Expert Natascha Strobl on hate campaigns against women: "Misogyny is an integral part of men’s associations"

Sarah-Lee Heinrich withdraws after death threats Image: dpa / Bodo Schackow

13.10.2021, 14:0313.10.2021, 14:08

Martin Niewendick

For the time being, Sarah-Lee Heinrich has drawn a line for herself. The new spokeswoman for the Green Youth withdrew from the public after death threats. This is only the most recent episode of cases in which people from politics, the media and other public spheres are exposed to massive hostility.

As different as the triggers for this may be – in Heinrich’s case it was statements from her earlier youth, which in part were inhumane in character – the harsh reactions are just as similar. “What Sarah-Lee experiences is everyday life for many women who, for example, fight against racism, stand up for the climate, denounce grievances,” wrote the Berlin SPD politician Sawsan Chebli in a reaction on Twitter.

She knows the situation well herself, and has been exposed to hate campaigns on the Internet for years. “We live with death threats like it’s normal. It’s not. More has to happen than regret / outrage,” she adds.

At the beginning of 2020, a former police officer who had described Chebli as an “Islamic talking doll”, among other things, was acquitted. The court saw these and other statements covered by freedom of expression. In addition, the SPD politician claims to have received death threats and is under police protection.

Most recently, her party friend, health politician Karl Lauterbach, was also exposed to a hate campaign – because of his stance in the corona pandemic. In March he published several related articles. Olaf Z. comments, for example, that it would be ideal if Lauterbach was “shot suddenly”.

There are also comparable cases in the cultural and art scene, as the Jewish rapper Ben Solomon regularly reports of incitement against him, and the comedian Shahak Shapira is also repeatedly defamed.

The political scientist Natascha Strobl is an expert on the subject in two ways. On the one hand, the right-wing extremism researcher deals with the phenomenon professionally. On the other hand, in the course of her publications about the “Identitarian Movement”, she herself has come into focus, sometimes more, sometimes less anonymous agitation. At the request of watson, she arranges the cases.

“There is a different reaction to women on the Internet”

Of course, death threats online don’t just affect women, she says. There are enough men who have spoken publicly about certain things and suddenly received visits from neo-Nazis. They would have had to accept blatant cuts in their lives, “up to and including the move”. “But women react differently on the Internet,” says Strobl. “It escalates much faster and easier, next to death threats almost always also the threat of sexual violence. You can’t overestimate that. ”

She can report on it from her own experience. After her publications against the right-wing extremist Identitarian Movement, the agitation began. “Somebody shot me in the window with an air rifle, I was stalked and received threatening phone calls and letters.” Whether online or offline: It doesn’t really matter where the agitation takes place. “What happens on social media is just as real.”

“Misogyny is an elementary part of men’s associations and patriarchal structures”

Why does hatred hit women particularly hard? “In any case, it is not a pure social media phenomenon, but has to do with the nature of men’s associations,” says Strobl. She refers to the political scientist Eva Kreisky, who deals with feminism, state theory and the history of ideas, among other things.

The professor emeritus has investigated the phenomenon in the field of sport, both within teams and among fans. “The threat of sexual violence also plays a major role there.”

This also goes against other men who, for example, would be labeled as feminized or who would have to undergo degrading rituals. “In any case, misogyny is an elementary component of men’s associations and patriarchal structures.”

The Green Youth has meanwhile announced that Heinrich will only comment on threats “across all channels” in the coming days with a classification. “For now, the safety of Sarah and those around her takes precedence over interviews.”

Heinrich himself had previously made at least ironic death threats in several tweets and used terms such as “disabled” and “gay” as an insult and commented on the image of a swastika with “Heil”. A few years ago and again after her election as spokeswoman for the Green Youth, Heinrich distanced herself generally from her youthful Twitter behavior and deleted numerous posts.

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