Feminism Is Not Just About Rights, Representation and Resources

Annalena Baerbock, Germany's minister for foreign affairs Source: Federico Baccini

On 1 March, Annalena Baerbock, the German Foreign Minister, presented her guidelines for a feminist foreign policy. These 86-page guidelines focus on three core demands, in addition to a number of inspiring references to feminist policy approaches: Rights, resources and the representation of women in foreign policy decision-making and negotiations.

From a left perspective, it is of course to be welcomed that foreign policy is subject to feminist guidelines. At the same time, a critique from a left perspective is urgently needed. Thus the criticism of Cornelia Möhring, development policy spokesperson for the DIE LINKE parliamentary group in the German Bundestag:

"It is a success of decades of efforts by different feminist movements and generations that feminism has become a central guideline of foreign and development policy. Now it is important that this does not remain a mere appropriation. It is still unclear to what extent the key points presented today by the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) actually represent a further development of classic gender equality and gender mainstreaming policy. Whether new terms such as gender transformative approaches really mean something new or just sound more promising remains to be seen. In any case, a gender-sensitive budget and an ambassador for feminism are not enough to eliminate oppression.

"The fact that almost all new BMZ (Federal Ministry for Development and Cooperation) projects until 2025 will in some way deal with gender equality is of course worth supporting. But the fact that only eight percent of all BMZ projects will have gender equality as their main objective is surprisingly unambitious, even for the BMZ. It is also noticeable that only gender equality is mentioned, and not feminism. Feminist foreign policy is also a rather shy when it comes to consistency; here a disclaimer is anchored directly in the guidelines: "Feminist foreign policy relies on both principles and pragmatism. What this means in practice is clear: when in doubt, go against feminism, if it doesn’t fit, adapt it, and soon we’ll be talking about a feminist arms policy.

Politics from a feminist perspective, however, turns itself upside down: it consistently puts human needs before economic interests. Such a policy would have to declare war on privatised social and health systems, tax havens and massive private fortunes, because it is women who suffer most from overly expensive private and dilapidated infrastructures and from tight public coffers. Feminist politics is about rights, representation and resources, but that is not enough. The core task of a feminist opposition is to continue to fight for more.

Originally published on the Website of Cornelia Möhring, Member of the Bundestag.