Tuesday, January 22

Fighting Sexual Harassment

After a blog post at "The F-Word", the woman writing it has launched a special blog - "don't look, don't touch" - to bring more awareness to the problem of sexual harassment of women in public places like the street, a train and so on.

I personally think that this blog - and various sites named there with links - are a very good idea. The fact alone that people write about it online - maybe even with names and pictures of those doing the harassing - heightens the awareness of the public. It is a first step to make people - women and men - realize that being harassed sexually isn't just some kind of fun and a woman indicating she doesn't want that isn't just over-sensitive.

Some men are complaining about that kind of post/blog/article/report, claiming that it makes the public think every man who talks to a woman in the street is harassing her. Well, in most cases it's easy to see the difference between two people talking and one person (most of the time the woman) being sexually harassed. Body language is a good indicator.

I'm not writing about this from my own experience. I might not be attractive enough or maybe I just emit some kind of "harass me and you die"-waves, but up until now I have been spared that experience. But I can very well understand how a woman feels when she gets that much "unwanted attention" from men around her. And I can understand, too, how helpless you feel when people just don't realize how degrading, humiliating and frightening the actions of someone are.

Women are taught from quite an early age to be careful around men, to make sure they're not out alone in the dark, not to give someone an impression that might lead to a 'dangerous' (mostly sexually charged) situation. In essence that means we're taught we're natural born victims and thus have to be very careful in life. Therefore male actions that are, all by themselves and when directed at other men, no harassment or attack will be interpreted by woman like that. Cutting off escape routes (as in the 'train'-post at "don't look, don't touch"), for example. Standing straight right in front of a woman, talking to her in a loud (read: aggressive) voice.

And the crime statistics agree with our feelings there: Women are more likely to become victims of assault and other physical crimes. Women are less able to prevent something like that from happening to them. And most of the time the perpetrators are men.

That doesn't mean all men are like that. They surely aren't. But they need to be aware of the difference between their lives and those of their girlfriends, wives, sisters, female acquaintances and so on. Life can look a good deal more threatening if you are more likely to be at the receiving end of a violent action. And it's up to men to act on this and make sure to stop acting in a way that will seem threatening to women. The only other possible step would be to arm all women and allow them to use their weapons on every man that seems threatening to them. But I'm sure men wouldn't want that... I wouldn't want it, if I were a man.

Again: blog posts, articles, websites and reports about sexual harassment are not supposed to make people believe every man is doing it regularly. They are just there to make people aware the problem of sexual harassment exists. Those who have never acted like that towards a woman aren't accused.

Sexual harassment isn't something to shrug off lightly, no matter whether you're experiencing it or just watching someone else suffering through it. Fighting back and making clear that this kind of action is not wanted is the only way to act on it. We all need to be aware of it happening and we all need to be ready to stepping in when we see it happen. And to make sure to anybody doing it to us that this kind of action is not wanted and is not harmless.

Feminine or Feminist?

First of all: Is there necessarily a difference between those two words? That's the main question here, isn't it? And it was the topic of a blog entry at "The F-Word".

A Feminist, a lot of people seem to think, can't be feminine. But why? Is a woman who wants equal pay for equal work no longer a woman? Does a person who wants to be treated fair have to be a man?

So what is the definition of being feminine then? Not able to think for yourself? Loosing conscience whenever something strange, scary or unexpected happens? Twisting your ankle a lot, because you're always wearing high-heeled shoes? Jumping on a stool whenever there's a mouse or a spider around? All of those things listed are stereotypes, not reality. If you'd ask me, I'd say 'feminine' were the way most women act.

But, as I have written various times already, the idea that a Feminist is not a woman at all seems to be permanently stuck in the heads of some people. So a Feminist can't be feminine and thus everyone who wants to be feminine can't be a Feminist. It's a no-win situation. And it's one of the reasons why so many young women shy away from the label 'Feminist'.

Society, it seems, still deems it uncouth if a woman has an opinion and voices it - sometimes rather loudly. But, on the other hand, sometimes you have to scream to be heard - and what would be the point in saying something which nobody can hear? It would be like sitting on a door in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean after a ship named 'Titanic' hit an ice-berg and then only whistling softly to attract a rescuers attention (and thanks to comedian Mario Barth for this image). There's a chance of one in a billion (or so) to be heard. And if you are an intelligent woman and only voice your opinion very softly, never screaming to overcome the din of - mostly - male voices, your ideas and opinions never will be heard. Or they will only be heard by the man standing next to you who has no qualms of shouting them out and claiming them as his. (And no, I'm not saying all men are like that.)

So what about being a Feminine Feminist? Then you can wear make-up, flirt with men, dress any way you like (even if it means men will ogle you) and at the same time fight for equal rights. Those two options aren't mutual exclusive, you know.

