Feminist Self-Organization

1991

Germany

Activism & Resistance Discrimination & Inequity

In the world of German clubs and associations, women’s groups are hardly rare. Nonetheless, such groups are often comprised solely of white-German women, themselves often of West German origin and members of the middle-class. In order to change this pattern, non-white and minority women in Germany began to come together in meetings and conferences in the early 1990s.

The two largest of the congresses took place in the years 1990 and 1991. In particular, black, West German women had already been engaged in repeated attempts to publicly thematize their experiences of racism, sexism and homophobia [see: Self-organization among black Germans, 1985].

The first meeting, titled “By and for ethnic and Afro-German minorities” took place in Bremen from June 8 to June 10, 1990. Among other things, it was discussed whether it would make sense politically to employ a single term in referring collectively to those experiencing racism and discrimination, in order to form a basis of solidarity for collective action. The term “black” was proposed for this purpose. Nonetheless, differences in privilege and position among the participants themselves quickly became apparent that would have been obscured by a standardized terminology. Thus the name given to the conference to be held the following year was the “Second Germany-Wide Congress by and for Immigrant, Black, Jewish and Exile Women”. The Afro-German activist and poet May Ayim was also active in this context [see: The May Ayim Embankment and the struggle to decolonize the politics of commemoration, 2010].

The goal of both congresses was to create a space in which it would be possible for people with similar experiences to meet, discuss the everyday and structural effects of sexism and racism, learn from and support one another, and develop collective strategies. As a result, groups began gradually to emerge that challenged the white, middle-class domination of the feminist landscape in Germany, for example the associations ADEFRA, GLADT and LesMigraS. Self-organized groups of migrant women, such as choirs or sewing groups, had in fact already formed in the 1970s. In 2013, the third conference under the title “FemoCo” was held, standing for “women, trans, and inter who regard themselves as black, of color, Jewish, Muslim, in exile, Sinti, Roma, or as migrants” [see: FemoCo 2013: “Collective Conference for Feminists of Color in Germany”, 2013).