf parties in TV studios and the other party headquarters shortly after the projections. The weak point of the party was quickly identified: a lack of vitamin F: women. The feed for the parliamentary group in the House of Representatives came too late. Among the 15 new deputies there was only one pirate.
In the hail of commentary from the media and political opponents, who tried hard to dumb down the political alliance with the label Manner and Macho Party, the messages and aspects of the party’s electoral success that were worth considering were initially smothered. Pirates, women’s quota, sexism, patriarchy – all these words dominated the media coverage, the political hame, the user comments in blogs, social networks and Berlin pubs.
Although the Pirates had designed their state list with little gender awareness: By making this mistake, they did a favor, as it were, to the feminist debates in Germany. Feminism is still a niche topic that is only touched with tweezers and in back rooms by many media and established parties. Gender justice seldom plays a role on the agenda and on front pages; even darker is the well-founded knowledge; truly courageous political demands are seldom heard within the established party system.
The party program of the Pirates lists a progressive, radical feminist gender policy. If the Pirates continue their political success, they can and must make feminist progress beyond their positions and anchor gender issues aggressively in the political system. Because established parties often don’t go beyond middle-class feminism when it comes to gender issues. The crude issue of the women’s quota, which has now also been brought to the attention of the Pirate Party by auben, is symbolic of the single minded understanding of gender politics and above all of gender. To assume that there are only two biological sexes and to want to shape politics and society according to two rigid variables falls far short of current social and feminist debates.
Teresa Bucker. Photo: © Monic Johanna Wollschlager
This is what the Pirates write in their party program: "We reject the assignment of a gender or gender roles to other people. Discrimination based on gender, gender role, sexual identity or orientation is injustice. Social structures that result from gender role models do not do justice to the individual and must be overcome." Among other things, they demand the abolition of the obligation to use a single-gender first name.
On a theoretical level, the members of the Pirate Party have done some work. They are laying a digital foundation for a new gender democracy that will break down the boundaries of two-gender thinking and see people as individuals – not just as men and women. As justification attempt after the citizens of Berlin choice it hieb from the rows of the Piraten, the ideal of an intercourse with one another is "post-gender", which means that biological gender should no longer play a role within the party and in society.
Pirates themselves are critical of the fact that their community is already over the issue of socially entrenched gender roles. What sounds avant-garde and sexy in theory turns out to be bumpy and far from elegant in practice. Because in the Pirates’ view, post-gender still means that one single gender dominates: the men. Of women, transsexuals and a diverse understanding of gender, the searchers find only delicate shimmering traces. Dominant structures from which men emerge as winners also seem to be effective within the liberal-minded young party. The quota of women holding official positions in the party is vanishingly small.
But the pirates and female pirates who are resisting quota pressure from outside the party are demonstrating a progressive attitude toward gender justice in this way. A women’s quota, they argue, reproduces heteronormativity, distinguishes only two genders, and is in fact a sign of timidity about deeper social change. In fact, gender quotas in other parties have not yet led to women being represented in leading positions on a completely equal footing, to "Boys Clubs" are a thing of the past, and the community of political officeholders is diverse.
The members of the Pirate Party, however, are now making the political class more diverse and democratic, regardless of gender. Because they inspire people to become actively involved in politics who have not done so before. Yes, the Pirates have played a part in getting women who previously had no political home now involved. Instead of lawyers and teachers, nerds, students and the unemployed now write party platforms.
In Berlin, they mobilized non-voters, and first-time voters consciously chose a party that represented their generation and concerns. From a feminist perspective, therefore, the Pirates are making an important contribution to the modernization of the political establishment, because the goals of feminism now include not only equal rights for women, but also the strengthening of the voices of all those groups that find little hearing in society and politics. The party is openly discussing the need to do more to include all the people it wants to speak for in its political work.
The Pirate Party is still a party whose course is determined primarily by well-educated, white men. But already now there are first attempts to break up this membership structure. Women in the Pirate Party rightly point out that success and value in political engagement cannot be measured by the awarding of official party offices. The party, which has made it one of its main goals to work transparently, should now make it visible that politics consists of much more than public spokesperson positions. The Pirate Party has been able to redefine the culture of appreciation in politics and shape party structures differently.
The fact that its positions are primarily developed via the Internet is an ideal starting point for demonstrating that parties are more than just their leaders. In collaboratively written programs, motions, blogs and tweets, interested parties can easily see that politics is the work of many. In addition to the content, the Pirate Party can now show the people who develop, discuss and disseminate it. Political ideas can be filled with more life through authorship than with the semi-anonymous stamp of a party board, which obscures a large part of the staff.
The Pirates see themselves as an association that takes into account the individuality of its members and demands it. As a consequence, the diversity and individuality of the various personalities in the party had to be represented in as many places as possible – also in the public presentation. In this context, a new logic of representation can mean emphasizing more strongly what is already practiced in the network: Every member of the party can participate and speak publicly. Politically interested people who follow what is happening in and around the Pirate Party on the Internet therefore also know that there are not only many active women who get involved, but many different people who do not conform to the stereotype of the male nerd that dominates media portrayal. Anonymous user names without a clear gender affiliation enable discourse in which participants can find their roles free of typical female or male communication patterns.
The Pirates must now find a way to make the nature of their democratic culture visible and, from this, to formulate invitations to people who have already heard the word "party politics" in the run. An open political culture can refrain from shooing women into party office. The task is coarser. The Pirate Party must show that anyone with something to say can find an audience, have an impact, and be valued. When high office is weakened and the cooperation "normal" members is more strongly recognized, the party could counteract typical structures and make politics attractive for those people who place little value on power, the right of the loudest and the limelight. If the Pirate Party manages to distinguish itself from other organizations primarily through its mode of operation and power structures, it would be a far greater gain in terms of gender policy than a party with a parity quota.
Gender awareness, sensitivity to discrimination and the will to find the most effective solution to combat discrimination and social inequalities fall asleep with the introduction of quotas. A quota can always be only a beginning. The Pirate Party seems to be still young, awake and chaotic enough to find other ways. Above all, not leaving decisions to individual women or individual men seems to be a way forward here. What Marina Weisband, the political director of the Pirate Party, announced on her Twitter account in October is hopeful: "Experience so far after almost 6 months in office: everything I decide together with the public turns out well."
Teresa Bucker (@fraeulein_tessa), born 1984, works as a consultant for the SPD party executive board in the area of social media strategy and writes as a freelance author for the FAZ blog Deus ex Machina as well as on her personal blog Flannel Apparel about topics of digital society with a focus on communication, relationships and net feminism. The text published here is taken from the essay collection "Pirate Party. Ready to board?", which was published on. November by bloomsbury taschenbuch.