Being like a man to be treated like a man is no solution, but being a woman and at the same time fighting for being treated equal to a man is one.

Friday, January 18

Does "equal" mean "the same"?

"All men are created equal" it says - 'men', in this case, meaning 'all of humanity' and not just the gender. And this principle doesn't mean all humans are the same. We're not all identical - and that's a good thing. Just imagine everyone on the world (or just every second person) were like me ... you wouldn't want that, believe me.

One of the mistakes feminists might have made in the past was to push the idea of women being equal to men (which is what feminism is about, when all's said and done) too much towards women being 'like' or the 'same as' men.

Equality doesn't mean all women have to be like men, it means they are considered equal to men. Being considered equal means, among other things, being treated like an equal. That is, in the end, what feminism is all about. We want equal treatment by the law, by society and by the corporate world. We want equal pay for equal work, our equal share of the rights and duties in society and an equal treatment in front of a judge.

A woman shouldn't have to be like a man and it shouldn't be allowed to belittle a woman for just being one (as it currently happens in the election campaigns in the United States). In a world in which equality between men and women were normal, it wouldn't happen. But this is something we still have to work on.

To be equal to a man, a woman should not have to change her looks or behaviour. She should be respected as a fellow human being, with all the little quirks she has and with her looks (no matter whether she's an attractive person or not good-looking at all).

In the 1960s women burned their bras, because they considered those pieces of clothing 'oppressive' (although I personally do not see a bit of cloth as something oppressing me). The claimed that an emancipated woman would not wear clothes men thought hot (because the emphasized the looks of the woman wearing them), would not use make-up or in any way make herself more attractive for a man. But isn't such a behaviour just as oppressing? Some women like to wear clothes they look attractive in. They like make-up and flirting and even, God help me, sex. And why the hell should they not? Humans are supposed to like sex - and women have just as much right to do so as men.

From the beginning, one of the ways of ridiculing women was to show how the 'emancipated women' looked when they were finally just as men. When they would wear trousers (well, that has happened in the meantime, but I'm talking about the end of the 19th century here), drink beer and leave their men alone at home to take care of the household and the kids. This, the society thought, was going to happen once women had the same rights and possibilities as men. When they were just the same people as men.

And, in many ways, women actually played into the hands of those telling the horror story of the emancipated woman. Of a woman who, in essence, would be just like a man with something more around the chest and something less between the legs.

But then, what is the point in being like a man? Women can do a lot better than that.

Thursday, January 10

Women and computer games

I could, personally, write a huge book (possibly broken up into various volumes for easier transport and reading) filled with my thoughts, theories and ravings about the topic of "women and computer games" and "women in computer games".

If you take a look at the average shelve of an average shop selling computer games (I do include games for consoles in this), you'll find about 100 games obviously (by title and package design) for men and about 1 for women (usually in pink). Among the software for girls and boys, the ratio is slightly different. (But games for girls are often pink as well.)

Of course, that's a rather biased point of view. There are games not specifically designed for one gender. And in certain genres there are indeed a lot of female players. Adventures, role-playing games (even the MMORPG) and some sorts of simulations (business simulations or those games where you have to build something up) are well-liked by women, too. And even in areas like ego-shooters, which - by their design - are definitely created for men rather than for women, there are female players.

"The Sims" has about 20 percent female players and, as recent studies showed, the rate for female players in MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) has risen quite high as well. And then there's the complete market of the so-called "casual games" - games you can play for five or ten minutes while doing other stuff (like writing this post) without seriously interrupting anything. And all of those official statistics do not cover those players who play on their boyfriend's/lover's/husband's computer and don't buy their own games.

Consoles have a slightly higher percentage of female players on the whole - they are considered 'less complicated' than a computer (although, with Windows and modern Plug-and-Play interfaces, a computer isn't much more complicated than a console). And, of course, more teenagers and kids are playing games on consoles.

As for myself ... looking at the games by my computer (which, mostly, are currently installed as well), I see quite a mixture, too. There's "Hellgate: London" (a role-playing game), then the currently newest version of "The Sims 2", "Sherlock Holmes vs. Arsène Lupin" (an adventure), "Anno 1701" plus Add-On and "The Settlers: Rise of an Empire" (both games in which you have to build up a whole economy), "Sam & Max: Season One" (another adventure), "Civilization IV Complete" (round-based strategy) and "Age of Empires III" (real-time strategy). My all-time favourite real-time strategy game, "WarCraft III", currently isn't on my hard drive, but it's just a matter of time.

That much for the simple facts: women are playing less computer games and less games are produced for women. But behind those simple facts (which, by themselves, are not very bad) are other facts. Women are less likely to use a computer. They are also less likely to spent an extended amount of time learning more about the computer than they absolutely need (meaning "how to start it up" and "how to go online" [although the actual access to the net usually isn't maintained by them]). Given the fact that the computer gets more and more important in work life, this can't be good in the long run.

