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German of the Week
'There is an urgent desire for social change'
Photo: DPA

'There is an urgent desire for social change'

Published: 11 Feb 2013 07:08 GMT+01:00
Updated: 11 Feb 2013 07:08 GMT+01:00

A national debate over sexism in Germany took a twist after women used Twitter to describe the casual discrimination they faced. Anne Wizorek, creator of the #aufschrei hashtag, is The Local's German of the Week.

Loud, clear, and angry female voices have filled German cyberspace in recent weeks, following outrage over the allegedly inappropriate behaviour by leading politician Rainer Brüderle. The incident sparked uproar against the widespread sexism German women still face.

The online message service Twitter quickly became the vehicle for this voice, largely thanks to a quick-witted suggestion that the hashtag #aufschrei - outcry in German - be used to gather reports of soul-sapping sexism.

Anne Wizorek is the 31-year-old who suggested the hashtag late on January 24th. When it took off, the Berlin-based web consultant became its defender, explaining on political talk shows how the small incidents which many men would not identify as abusive, have corrosive effects on the lives of women everywhere.

Writing in her blog recently, Wizorek explained how she had taken as inspiration the Twitter campaigns #shoutingback and the everydaysexism.com project which both chronicle the sexist experiences of women in English.

She told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper she belonged to a generation which did not immediately think they needed feminism. "We were as girls told that we could do anything, but then we realise that we do live in a male-dominated society which has antiquated ideas about equality," she said.

She said her mother had taught her to ignore men making comments on the street, saying "one only whistles at cattle."

The #aufschrei tag was born spontaneously in the middle of the night, Wizorek wrote on her blog. But the tens of thousands of comments and descriptions of experiences it has gathered have made clear that there was pressure of frustration and anger which required such a valve.

In the first week alone, some 50,000 tweets with the hashtag were sent, according to Der Spiegel magazine.

"That it exploded shows that there is not just the need to talk about this with the countless people personally affected, but also the urgent desire for social change of these relations, which have been the status quo for too long," she wrote.

Click here for past Germans of the Week

The Local's German of the week is a person in the news who - for good or ill - has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected is not necessarily an endorsement.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:59 February 11, 2013 by DoubleDTown
Twitter is a fad.
14:27 February 11, 2013 by Omufu
In my work I have witnessed many such incidents - where men say things and do things that would easily be considered inappropriate or even harassment but they get away with it.

It's good that women stand up for themselves, but I think more we need respectful men to be leaders and not let the idiots get away with it. Change would be easier if men lead it. And it would help just a little if the media and popular culture didn't polarise the sexes and dump rubbish stereotypes everywhere you look.
20:22 February 11, 2013 by zeddriver
I support equality. And any guy that automatically assumes a women is daft merely because she is a women is daft himself. But! Then again. Why do so many women get breast enlargement surgery? I isn't to make their sweaters fit better. Why wear all the makeup? They do it to look better. Why come to work in a low cut blouse, short dress and stiletto heels. Yep! They do it to get noticed. Then when a man does notice. He then gets a sharp stick to the eye from the woman whose tits are falling from her shirt. Gee! I don't see a double standard here.

How about having women dress for the office in the female equivalent of the mans suit and tie.
22:44 February 11, 2013 by wood artist
i think there are really two problems here, but they blend into one.

There ARE, at least in the US and likely in Germany too, many men who still see women in the light of lesser beings. It may not be extreme, but it exists, and certainly some will openly question a woman's "right" to do a particular job or be in a particular place or whatever. Much of the time it's not overt, but that doesn't mean it's not there.

Sadly, the other side of this situation also exists. When I was growing up I was taught something called manners. My mother was a fanatic about it, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. "Hold the door for a woman" or "Walk on the curb side of a woman" or other similar simple acts were important to her. Now, unfortunately, men are less likely to do that. The reason, however, is not because manners are bad, it's because there can be severe penalties for doing them.

If you hold a door for a woman, you're quite likely to get a scowl and maybe a "What's the matter? You don't think I can open the door myself?" in response. If you dare to compliment a woman on her appearance or choice of clothing, you're leaving yourself open for a complaint of sexual harrassment...and sadly there is no way to defend what you said because your intent doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what she thought, and she can "choose" to be offended over anything. I've seen people terminated for such simple deeds.

In short, some of the sexism that women observe begins with their assumption that anything/everything can be taken that way. They sometimes choose the worst possible interpretation. That doesn't excuse poor behavior, but it does figure into our interaction.

wa
23:31 February 11, 2013 by zeddriver
@wa

Well said sir.

We will probably catch hell for even hinting that there just might be a double standard. But If one is looking to be offended. They will find offense everywhere. Even where it isn't.
07:12 February 12, 2013 by RainerL
Women want to be respected as equals. I don't have a problem with that at all and I encourage it. The problem that many Men find a doublde standard exercised by far too many Women / Girls. Equality where it suits Women is not on either. Why should a Men be treated differently to a Women?

