Thursday, January 28

Land of Equality?

After posting my last post (the one about the disappearance of the Fraulein), I went over this blog again, having a look at some of the older posts. While doing so, I realized something strange: Compared to other countries, Germany seems to be a Feminist paradise.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that everything is just perfect in Germany. We do have a pay gap as well and there’s still some things which will stand in your way to success simply because you’re a woman – such as most men expecting their wife to stay home once they have kids. But compared to the things I read at “The F-Word” or other feminist sites, it really seems as if the women in Germany have it easy.

Harassment is not very common on German streets, neither in small towns nor in big cities (unless some rather dangerous areas). The distinction between married and unmarried women I’ve written about in the last post before this does only exist theoretically (because the word ‘Fraulein’ is rarely used anymore). We have a female head of state at the moment (although the percentage of women in high management still is quite low) and about fifty percent of the people who finish university (and work in high-paid jobs afterwards) are women.

We still have a problem with day care for children with working mothers (to the leading parties of our parliament, the reality of about every second woman with children working isn’t ‘really’ real), but that’s nothing that can’t be changed. The first steps have been taken already.

Society still seems to differ between ‘acceptable behaviour’ for men and women in some ways. (But, unlike in this article, men and women working in certain areas both are supposed to look very professional – and the women not necessarily all that sexy, just very much like their male counterparts with business suits [with skirts, if they prefer it] and an overall well-groomed exterior [which, for women, usually includes some touches of make-up].) Nevertheless, the times in which it was argued women didn’t need a lot of schooling or learning a profession (“because they get married, anyway”) are long over. And getting married does no longer equal ‘no more work for money’. There are even some (though not all that many) cases in which the husband stays home with the kids while the wife earns the money (if she really has a much higher income than he has).

So, while the United States are still the “Land of Opportunities” (although not for as many people as in the past), Germany seems to be a “Land of Equality” at the moment. Let’s hope it stays that way and the problems still around will get resolved.

No German Fraulein

After browsing through “The F-Word” yesterday, I started thinking about this post.

All languages I’m more or less able to understand (at least partially) have three distinctive addresses, one for men and two for women, depending on their marital status. In English there’s Mr., Mrs. and Miss, in French there’s Monsieur, Madame and Mademoiselle. The same goes for Spanish and Italian, as far as I know. (And Japanese seems to have lots of different ways to address someone, anyway…)

In German, this theoretically still is true. We have Herr, Frau and Fräulein (better known to anybody from an English-speaking country as Fraulein, I guess). It’s the same distinction as with Mr., Mrs. and Miss or Monsieur, Madame and Mademoiselle (Fraulein being the equivalent of Miss or Mademoiselle). But ever since the seventies, the word has rarely been used. Every woman these days is referred to as ‘Frau’, no matter whether she’s married or not.

Separating the married from the unmarried women while not separating the married from the unmarried men is strange all by itself. It’s an old-fashioned concept with the underlying principle that a man will always be a man, no matter whether he’s married or not, while a woman will be different when she’s married. (This goes as far as Dr. P.J. Möbius claiming in his 1903 published treatise “Über den physiologischen Schwachsinn des Weibes” [About the physiological idiocy of women] that an unmarried, young woman – trying to attract a man – can be mentally brilliant, but will become a stupid, little wife once she has found a man and gotten married, because women are mentally inferior to men – among other things about women’s weak minds…)

In Germany, the social revolution of 1968 changed things. Women demanded to be addressed as ‘Frau’, no matter whether or not they were married. And it caught on, today, entering any place or receiving any letter from an official source, you will be addressed as ‘Frau’, no matter whether you’re married or not. This actually has made things a lot easier for government departments and companies. Instead of trying to discern whether or not a woman is married (and yes, I know in most other countries the word for unmarried, young women is used in such cases, as it was in Germany before 1968), they can address every women they deal with using the same word.

So the change wanted in France already is standard in Germany. In fact, the word ‘Fraulein’ is used so little it’s threatened by extinction. And I’m not so sure whether this is a good thing or not…

Friday, January 1

Happy New Year

It’s the first of January 2010 today, so we’ve all managed to get through the first decade of the 21st century. I wonder what the next one will bring.

Anyways, I wish everyone who reads this blog a Happy New Year 2010!