In the computer games industry, women in charge are rare, but they do exist and have always existed. "King's Quest", one of the most renown adventure series produced by Sierra (although it has been quite some time since Sierra put out the last adventure), was created and produced by a woman. And among those creating parts of a computer game (like graphics, marketing and so on) are quite some women, too, as you can see in the credits of most games. But they are not the ones most well-known, most of the top game designers are male.

So, there aren't many women in charge of making computer games, there aren't many women playing computer games, then what about women in computer games?

Female heroes are rare. There's Lara Croft, obviously (who, in the first drafts of the game, was a man). There are various heroines in "beat 'em up" games. There were the female members of the royal family in some "King's Quest" episodes and there are some female characters in adventure games (although men/boys are more common). Role-playing games based on pen-and-paper varieties mostly allow the player to create female heroes, too. Apart from that, most women appearing in games are best described by the word "victim". They get attacked, kidnapped (like Princess Peach from "Super Mario" who gets kidnapped about once a year) or killed, giving the male hero a reason to go on. Some of them are just two-dimensional, while others are really annoying. They are sex-objects (like the normally rather strong women from the beat 'em up series "Dead or Alive" in their "volley ball" game) or simply objects without anything attached. Strangely enough, the genre of "survival horror" (like "Resident Evil") is the only one with strong women - in movies and games dealing with that kind of horror, female heroes are a bit more common.

When it comes to games especially created for women, the ideas of the industry seem to very limited. There's "Barbie"-games for girls, of course. They are usually pink - but that's Barbie for you. Then there's a few games for more or less adult people which are also mainly directed towards women (like "Beauty Factory", also in a pink package, which is okay for a business simulation, but not exactly taxing - as if women couldn't master a 'real' simulation).

The market of "casual games", on the other hand, is directed very much at women. This might be, because casual games - games, in other words, about which you don't have to learn very much in order to succeed - are a good way to get into gaming. On the other hand, the high percentage (compared to other genres) of women playing "The Sims" or "World of WarCraft" (a MMORPG) proves that women are not just into 'five minutes' games, but also into games you can - and usually will - play for hours. (I always say 'oh, just half an hour' before starting up "The Sims 2" and then play for two or more hours.) This gets me thinking - and the industry should think about it, too.

Adventures, for example, are a dying breed (or so it seems sometimes). On the other hand, intelligent and funny adventures are quite popular with women. So why, if men are no longer interested in the genre very much, not produce more games with a female lead? The main character in an adventure doesn't have to be a tough fighter, but can be everything from your ordinary neighbour (that's where "Leisure Suit Larry" comes from - that guy will never, ever get a really good date) to an archaeologist in outer space (interesting idea, now I think of it - wait, there was "The Dig" already). Even though I haven't installed them all at the moment, I do have quite some adventures beside my computer. There's "Sherlock Holmes vs. Arsène Lupin" (already mentioned), the two first Agatha Christie mysteries "... and then there were none" and "Murder on the Orient Express" (the third one, "Evil under the sun", has just been released), "Sam & Max: Season One" (also already mentioned), "Everlight", "Simon the Sorcerer 4" (personally, I'm a fan since part one - but not of part three, that game sucked) and the third "Delaware St. John".

Role-playing games - both online and offline - are also quite popular with women. And they have been sold more and more ever since "Diablo".

Business simulations - also a genre with a lot of female fans - are another area in which women could be won (but, please, not with games that insult their intelligence).

But most of all, women need to understand that a computer is neither a complicated machine better left to specialists (because it isn't, not the computer you usually buy for use at home) nor a monster that will strike them down. It's a tool, not more complicated to handle, on the whole, than a washing machine or a dishwasher (my personal nemesis, as I don't have one at home and thus have no idea how to use them correctly).

That was, admittedly, more difficult some years ago, before the invention of Windows, when you had to keep in mind all those commands. But at that time, computers weren't that common in offices, either. The average male user isn't any more intelligent or well-versed with computers than the average female user. But, unlike women, most men are not afraid of learning more about using a computer.

So, this is a basic overview over a topic I am rather fond of - and that should be quite obvious, given it has taken four pages on my word processor and four evenings to write everything down. Expect more about it every now and then.

Monday, January 7

Introducing "Das Eva-Prinzip"

"Das Eva-Prinzip" (the title translates into "The Eva-Principle") is a German book that has created quite a discussion and is, in many ways, a slap in the face of all women, no matter whether they see themselves as feminists or not.