Ask why many Men do not want to be a cavalier in paying for a women on the first , second or even the third date? While yet too many are happy to let the Guy fork out the $$$ to spend on a Women. I am glad that men have realized this and do many are expecting Women to share the cost of dating. too right! so they should, can't have it both ways. Why should a Men open a Door for a Women or let her go first because she is a Women?? C'mon Girls > Fair game. Wanna be treated as equals? Then be fair dinkum and not where it suits you's!!!!!
07:42 February 12, 2013 by AmericanMade
@ RainerL

It's called over-sensitivity and it holds society hostage as everyone tip-toes around extreme political correctness. There will always be those who blow everything out of proportion.

On the other hand, I should be able to wear a skirt, heels and makeup and not have Hands McCreepy try to cop a feel or make inappropriate sexual innuendos... That's called common decency.
10:19 February 12, 2013 by zeddriver
@ AmericanMade

You just unwittingly made my point. Yes! Guys should keep there hands off.

I'm not sure about how much you really know about how men work. For the most part we are "visually" oriented. Much more so than a woman. So therefore when a woman "shows herself" with tight or revealing clothes. To a man that IS a sexual innuendo. I would ask you why do you NEED to wear a skirt, heels, And makeup.

Think about it. When a woman wears a short skirt. What is she saying? I have great legs and I want to show them off. CHECK. And to make my legs look longer. I'll add high heels to that. CHECK. Then of course you need to balance that out with a fair amount of cleavage. CHECK. And even if a woman doesn't do it to attract a mans attention. She certainly does it to show her older female counterparts that she has it going on. I'm the young alpha female. And I could have your man if I wanted him.
20:29 February 12, 2013 by AmericanMade
@ zeddriver

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Yeah, I agree and respect the diversity between the genders. However, you seem to imply that men simply can't help themselves because women provoke them by wearing makeup and heels. I now find myself in a position where I feel I need to defend my male counterparts!
23:56 February 12, 2013 by zeddriver
I never said that a man can't control himself. The vast majority of men behave them selves just fine. The things I'm talking about are a little more subtle than you are thinking. I'm not talking about a woman being raped because of what she wore.

I'm talking about the seeming one sidedness of this issue. If a man came into an office dressed as sexily as a lot of women do. He'd be sent home to dress appropriately. On the other hand quite a few women seem to dress in a very sexy manner. Then demand that a man not look or take notice in any way. Or the man will be faced with a sexual harassment complaint.

It can even be as simple as gossip at the water cooler. "Hey Bob. Did you see how Susan was dressed yesterday? I thought her breasts were going to fall out of her blouse."
00:11 February 13, 2013 by misschrissy
Manners, courtesy and gentlemanly behavior have nothing to do with female emancipation/equality, etc. Holding doors open and paying when you invite someone out doesn't equal sexism or discrimination.

It's called common sense - would you complement a man in the workplace on his appearance or make comments? Probably not. Would you touch a man in the workplace? Also not likely.

Germany is a great place but is definitely way behind the times with regards to this issue. Or is all Europe like this?
16:14 February 13, 2013 by zeddriver
misschrissy

"Holding doors open and paying when you invite someone out doesn't equal sexism or discrimination."

There's a heck of a lot of women who do consider that offensive. Maybe there should be a tag a woman could put on her blouse stating that she is easily offended by chivalry.

"would you complement a man in the workplace on his appearance"

Yes I have. "Hey Bob! Looking sharp today." Or "nice haircut" "cool tie" "hey have you lost weight" I've never had it taken as an offense by the complimented guy. Nor has it ever been interpreted as a gay come on. But I don't pay a compliment to women anymore unless they are a friend. It all depends on ones attitude and whether one is looking to be offended. Seems there are a lot of women looking for offense where ever they can find it.

Inappropriate touching in the office for anyone is and should be an offense that will get you fired. Or kicked square in the plums.
02:03 February 14, 2013 by slawek
Was the article above written by a 16 years old? I'm sorry I don't mean to be offensive. I'm just making a point.

Someone could have done a far better job in explaining sexuality to Ms. Wizorek after all the apparent mistakes of her mother (see her mother's remark about sexual advances).

It's strange to observe but today's 20-somethings are much more prude than their parents and grandparents. While they are sexually active at younger age, it would seem they lack the broader scope of sex education, beginning with body language and subtext-talk, sex-talk and so on.

It's even more strange for Ms. Wizorek to look for answers in feminism. Feminism doesn't offer answers how to deal with sexually charged situations. It's designed as censorship of human behavior, preferably up to the standards of feminist lesbians - so no men touching women, etc. And according to feminist Alice Schwarzer women lack sexual desire completely.

Basically we are dealing here with issues of 20-somethings who decided to stay teenagers for too long. The right thing to do would be to explain sexuality to them, even if it's too late and they already seem to wreck their lives.

There is much more in life that you simply have to swallow. Life doesn't work the way that everytime you don't like someone's remark you call for your mom or sue. And you can't ignore men making comments on the streets, if you wan't them to stop, you say "verpiss dich!" (engl. f*ck off)
18:01 February 15, 2013 by Laurence F
Self centered; narcissistic and boring.
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