Citizenship and Intersectionality: German Feminist Debates About Headscarf and Antidiscrimination Laws

Rottmann, Susan Beth, Marx Ferree, Myra


Publication by DPDF 2007 Rethinking Europe Fellow Susan B. Rottmann and Myra Marx Ferree.

As European nations grapple with when and how to extend inclusive citizenship to their Muslim minorities, the parameters of Muslim women’s citizenship have jumped to the forefront of feminist concern. Much of the debate internationally has revolved around veiling, but we argue that this is only one element of how ethnic, religious, and other differences among women are addressed. In this paper, we choose two cases which highlight political choices surrounding intersectionality for German feminists: headscarf laws and antidiscrimination laws. Both laws are inherently intersectional, with significant and differential impact on Muslim women, but German feminists have engaged in these two issues quite differently. The so-called headscarf debate has drawn intense feminist involvement but changes in antidiscrimination law are rarely discussed in feminist media. We attempt to explain this difference by focusing on how solidarity-across-difference is understood: as a strategic alliance around multiple axes of difference or as using the state as an ally to help “other” women address their special needs.