Eva Herman, the main author (she's had a co-writer, but that's not what I'm so mad about), is a well-known moderator and news-anchor in Germany. Or rather, she was, until she said some stupid stuff. She was 'on screen' every day from 8.00 to 8.15 p.m. as a news moderator of the "Tagesschau", the oldest and best-known news magazine in German TV. In addition, she was also one of the two moderators of a talk show on another TV channel. So you could say she was a successful businesswoman. She also has a child, by now the girl is about 13 (or so my mother informed me, I'm not really into gossip myself).

Some time during 2006, Miss Herman presented her third book (if I've counted them correctly) to the public. After telling people about the huge importance of breast-feeding and about raising children correctly, she has finally arrived at her final destination: the right behaviour for women.

Basically, "The Eva-Principle" doesn't tell anything new. It's the same old story: women can only be happy if they stay at home and raise the children and leave the dangerous business-world to men.

While I - unlike some hardcore feminists - won't say a woman doesn't have the right to stay home and raise children, if that's what she wants, I won't create an idea of 'the perfect life' for anyone and expect all others to live it. Humans are individuals and thus have the right to decide for themselves what kind of life they want.

But what really angers me about the book is not so much the content, but the content in relation to the person named as author on the cover. If a woman who has stayed at home and raised four children had written that book, I still wouldn't have agreed with her on the content. But nevertheless, I would have thought that she was true to herself. But preaching a life at home and at the same time having a career? There is something not quite right about that.

As could be expected, the book stirred up quite an argument. While conservative politicians celebrated it as a new eye-opener for women, feminists naturally damned the book - and the writers - to the seventh layer of hell. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't have to be the seventh layer - the sixth is deep enough. And what has happened to Miss Herman since the book was published, was enough of a punishment, anyway. She has lost both her jobs (news-anchor and moderator of that talk show) and people suspect her of being a Nazi (something which I personally don't believe for one minute, she's just a bit stupid when it comes to explanations some times).

In December I bought the paperback version of the book myself - as I wanted to build up my final opinion of it myself - and I'm still not through with it. I normally can read a book quite fast (I've managed 600-pages novels in one afternoon, mind - non-fictional books take a little bit longer, but not much), but I really have to fight every page of this book, getting enraged about the huge amount of misinterpreted and simply ignored facts and the easy way in which Miss Herman just projects her own wrong decisions on all other woman and declares that everything which was wrong for her also has to be wrong for them. (And this, dear readers, is a perfect example of the species "extreme long sentence".)

In other words: with every sentence of her book I read, I feel less inclined to read on. Even the authors of extremely boring science books I've read for my studies at university have rarely managed that.

Nevertheless, I'll fight my way through and keep you updated, both here and at my other blog (A not so average woman).

Thursday, January 3

The image of Feminism

For more than 100 years women have fought to gain the same rights men have already. And for more than 100 years men have not been happy about it - understandable. But now, a lot of women aren't happy about it either - and that's not understandable.

The main reason for this is not that those women want to go back to those times when women weren't allowed to vote, to work, to go to school or decide for themselves whom to marry. But being a Feminist is not cool any longer (unlike when I was still a teenager, we did a lot of posing as a Feminist even before we fully understood what it means). Girlies are cool. Female singers who pose quite like whores are cool. And the last thing a girl wants to hear these days is "don't wear sexy clothes and don't act in a way that makes men/boys drool". They want to wear sexy clothes and make men/boys drool. And you know what? It's their right to want this - and to do it.

It's not very useful to discuss whether or not a self-confident woman should wear make-up or fashionable clothes - provided she wants to. Yes, it is wise to ask yourself why you want to wear make-up and fashionable clothes. And, honestly, I don't think the wearing of make-up should be - or ever was - a key issue of being a self-confident and emancipated woman. Feminists have spent ages - and litres of ink - to point out that "what is inside counts". And if this is true, the outside can look fashionable, if the woman wants it.

But those looks shouldn't be what counts when a woman is judged. Ability, talents, knowledge and experience should count - as they do with men.

And a Feminist can have a romance, too. Why should a self-confident woman not have a relationship - or children? Unlike what people think about Feminists (image, remember?), it's not the main goal of Feminism to fight and dominate men, the goal is to gain equality to men in every aspect of society, law and politics. Feminists don't want to be men, they want to be equal to men, but women, nevertheless.

The image the last generations of Feminists have created (surely in Germany, I'm not that sure about other countries) isn't good. It needs to be changed, otherwise there won't be a new generation of Feminists strong and large enough to continue the fight for equality.

E-mail me if you know a good informative site about Feminism in Great Britain, the United States or other countries. I can tell a lot about Feminism in Germany, as I live there and have always lived there. What I really could do with, would be material (and links) about Feminism in other countries. After all, the problem of the unattractive image of Feminism is not just one of Germany.

