Strong Voices Interview #25: Kristina Lunz
You are well-known and distinguished for your feminist work, both voluntarily and in politics. But let's take a step back: how did you become interested and involved in this field?
I became interested in feminism in my early/mid 20s. I first came into contact with feminist literature when I was studying in London. It explained many feelings and experiences I had had over the years, such as how I was treated, not taken seriously, and how my boundaries were crossed. During a visit to Germany, I saw the front page of the Bild newspaper, which asked people to rate the most beautiful TV breasts in Germany. Successful women reduced to their breasts and cleavage made me angry because of the degradation of these women, and therefore all women. Whenever we objectify a group of people as a society, such as through sexualization, this dehumanizes the group and lowers the threshold for committing violence against them. Throughout the world, the prevalence of male violence against women is massive. In Germany, a man tries to kill his (ex-)partner every day, and every third day he succeeds. Over 90% of young women report experiencing sexual harassment, and one-third have experienced more severe forms of sexual or male violence. Anger combined with feminist knowledge was an important driving force for me.
I can imagine that it was not always easy to stand up for feminism, human rights, and equality. What kind of resistance have you experienced along the way?
I experienced my first wave of online violence during the campaign against Bild newspaper, when the editor-in-chief at the time, Kai Diekmann, mocked me on Twitter. That was my first encounter with threats of rape, violence against my family, descriptions of sexualized violence, fantasies about me, and so on. There are different forms of resistance. Nowadays, it occurs more in foreign policy, diplomatic areas, or in certain cases that happen in a specific social classes. Here it is more subtle - not being invited or being denied intellectual capacity. When my book was published, I approached several men known in the foreign policy field to give a review. However, I was told how bad and dangerous my book was. Resistance comes in the form of online violence, hate comments, and not being taken seriously ... the range is wide.
As the founder and CEO of several organizations that pursue a feminist approach to foreign policy, what does the ideal feminist foreign policy look like in your eyes? And what else is needed to get closer to it?
On Wednesday, a strategy for a feminist foreign policy was presented, and Germany has made a strong start. Human rights, women's rights, and human security are to be considered in all areas, and more projects promoting women's rights, equality, and justice will be supported with funding. Together with Iceland, Germany introduced a resolution to the Human Rights Council in November to document the violent acts of the Iranian regime. And there is much more to be done. For my utopia of a comprehensive feminist foreign policy, much more funding is needed for feminist civil society, which is the main driver of social change. Even though the percentage of international funding spent on equality and women's rights has increased, only 1% of it has gone to feminist civil society organizations. More funds are needed, as well as better ideas on how to dismantle violent structures in society, including through counter-literacy and disarmament.
Last year, you also published a book on this topic titled "The Future of Foreign Policy is Feminist." What message do you intend to convey with it?
If we want to achieve security, stability and peace for all people in society, it can only be done through feminism. Feminism as a movement has been going against patriarchal structures for 200-250 years. These are structures of violence based on the unjustified supremacy of men in the state and family. To maintain these, there is a very high level of male violence against women, the LGBTQIA+ community, racialized people, ... Feminism combats this because we want security, stability and freedom for all. Wanting a global, sustainable peace for all is only possible through feminism. Without feminism, there is no peace.
Where do you see the biggest problem in today's political world, that we still haven't arrived at equality and justice?
The biggest issue is that historically privileged individuals and groups hold onto their power and access to resources, centering them primarily in the hands of men, particularly white men in the Global North.
In your opinion, what actions can individuals take to contribute positively to social change?
Most importantly, individuals can challenge conventions and traditions. For example, why is nearly 80% of all care work done by women while men continue to participate in public life, have careers, and gain even more access to positions of power and resources? Question: Why it is considered normal that over 90% of all acts of violence in our society - whether harassment, extremism, or acts of terrorism - are perpetrated by men and how does this relate to how we raise boys and girls?
Your work requires courage, self-confidence, passion and dedication. A combination that many women find difficult these days. What advice would you give to young women who are starting their careers and are motivated to make a difference?
My advice is to read feminist literature and understand that the many challenges that keep us small, make us insecure, and hinder our courage and passion are not individual problems but systemic problems. The systems that keep women small and silenced are deeply entrenched in patriarchy. Understanding this has empowered me the most because it helped me to stop questioning myself. Instead of asking, "Can't I negotiate well enough? Are men so much better? Why can't I express myself more convincingly? Why am I always being interrupted?" I realized that these issues are not about individual women, but are systemic problems related to patriarchy.
With your involvement, you are in the public eye a lot and probably only have a few quiet minutes. How do you switch off and recharge?
The quiet moments in my life are very sacred to me, and I am strict about my private time and weekends. I rarely make appointments, and if I do, it's just a meal or two with friends. But I absolutely try to avoid scheduling anything on the weekends. I am good at setting boundaries and have no problem saying "no." This allows me to recharge and switch off.
Last but not least: Do you have a mantra that has guided and motivated you throughout your career?
Yes, some actually! I'll say a few.
- "Carry yourself with the self-confidence of a mediocre white men."
- "Pure planning on their side does not mean stress on my side."
- Very important, Michelle Obama: "When they go low, we go high." No matter how nasty people can be and attack you or put you down - never go down to their level. Ever.
- Two more I'd like to say that very much guide my life: "The highest form of wisdom is kindness." and then Pippi Longstocking: "We've never tried that before, so it's bound to work out."