The discussion about the balance of power between the sexes had already gotten down to the nuances. Much was made, for example, in recent years of the question how men and women talk. The concept of "mansplaining" was introduced, a term for men who constantly explain the world, unasked, to others.
Then 2016 arrived and swept all these details away.
Given the shocking ignorance of the President-elect on almost all topics, the zeal of mansplainers seems pretty appealing. The post-testosterone era seemed to have arrived. But this was the year of Brexit, Putin, Erdogan and Trump: in 2016, politics was done by banging fists on the table. Calling this behavior male would be an insult to most men today, though.
This could have been the year when feminism found its old strength. After all, the movement suffered in the West because there seemed to be a lack enemies after the patriarchate had, similar to what Francis Fukuyama described for history, been lost in the details.
There are enough enemies now. Because feminism wants no less than to free all people, yes, even men, from coercion, self-imposed immaturity and powerlessness — given that strictly hierarchically organized societies are not welcoming to men who aren’t rich and powerful. Feminism’s core concept is thoroughly anti-authoritarian. It could be really useful right now.
But the louder the world gets, the quieter feminism gets.
Instead of throwing all of its weight behind free societies’ struggle against fast-growing authoritarian movements, it gets all tangled up in battles of wit with columnists such as Jan Fleischhauer or Harald Martenstein, both of whom pose a more manageable risk. These days, it’s not hard to see feminism, once a great liberation movement, as a kind of education program for men.
Feminism was evidently certainly no longer a criterion for (white) American voters who cast their ballots for Donald Trump.
German feminism suffered its worst defeat earlier this year: Sexual violence, once one of the main themes of feminism, became an immigration policy issue on New Year's Eve in Cologne. According to the Federal Criminal Police Office BKA, in 2015, 72 percent of men who fought or raped women in this country were German. It is of little help to the victims if North Africa is declared a safe country of origin. But it’s no longer about the victims. Not that women are seen as spoils of war in the clash of civilizations for the first time, but in an emancipated society it is a memorable failure if the debate on violence against women is dominated by men.
How could this happen? When did feminism lose its clout?
Until recently, people thought feminism had long ago won over a majority. The word seemed to have finally lost its terror: see how easily it’s used by Beyoncé and other entertainment business wonder women used it. But in hindsight, it begs the question whether that wasn't a sign of feminism’s success, but rather a first sign of its decline.
While some members of the movement grew increasingly beautiful and successful, others left without anyone noticing. The questions changed. Who do I want to be as a woman? This question became increasingly important. From a collective movement arose a movement of the individual. How defined should my biceps be, and what does that say about me? Is it progressive to let my armpit hair grow? Do we need an emoji that show women in jobs traditionally held by men, say as pilots? Because if I wanted to, I could work as a pilot tomorrow!