The image of Feminism isn't necessary the reality as well. But it's up to the Feminists themselves to show to the world they're no monsters or demons trying to bring down mankind.

Introducing the "Size 0" crusade

If you are also reading my other blog regularly, you're familiar with my crusade against "Size 0" or, recently, even "Size 00". If you're not, this is your chance to get an overview of the problem.

"Size 0" is a very popular size - and one only very few adult women can reach while staying healthy. The German equivalent to "Size 0" is a size normally meant for 12-year-old girls. In other words: the only people supposed to wear it, are pre-pubescent girls, not fully grown women.

When I first heard about the new trend - about two years ago - I thought (and rather hoped) it was a fad. Just something that came up as a short-lived fashion trend. Unfortunately it wasn't.

Ever since then we've been treated - if this it can be called - to the sight of famous women getting thinner and thinner (and not necessarily more attractive). And we've been faced, only last year, with a couple of models actually dying to stay that size. The fashion industry has wept about them - and then carried on.

While some countries, like Spain, have actually taken precautions against it (in Spain, only models above a certain BMI are allowed to appear on magazine covers), most haven't. So a lot of younger girls do everything to reach this size and either make it, at the price of their health, or fail and get a low self-esteem.

Beauty and women, that's a topic even without the "Size 0" crusade.

"Women are much more aware of their looks" - and much more unsure about them as well - or so they say. But what they - male psychologists, I should guess - say leaves a lot to question.

Right at the top of the list is, of course, this question: "Why are women much more aware of their looks?" Because it's natural to them? Because they know they will be judged by society for their looks and not for their abilities? Because the media suggest that there are only very few ways a woman should look?

Quite often it is pointed out that, in nature, one gender has to attract the other one with something special. Unfortunately for those who want to say "it's natural for women", other species do the game the other way around: males have to attract females with their looks. That goes for birds, mammals, reptiles, even fish. And the insects, too, quite often. The peacock has its tail-feathers, deer have their antlers and so on. Yes, in nature, males have to go a long way in order to find someone to produce offspring with. Females usually only have to sit and wait for the right one (or best-looking one) to come by.

I rather think it's a combination between "being judged by society for their looks" and "the media suggests a limited number of acceptable looks". Unfortunately, this works both ways around. If a woman doesn't look 'good enough', it doesn't matter what qualifications she has, she will never get an important job. If a woman looks 'too good', it doesn't matter what qualifications she has, she will never get an important job. For men in normal jobs (anything apart from 'male model', really, even actors may be quite unattractive, provided they are good at acting), looks don't matter at all.

What a 'good look' is, is mostly determined by the media these days. And the list is awfully short: Slender to thin, long hair (of course full and possibly blonde), full lips, no wrinkles, no hair except for the one on the head, eyebrows (but shaped) and lashes. That's about it. A twenty-something plastic doll seems to be the only 'good looks' acceptable today.

Women are compared to this picture found in magazines, on TV, in movies, in music clips and so on. And it doesn't matter the least whether or not the picture is in any way realistic. Men, on the other hand, often are found whining when a woman mentions a male model (for underwear, for preference) or other man she finds attractive.

As long as women are judged by their looks this much - even if 'looking good' means 'being on the verge of dying because of a size too small for normal women' -, men and women will never be considered equals.

Wednesday, January 2


Yes, I confess. I, too, played with Barbie as a child - and I enjoyed it. I'm guilty of this crime against Feminism. I could claim here, that my Barbie was more of an adventurer than of a model - and it would true. I could claim that I was too young than and society was not aware of the dangers of this 29-cm-doll then. I could also claim that it happened so long ago (I'm currently 33, after all). But I won't.

For Feminists, Barbie is some sort of red cloth. It's a sexist toy, they say. It objectifies women. It gives girls the wrong perception of the normal female body.

And, yes, they are right. On the other hand, no, they are not.

For a child, Barbie is not a symbol of anti-feminism. It's a toy. And it's a great toy for young girls, because unlike the baby-dolls you get otherwise (and who aren't any less sexist, only teaching girls what being a mother and housewife is like), it's an adult. Being an adult is the future for a child, so playing what it could be like is only a natural thing to do.

What to play with a toy, though, is another thing. Even though Barbie has had quite a host of jobs over time, she still is a model, mainly. A lot of games played with her consist of constantly changing her clothes and maybe hairdos. While being a model is quite a hard job, it also is something a lot of girls want to be these days. But, to be honest, a lot of girls dreamt of this when I was a kid, too. Models are in the media a lot and being famous is something most people dream of at one point during their lives. Being a model seems to be easier than being an actress or a singer, as there seems to be no talent necessary to do it, only looks. That's wrong, of course, because the really important and famous models also have a lot of charisma and are very professional.

