Friday, 12 July 2013
Germany's Biggest problem? Sexism.
Why should this be the case, and why am I saying this? Probably because I've lived here now for some time, and in many ways, I'm the target audience. And you know what? I'm sick of it. I'm not talking about cat-calling builders, and I'm not talking about the 80-year old ticket clipper who calls you "love". In fact I'm not talking about "political correctness" at all.
I'm talking about the hard-wired, instutionalised sexism that blights the country because it is so internalised - most people take it for granted, accept it and even women take it as normal. In fact very few Germans know what "sexism" (in German: Sexismus) means. Or rather, they think it means something else altogether: Too much sex on your brain. That in itself tells you a lot.
Two scenes from recent days.
1. A new boss is being led round the company, and introduced to members of the department. He says hello, and shakes everybody's hand. Everybody's, that is, apart from the one one female team member. Why would that be? Because he naturally assumes that the males will be colleagues, but the female will be just someone who doesn't count because she probably is there to make the tea or clean the room.
Incredible? This is exactly how things are in Germany.
2. Somebody ( a woman) speaks up in a discussion. From the name badge people can see that she has a Ph.D. (a "Doktortitel" in German, which is a big deal in Germany and will always be used when addressing a person who has got one as - typically - Herr Doktor X.
Despite the name tag, the woman gets continuously called "Frau X" rather than "Frau Doktor X" - a total faux-pas had she been male, in fact totally unthinakble.
As the discussion gets more heated, one male even challenges Frau Doktor X as to whether her doctorate which he now admits he saw on the name tag "is real".
Oh yes, this is how things work in Germany.
As a woman, people (=not just men but other women too) will automatically and unquestiongly assume that you work in some lowly position. If it is clear that you don't, they will try and put you down in an incredibly sexist way - for example Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is unanimously referred to as "Mutti". Bringing her down to a family level, disregarding the fact that she is one of the most influential people in the world. Only as "Mutti" can she be grasped, accepted, or more likely tolerated. (Very unlikely that Germans would have referred to the previous chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, as "Vati").
In a previous post http://interculturalmusings.blogspot.de/2012/06/german-men.html I tried to explain the particular mind-set of German men. Made up of insecurity, chippiness, and an enormous compulsion to boast (mainly about technical or sporting matters). It is quite clearly an infantile disposition, that a Freudian could easily disentangle and - given the always present twist of insecurity into aggression - classify as neurosis.
Figures are not available, but a huge number of German men mary Asian or Easterrn European women. Rightly or wrongly assuming, that they will be more submissive and "know what a man needs". As I mentioned above, tragically, most German women have internalised the male attitude, and will always defer to any man, however absurd, ugly, or lowly he might be. Men possess natural authority and status in Germany, and women don't. That is one of the most internalised facts in Germany. You'll notice it in shops where sales staff automatically address the male, in (still widely bandied-about) jokes about women drivers, women and technology, in the unquestioned assumption that it is women who do the cooking at home. A male who enjoys cooking or - God forbid - baking! - is regarded with incredulity. "What about your wife?" will be the standard response.
All of this is not limited to a certain age bracket. Try and talk shop with, say a member of the German Pirate Party as a woman who knows about internet stuff - you will be humiliated, laughed at, and given the feeling that you're talking above your level.
I telly you one thing. I am sick to death of Germany's sexism.
As I know from experience how vile and aggressive German males' comments are when criticised, the comments here are closed. I would, however urge you to comment via twitter: @Margit11. German men, please bear in mind though, that any comment you will make, will get RT'd. If it is a sensible comment, you will be pleased about this, if it is vile and abusive, it will deter you. Sadly, in this country, it is necessary to take such drastic measures.