A few weeks ago, I had never heard of Gina-Lisa Lohfink. The 29-year-old became a celebrity back in 2008 when she competed (and lost) on Germany’s Next Top Model. Since then, she has appeared in advertisements for M&Ms, the soap opera Marienhof and a Playboy spread. In other words, she’s a celebrity I normally wouldn’t have noticed in a million years.
Lohfink doesn’t really look the way I imagine a feminist symbol to look. But then again, as a straight cisman I need to ask myself whether it’s my business what a feminism looks like. At any rate, #TeamGinaLisa has become the rallying cry of the women’s movement in this country at this moment in time.
Last Tuesday, June 28, almost 200 people, mostly women, gathered in front of the Amtsgericht Tiergarten (district court) to show their support for Lohfink. One banner said: “Stop blaming victims.” Another, with the silhouette of a baseball bat, was more direct: “Dead mean don’t rape”. Throughout the speeches and feminist raps, there was one central message: “Nein heißt Nein” (no means no).
This is all because Gina-Lisa Lohfink has come forward as the victim of a sexual assault. In June 2012, two men uploaded a video to the internet showing Lohfink engaged in sexual acts. After the video went viral, both men were sentenced to a fine of €1350 for recording her without her permission.
But the real problem is that Lohfink can be heard saying “No, no, no” and “Stop” in it. She was drunk and suspects she was drugged. Two weeks after the incident, Lohfink filed rape charges, but the Berlin prosecutor dropped the case by the end of the year. The argument: It isn’t clear if Lohfink was saying “Nein” to the sex itself or only to the recording of it.
In a disgusting follow-up twist, Lohfink herself was charged with making false accusations. In March of this year, she was slapped with a fine of €24,000. She objected to the fine, and that’s why she had to appear in court last Monday, June 27. At one point, Lohfink and her lawyers stormed out of the court room because the judge insisted on playing the video with the public present. The trial will continue at the same place on August 8 and there will be another solidarity rally.
Lots of men wonder if rape culture is a real thing. Isn’t this a perfect example? In a society where the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported, a woman who comes forward is supposed to pay tens of thousands of euros – almost twenty times more than the men accused of the rape! Meanwhile, “comedians” are making ads for sausages that make fun of the victim. (And the ad was then nominated for a national award!)
Shockingly, Germany’s laws on rape don’t actually prohibit having sex with someone against their will. It’s only assault if the perpetrator uses or threatens violence. As I’ve reported before, in one typical case a judge in Essen decided that a 15-year-old girl hadn’t been a victim of a crime, since she had said “no” but had not scratched her attacker.
That’s why this case is fueling a movement to bring Germany’s laws into the 21st century. “No means no” needs to be the basis of rape laws – and Gina-Lisa Lohfink has become Germany’s poster-girl for this rallying cry. Even the Minister of Justice Heiko Maas and Minister for Family Affairs Manuela Schwesig have spoken out in her favor.
Far too often, women are blamed for being the victims of violence. As Jacinta Nandi wrote in the taz, everyone agrees that sexual violence is bad. “Everyone is against rape. There are just a few exceptions when it’s not so bad. Like if the victim has fake tits.” And she cites a million other examples.
On Thursday, the Bundestag is expected to pass a reform that will establish “No means no” as the legal standard. Sadly, this is only a direct result of the sexist attacks on New Year’s in Cologne, which were likely carried out by asylum seekers. The only way conservative politicians are willing to create laws against rape and sexual harassment is the prospect of using them to deport refugees.
Writing this blog, I’ve learned something. What, exactly, is a feminist symbol supposed to look like? A feminist symbol can look however she wants. If Gina-Lisa doesn’t confirm the picture I have in my head, that’s my problem. She is currently one of the bravest women in Germany, inspiring others all across the country. That’s why I’ve also joined #TeamGinaLisa too.