And from the very beginning, Barbie was supposed to teach girls the right ways to act and dress as a grown woman, too. By playing with their dolls, they should learn about the right dresses for the right occasions, the right occupations for a woman and so on. Barbie has had a wedding various times (there are quite some different bridal dresses and whole sets for the wedding day) and mostly her friends have had babies (it's rarely Barbie herself who is sold as a doll with a baby inside). But poor Ken (and his successors) have never had a wedding night. So she has the perfect life of a 50ies TV character: relationship without sex, but a marriage before anything else could happen; children mostly as younger sisters/brothers or from friends. Even children of her own would have been acceptable, of course, after all, she was married.

Of course, there's always a difference between what a toy is supposed to be for and what it really is used for. A Barbie doll can be everything, it's only down to the imagination of the one using it.

And the imagination of a girl could contain a lot more than just pink, clothes and once being a model. It's down to other toys, to books and other media and the society to show her that.

Barbie is a controversial toy and one of the main hate-objects of Feminists. But it's not evil itself.

Gender Stereotypes

I've had this picture on my hard-drive for quite some time now, mainly because I didn't get around writing a post about it. Here it fits quite well.

Gender stereotypes run quite deep. And even if the parents take care of not acting to them, giving the child free decision of what to do, what to play with, how to live - society will basically overrun them with its ideas of what boys and girls should and shouldn't do.

Every society has a huge catalogue filled with "how men are" and an even larger one filled with "how women are". Those stereotypes quite often are not based on facts, but on fiction. "Woman have no talent for any technical things." That's one of those myths that are ingrained in girls from the beginning (or as soon as they have to enter society). "Men don't cry or show feelings." That's one of those myths that are ingrained in boys from the beginning. None of them has any basis when it comes to facts. Women are not physically or mentally unable to deal with technical things. Men are not physically unable to cry or show feelings.

Humans are individuals, every one is different from all others. There are people on which those stereotypes fit. But there are even more people who have to ignore or suppress part of their character to fit into the tight corset that is gender stereotypes.

Besides being highly unfair, gender stereotypes (stereotypes of any kind, really) also are counterproductive. By limiting certain abilities to one gender, people also limit their resources. "Women can't work with technical things." That means "50 percent of the populace cannot be employed when it comes to technical jobs". That means a lot of possible talent wasted, just because a person has the wrong gender.

And they go deep. They are rooted so deep in our society, people will be punished for acting against them (not by the law, but by society). You are not feminine, if you don't play by the rules laid down for women. And you're not masculine if you don't play by the rules laid down for men.

Feminism - to get back to the overall topic of this blog - has started breaking those stereotypes up, but unfortunately they installed new ones. A woman is old-fashioned if she stays at home, that's a gender stereotype, too. And you can't free people by exchanging old stereotypes with new ones.

The only way all people can be equal, is to get rid of those stereotypes one and for all!

Sexist Behaviour

This post shall include everything from simple sexist comments over sexual assault right up to rape, because, in a way, they all stem from the same idea: A woman has no right to have some dignity.

One of the main questions I ask myself when it comes to sexist comments or actions (like catcalling) is "should I really take that immature behaviour of some men serious?". My mature side says "no, just ignore those jerks". My cautious side says "leave it be, who knows what they might do next otherwise". My angry side says "give them a verbal lashing for it". My Feminist side says "that's the prove all men are swine".

None of those sides is completely right - but none is completely wrong either.

The coolest way to react is, of course, some female sexist behaviour. Something along the lines of "so, looking and catcalling is the only thing you can do, 'cause you can't get it up anymore". And it's quite efficient most of the time, because it shames the man who behaved so sexist before. But, alas, it is just as immature as the whole thing before. And, in some situations, it can be dangerous.

So, how should a woman react? Ignore it, because it's below her anyway? Ignore it, because it could be dangerous otherwise? Tell the man what a jerk he is for saying something like this? Write off all men as immature animals and either become gay or a nun? It's a tough question.

But let me make one thing clear: not every sexual comment is a sexist one. In the right company even women can make quite risqué jokes. After all, we have a sexuality as well.

The different between a sexual comment and a sexist comment is the way the woman (or man) is treated. If you just make a joke, it's usually not about a certain person. It's about a general, nondescript, non-existent person. You're not trying to debase women (or men) in general or a certain person. Those jokes are fun, because they just might contain a grain of truth about everyone listening to them. So, in essence, people laugh either about themselves or about someone they know, but have not named and thereby outed. Or they just laugh about the image the joke creates without depicting a certain person.

But commenting loudly about the good or bad points of someone's body, whether it's a man or a woman, that's debasing. It turns the person from a human being into an object. Even if it's just a general "women (or men) are ...", it's still debasing for every woman (or man) hearing the comment.

