I met the other day with my tandem: the idea of “I give you my Spanish for your German” through a relaxed conversation and at a very low cost (what you drink at the bar). Since we had met only once before, in a BBQ where lots of alcohol was involved, we didn’t really knew each other that well, so the conversation start with the classics: ‘Where do you live?’, ‘How old are you?’, ‘What do you do for a living?’ and so on.
When my turn came, she seemed surprised:
– So you are a feminist?! – She kind of shrieked while she crossed her arms over her chest, in a classic body language expression of ‘I’m not open to that’.
– Yes, I am a feminist.
– But why? Here? [in Berlin she meant] Isn’t it just something that happens more in… like Africa, with the [and she moves her finger in a sissor-like way, as in female genital mutilation, I understood she meant].
No, my German friend; gender inequality is not something that happens only in Africa, not even only in the Global South, it happens ALL around the world, including progressive and ‘developed’ Germany. There is no one single country in the whole planet earth where women and men have the same opportunities to realize and fulfil their most basic human rights, including the fundamental right of non-discrimination based on their biological sex.
– But in what senses? I mean, apart from the salary gap – which apparently she knew about, but somehow didn’t express any kind of inequality to her!
Funny she mentioned this, since the unadjusted gender pay gap in Germany, by the way, exceeds by far the EU-27 average: in 2010, in Germany, women earned in average 23.1% less than men (while EU-27 average was -16.4%) [Gender Equality Index Report, 2013]
– Give me a concrete example.
Where shall I start?! It’s easier to talk about the macro-level and I know it’s wrong to generalize, but I have been learning that German people love statistics and facts; so, if we look at the Germany’s Gender Equality Index, for example, we find out that scores only 51,6. In a range of 1-100, where 1 is absolute inequality and 100 is absolute equality between women and men, it’s clear that in few aspects men and women are not having the exact same opportunities. In Germany women are strikingly behind in the sub-domain of economic power, with no one single women member of Central Banks (whereas they are 18% at the EU level) and only 13% of women members of boards. (BTW, still against quotas?)
I’m always prompt to also share how gender discrimination affects men negatively too, because it’s true that there is a tendency to focus mainly on the women’s situation when talking about gender inequality. And even though it’s clear that women share, in general, worse conditions and positions in society than men, gender stereotypes, expectations and mandates are limiting and detrimental to all human beings, both women and men. Compulsory enrolment in the army for men is a classic example of such gender-based discrimination that affects negatively lives of thousands of men worldwide. Or when we analyze the cause of death by sex worldwide, we see that 84% of people dying due to collective violence or legal interventions are men; or that men represent 71% of those dying from injuries; and that even though violence against women is a dramatic world spread phenomenon, 81% of people dying due to interpersonal violence (i.e. fights) are men. This is related to gender socialization, and the idea and expectation that “manly” means being brave, courageous, reckless and violent.
But I’m much more interested in the micro-level; in those micro-machismos we suffer (and sometimes even perpetuate) day by day. And that’s where you find the hard-core of sexism and patriarchy: in those ideas, assumptions, mandates, expectations,… that are so internalized that you are not even aware of. I decide I’ll wait until some micro-machismo pops up (they normally always do), and then discuss it from there; will be easier to understand.
Anyway, the conversation took other paths –people tend to avoid ‘boring topics’ like fundamental human rights and justice-: we were talking over her pregnancy, some other classical questions like ‘How’s it going? Are you feeling ok? Do you have morning sick’s?’, etc,.. and she says:
– Actually, I’m having a great pregnancy! No morning sick’s, anything. Is for sure, it’s a boy.