Introducing #DossierCorona #TransnationalFeminisms

Sabina García Peter, Nina Lawrenz and Tanja Wälty
(Margherita von Brentano Center for Gender Studies, Freie Universität Berlin)

In the current crisis, issues that have long been critically discussed and researched by gender studies scholars, as for example care work, domestic violence, the gendered division of labor or the situations of female and queer refugees, have suddenly become frequently discussed topics in the political and public sphere. Consequently, the corona crisis drastically shows how patriarchal patterns continue to shape people’s thoughts and actions: Crisis management and expertise are linked to (white) masculinity and care work to femininity. Although the virus itself may not discriminate, it is associated with different aspects of vulnerability that feminist scholars and activists have highlighted through intersectional/diversity-centered perspectives. They stress that, through the corona crisis, social inequalities have become much more acute due to the increasing challenges, for example, in food security, access to information, protection from violence and power relationships.

Athen-Exarcheia, maleficia, June 2020. Photo: Julia Tulke

During lockdown, cases of sexual violence have reached alarming levels. Migrants and refugees, LGBTIQ+, black and indigenous communities, people of color, and the homeless, as well as nurses and other blue collar workers, who ride crowded trains every morning to work, are much more threatened by the disease. Poor women with children are suffering job loss and have to cope with a double burden under lockdown conditions. At the same time, feminist activists and researchers who have readily addressed these topics in their political and academic work continue to be attacked, where the pandemic is used as an argument to reinforce the popular backlash against gender studies and feminist politics.

Willing to discuss these topics, the Margherita von Brentano Center for Gender Studies at Freie Universität Berlin in cooperation with the MA Program Gender, Intersectionality and Politics at Freie Universität Berlin, Academy in Exile and Academics for Peace Germany have organized the online series “Transnational Feminist Dialogues in Times of Corona Crisis” in which scholars and activists reflect on perspectives and challenges that the current situation brings from feminist and transnational points of view. Parallel to this, we seek to bring continuity to these reflections in the form of blog articles and think pieces under the thread #transnationalfeminisms of the #DossierCorona series of the TRAFO Blog for Transregional Research. For this, we welcome pieces that contribute to one of the following themes of the organized sessions:

In the first session, we will deal with the topics of care work, the division of labor and changing healthcare systems in times of crisis. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has highlighted the very critical role of care work. Coronavirus containment measures have resulted in the closure of many services—including schools, basic healthcare and daycare centers—shifting the responsibility for their provision onto households. While this could offer an opportunity for gender roles to shift within the home, emerging evidence suggests that care roles continue to be shouldered disproportionately by women during this pandemic. Even before the pandemic, women and girls, globally, carried out on average three times the amount of unpaid care and domestic work of men and boys. These responsibilities will only increase with new health and hygiene requirements, such as hand washing and taking care of sick family members. Curfews and self-quarantine measures are likely to make these tasks even more challenging. While, at the beginning of corona crisis, there was a recognition of (underpaid) work in the healthcare system, after a few months, neoliberal patterns again prevail, in which economic aspects have become increasingly more important than the situation of care workers in hospitals.

Athen-Exarcheia, Kamia Anoixi (No Tolerance), April 2020. Photo: Julia Tulke

In our second session, we will reflect on the consequences of lockdowns to gender-based violence. One of the threatening consequences of the pandemic has been the lockdown and quarantine measures that have changed the daily lives and routines of couples and families all over the world. Family problems become more visible and women as well as children no longer have the chance to escape violent family members. Economic instability and job loss worsen the situation and structures of support are broken off. Feminists, such as workers in Women’s support groups, reveal how the increasing cases of sexual violence has been an indirect consequence of the corona crisis.

We will dedicate our third session to the topics of migration, border regimes and the situations of migrant workers. Border closures, suspended asylum programs, interruptions in global transportation and stay-at-home orders have drastically curbed migration in Europe and all around the world. Nations have politically exploited the health crisis to close borders, detain civilian lifeboats in European ports, and refuse entry of refugees into safe harbors. At the same time, insecurely paid jobs, such as private aged care, work in slaughterhouses and harvesting aid, which, in Germany, is mainly carried out by Central- and Eastern-European wage laborers, have suddenly been declared systemically important activities, with the borders only opening for people working in these sectors.

The fourth and last session will focus on new forms of feminist and academic resistance, protest and mobilization and enquire into the insights that gender studies and feminist politics can contribute to managing the current health crisis in the future. The pandemic is being used as an argument to reinforce conservative backlash against gender studies and feminist politics. Fake news is being spread to defame feminist activists and researchers in the field of gender studies, and antifeminism continues to be a prominent topic during the corona crisis.

Through the contributions of scholars and activists from around the world, fleshing out observations and reflections from a feminist point of view, we hope our thread #transnationalfeminsms will expand over the coming weeks.

Athen-Patissia, unknown artist, May 2020. Photo: Julia Tulke

Citation: Sabina García Peter, Nina Lawrenz and Tanja Wälty, Introducing #DossierCorona #TransnationalFeminisms, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 01.07.2020,

Forum Transregionale Studien

The Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien is a research organization that promotes the internationalization of research in the humanities and social sciences. The Forum provides scope for collaboration among researchers with different regional and disciplinary perspectives and appoints researchers from all over the world as Fellows. In cooperation with universities and research institutions in Berlin and the rest of Germany, it carries out research projects that examine other regions of the world and their relationship to Germany and Europe systematically and with new questions.

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