And debasing someone, in my experience, is the first step do doing worse things. That goes for Sexism as well as for anything else. If you can, without being punished for it, make sexist remarks about a person, you can, perhaps, get through with the next step.

Like touching that person's body (especially the parts generally considered to be sex-related) without permission. I'm not talking about really coincidental touches in a full train or elevator. Sometimes brushing another person's body (a woman's breasts, groin or behind as well as a man's groin or behind) cannot be avoided. But, usually, if it was coincidental, people will either say they're sorry or they will not remark on it at all, neither with words, nor with gestures or mimics. Touching someone else on purpose, on the other hand, is rightfully considered sexual harassment. And it doesn't have to be touching, either. Looking at someone suggestively or making off-hand comments about that person's qualities (in looks or in bed), can qualify as sexual harassment, too.

Now, if you're a man, you might say "that's really harsh". But, in that case, try to imagine this: At work, whenever a woman passes you by, the grab your behind, fondle your groin, stare at your lower regions (no matter whether they see the front or the back of your body) and make off-hand comments about the size and functionality of your primary sexual organs and the rest of your body, either to you or to other women. And I'm not just talking about the young, good-looking women. I'm also talking about the sixty-something secretary of your boss or the highly overweight girl working as an accountant (and I don't mean old or overweight or less attractive women don't have a right to be sexually active, I just want to emphasize this 'interest' in your body doesn't just come from women you'd like to be interested in you). That's sexual harassment. And I bet you wouldn't like that. And now imagine the only thing your boss has to say about it is "oh, don't get so dramatic, it's just fun".

The next step up that spiral of debasing behaviour is rape. Rape isn't about sex at all, it's about humiliation and degradation of the raped person. And, while most rape victims are indeed women, men can be raped as well.

A myth that just can't be killed off about rape is that it's always the dark stranger lurking in a shadowy corner who does it. Yes, there are rapes committed by total strangers, but most rapes are committed by people the victim has known beforehand. Date Rape and forced sex in a relationship are rapes as well.

Forced sex is always rape, not matter what kind of relationship rapist and victim had before it happened.

It doesn't matter whether the person raping someone is married to them, dating them, a close relative or a complete stranger.

And it doesn't matter what the victim looked like, what the victim wore at that time or what the victim did with/to the rapist before.

The moment someone says "No", it's over. Even if you've been fooling around for hours before it happens, "No" means no more of it. Stop what you want to do and step back.

And a woman (or man) doesn't "deserve it", just because she happened to wear a mini-skirt or revealing clothes. Even if she walked down the street completely naked, that would not constitute anyone's right to simply do to her whatever they want.

There is no excuse for forced sex with anybody!

Women aren't around to be 'used'. Neither are men. Every human being has the right to not be debase, degraded or humiliated. Everywhere in the world.

The Pay Gap

Imagine you would be paid less than someone else, just because your name begins with 'C' (just add the first letter of your name here, okay?). Would that be fair? Would you accept that or instead do everything in your power to get justice, especially if there's a law around, saying "everyone is treated equal"?

You wouldn't accept that, especially seeing that people who have, just by coincidence, names starting with other letters, don't work harder than you or are better, but nevertheless are paid more.

But when you try to sue them, you are told, "Yes, everyone is treated equal and paid equally, too, only the quality of your work isn't up to our standards". You can't prove they're wrong, because they don't have to tell you what their standards are.

You say: "'B' (put in another letter, in case your name starts with 'B') is accomplishing less than me every day."

They say: "That doesn't matter, because 'B' is meeting our standards for higher pay and you are not."

You say: "What kind of standards are those?"

They say: "We don't have to tell you. 'B' meets them and you don't, that's enough."

And there's nothing you can do...

That's what the Pay Gap is all about. Only, instead of having the wrong name, you have the wrong gender, something you can't choose at all. As a woman you have to work harder than a man to get the same pay, essentially meaning you earn less doing the same work. But whenever you say "the law says women and men have to be treated equal and that includes pay", the bosses say "women and men are getting equal pay for equal quality". And they don't tell you what that 'equal quality' would be - although one might think it means 'having a Y chromosome'.

"Quality" is something that can't be measured with scientific or statistical means. Neither can "performance", also a well-used word in that case. The definition of "quality" and "performance" of work is up to the boss. It doesn't have to be justified and thus you can't really say "but my quality and/or performance are as good as that of the man you're paying better".

For the same amount of money a man in the same job earns within a year, a woman has to work a year and something more (you can get the exact date on which she has earned as much as the men every year on various websites, but usually it's sometime in February or March).

In addition, a woman is less likely to get into a leading position and more likely to get into a low-paid job.

Once upon a time (still after World War II in Germany, although we officially had "equality"), a woman was only allowed to work if she was either single or her husband allowed it. The husband could even end her employment without so much as telling her.

