Womit haben wir das verdient? [What Have We Done to Deserve This?] (2018)

Womit haben wir das verdient?
Director: Eva Spreitzhofer
Writer: Eva Spreitzhofer
Cast: Caroline Peters, Chantal Zitzenbacher, Simon Schwarz, Hilde Dalik, Marcel Mohab, Duygu Arslan, Alev Irmak, Pia Hierzegger, Christopher Schärf, Kida Khodr Ramadan, Emily Cox, Denise Teipel
Seen on: 11.1.2019
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Content Note: racism against muslims, homomisia

Plot:
Wanda (Caroline Peters) is a staunch feminist and a modern woman. She has two teenaged children and an okay relationship with her ex-husband Harald (Simon Schwarz), a job, a new boyfriend (Marcel Mohab) and nothing whatsoever to do with religion. So when her daughter Nina (Chantal Zitzenbacher) announces that she converted to Islam, starts wearing a hijab and will be called Fatima from now on, Wanda is absolutely crestfallen. She doesn’t understand in the slightest and her attempts to engage with her daughter are clumsy at best.

Going into the film, I was suspicious of Womit haben wir das verdient?. I was worried it would be problematic regarding its depiction of Islam/Muslims, but I thought that I couldn’t say no to an Austrian film by a woman that is explicitely feminist. Well, unfortunately I was right to be suspicious: it was an exercise in white feminism if ever I saw one, always hovering around being completely racist.

The film poster showing Nina (Chantal Zitzenbacher) as she makes a selfie while wearing a hijab, surrounded by her parents Wanda (Caroline Peters) and Harald (Simon Schwarz), as well as her parents' new partners (Marcel Mohab, Hilde Dalik).

Full disclosure at the beginning: I’m not Muslim myself and I was unfortunately unable to find a review from an explicitely Muslim point of view (if you know of one, do point me to it), so maybe my review is just as white as I excuse the film of being. But I struggled a lot with the depiction of pretty much everything here.

Of course, the hijab is discussed at length, but without much nuance. The film ends with a woman triumphantly taking off her hijab which is amazingly clumsy for an Austrian film made by white people about Muslims in Austria as it feeds into everything racists say to make their racism appear feminist (“The hijab is a tool of oppression! And we white people need to teach those poor Muslimas our liberal values and free them of their patriarchy!” Bleargh). By the way, at the end of the film, Nina doesn’t wear a hijab anymore, either (instead the cliché gay does, because you know, being gay is being a woman man hahaha). Combined with a film that makes a joke out of the niqab and where Muslim men are all the worst of the worst, let me tell you I was uncomfortable.

Wanda (Caroline Peters) and Harald (Simon Schwarz) facing their daughter who converted to Islam.

The audience reactions (that were probably exactly what the film was aiming for) also did their part, guffawing at the scene where Nina’s entire family tears into her and ridicule her for wearing a hijab and converting and everything. That is not funny, that is racism in action and also simply shitty behavior .

At the end of the film we get a feminist protest for a better Islam, with a counterprotest of nazis and Muslim men who all leave defeated because a feminist hymn is playing on the radio. And, you know, I am a feminist and I believe in the power of feminism and protest, but hahaha no. This just makes light of everything. As if patriarchy could be ended by just showing up somewhere and playing a song.

The film allows some room for different types of Muslimas to show up, but this gets buried underneath all the other shit and feels more like an excuse for the film than anything else (“look, there are also Muslimas who don’t wear a hijab” – implying that those Muslimas are the good ones). I just couldn’t deal with this film.

Wanda (Caroline Peters) collecting her daughters' toys as Nina (Chantal Zitzenbacher) looks on.

Summarizing: no.

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