Today a woman can decide whether to work or not herself, but it's still men who in most cases decide how much she will get for it. And only women are asked whether they plan on having children (and if you say 'yes', you're less likely to get the job) or whether they have a partner (and then they'll rather give the job to a woman who's not in a relationship). If a man has a wife and children, it's often useful for getting a higher position and more money. If a woman has a husband and children, it's mostly keeping her down - because she could suddenly decide to quit the job to stay at home, because her children could get sick and so on.

The "Working Woman" still seems to be some exotic animal - or rather someone who cannot be trusted with responsibility at the workplace.

At the workplace, men and women are not treated equally. This still needs some working on.


Welcome to my new blog!

This actually is the third blog I've started on Blogger. The first - and still running - is "A not so average woman", the second was "Surely not Barbie's Diary", but it's defunct. I couldn't come up with enough stories to make up this fake diary of Barbie (or rather the "My Scene"-Barbie Kennedy).

And I've still got a lot to do, for example in the future you'll find a link to this post, as it explains what the whole blog is about and thus should always be available for new readers. Then there's a feminist link-list coming up, I'll have to find a picture for the 'me' of this blog (the one from "A not so average woman" won't do) and, and, and...

But now back to the topic of this blog, okay? Why did I name it "Feminism Wow!"?

As I already mentioned in the header of the blog, the title has something in common with the "Catholicism Wow!" campaign featured in the movie "Dogma". For those of you not acquainted with the movie: in the story, the campaign is created by the Roman-Catholic church in order to 'bring Catholicism to the 21st century', sort of. In other words: the church tries to modernize Catholicism (or, at least, its image) in order to keep the believers believing. Part of the campaign is the exchange of the cross for this mascot:

Buddy Christ

But, of course, this blog is not here to change Catholicism (even though I'm Roman-Catholic myself and would appreciate the "Buddy Christ" mascot). It's about changing the image of Feminism.

And Feminism really, really, really needs a change of image, believe me. For a lot of young girls and women these days Feminism is kind of a hate-word. "Feminism" seems to imply hating men, taking control of everything and not behaving feminine at all. Feminists, it seems, can't have a boyfriend/lover/husband, won't have children and destroy the delicate balance of nature. They are, as it is, kind of demons in human skin.

So being a Feminist in un-cool and only something for ugly chicks or lesbians. If you're good-looking and like men, you simply can't be a Feminist.

And that's where people go wrong!

Being a Feminist is not about hating men. Being a Feminist is not about fighting men, either. It's about fighting the system that keeps women down and in the worse position, even today. And to fight a system that heavily relies on society to work, you need most of society behind you. As about 50 percent of the society is male, fighting men in general is utterly pointless. 'The enemy' is not necessarily a man, either, it also can be a woman.

This blog - unlike my other that is dedicated to everything going through my mind - is only about topics that are part of, or border on, Feminism. Some topics might feature in both blogs (like my "Size 0" crusade), but everything about Feminism will from now on be posted here. Nevertheless, this blog is probably going to grow slower, once I've introduced the main topics. I might also create a link-list for the Feminist topics of my other blog, so they can be found, only perusing this blog.

Feminism has not won yet - and as long as Ms. Herman's book still is in print, it won't win (but more about this major topic later on) - and there's still a lot of things to fight for. Some examples:

  • The Pay Gap: Women are still paid less for the same work. This only works, because (at least in Germany), equal pay is based on equal quality, and this 'quality' is not defined.
  • Sexual Assault and Rape: Men still have to learn that 'No' doesn't mean 'Yes, please', it seems. The way a woman looks or is dressed or the position she has in a company compared to a man are no excuses to sexually assault or rape someone.
  • Gender Stereotypes: As long as some things are 'for girls' and others are 'for boys', we'll never have equality. A girl has the right to play with whatever interests her - and the same goes for a boy. So what, if a girl wants to play with toy cars or a boy wants to play with Barbie dolls?
  • Barbie, of course, is a topic all to itself.
  • "Size 0" and the Beauty Trap: Women are judged by their looks far more than men, although this often happens in situations, in which the looks have nothing to do with qualification. And anorexia and other diseases of this kind simply can't be accepted.
  • Image of Feminism: What kind of image Feminism has and what kind of image it should have, based on the real goals.
  • "The Eva-Principle": As long as I'm still fighting my way through that book (and, although 250 pages normally mean nothing to me, that can be a long time), I will regularly rave about it here.

There'll be other topics, too, but those are the most important ones. They will also make up most of the posts, as far as I can see now.

So, welcome to "Feminism Wow!" again. And don't be too worried about me getting all bitchy and not funny at all. I do have humour, too, and can't keep sarcasm and cynicism all to myself.

Just come along for the ride! I'm sure you won't regret it too much!