Wer ist Ihr “Boss” — Responding To German Sexism
Germany can be a wonderful country, but it is also a highly sexist one — a personal account — with a few names
I have lived in Germany for almost eight years now and there is much to commend the country. It is a less violent, more cultured, more educated, healthier place than say the United States right now. It is less class obsessed and believes in participating in Europe — unlike say the nearly and dearly departed (not to mention deluded) British Isles.
Even during the Pandemic, which has not been easy for anyone, Germans seem to adapt to such things — even if they are getting as frustrated as just about everyone else everywhere else. Just yesterday, for example, when meeting a colleague for a work-related meeting that could not be achieved via phone, I had just thrown away my coffee cup when a passerby sternly shook his finger and reminded me to replace my mask. Germans glare at you if you cross the road when the little green man is “red” too. It is a cultural trait.
Not everything is perfect of course. This is also a country capable of genocide, let’s not forget, and appalling discrimination far beyond that. See my ancestors, as Exhibit A, not to mention what was done to my father the rest of his life. See my last seven and a half years here, without a citizenship that should have been offered, automatically, within three months. I had to go to the Supreme Court to get it.
That accomplished, I intend to make a living here, which as I have already discerned, will be difficult, and that is for reasons other than my language issues — although at this point, I have also learned that one of the favorite habits of the Jobs Center as well as all of those involved in “Auslander” services is to shephard everyone into low paying, crap jobs, and delay additional language training for as long as possible. Even if, for example, you already have a German master’s degree.
So, as I continue my German journey of change, I thought I would document some of the more appalling gender discrimination situations I have had to face over the last seven years (beyond the Department of Immigration and the Department of Interior Affairs).
- Auslander Behorde — The Foreigner’s Department. Everyone dreads interactions with this department — whose policies are set on a federal level and carried out with a whim that is often shocking on a local one. In Frankfurt, for example, they have a program which is completely non-compliant with basic civil rights laws and would look “normal” to a “sundown town” in the racist, pre 1960’s American south. When sexism is added to this, even if you are white, you face paper pushers (usually Millienial female dipshits) who do not know what they are doing. In my case, I ended up facing notices that my pending residence permit (for three years at this point) was being shoved into court (during a Pandemic, with a supreme court case now pending). Just for good measure, an asylum case I had never opened was also turned down at the same time (apparently automatically). When I won my case at the Supreme Court, the local department in Frankfurt still tried to drag me into state court for the second time in three months.
I have yet to recieve an apology (but I will), although they did send me a letter “cancelling” what at this point would have been a second attempt to throw me out of the country in state court (I won my first appeal circa March 2020).
- The Jobs Center
For those who have never encountered the bureaucratic nightmare that exists in every country when you lose your job during a prolonged nightmare, it sucks. You are treated like an animal by people who generally do not like but cannot lose their jobs for routine acts of cruelty and incompetence. Add gender to the mix (because after all women are supposed to make far less than men, even at the bottom) and in Germany work part time jobs far more often than men on a regular basis, and it is a horror show. I have a language test to show up for now, five months into my first dance with the local jobs center, but still no coupon issued for a language class anywhere in town. My female “counselor” — outsourced of course, has already told me that I should just suck it up, start a Xing Account and close my LinkedIn account because I should be looking for “German” jobs. There have been complaints in several directions already, especially because I cannot get basic attention to the health care that should be in first position, not last. Did I mention I have yet to get an appointment with SozialAmt? I had to escalate to the local health department to try and get some help with both, but in the meantime, I have to reup my benefits for at least another six months (at the most basic minimum of course) while running a gamut of bullshit and bureaucrats who have never seen a case like mine and want to stick it somewhere, quickly.
- My Business School — The Frankfurt School Of Finance And Management
The crap I faced here, circa 2015–2017 is going to be laid bare, now, in print, that I can actually talk about it. Not only did I “learn” in class, from professors at the school who should know better that women should always have a boss in the workplace, but “number 2” was all we should aspire to. This in a situation where the head of recruiting refused to even help me find a part time job and insisted that I should just rely on my “family” to support me. When I asked her if this sounded vaguely like a great recruiting tool (come to the Frankfurt School, spend a lot of money on tuition, and expect to be, at best, second in some company somewhere, if your family cannot just pay the bills?) The idea that German corporate culture is magically going to change (say to include women in its top corporate boards) is ludicrous. This idea has to be taught in schools. Not that “men are naturally more entrepreneurial than women.” Yes, I had a professor hand out stuff to read like that, as assigned reading. Even more shamefully he was a Millennial.
- The City of Frankfurt Health Department
Despite not listening to me, not meeting with me, and not taking me seriously (except finally to get a lower level meeting with a new employee several weeks ago), the city has finally established a city training program for doctors. When I called up to ask if they had any positions, presenting my qualifications and my second book about the industry, they told me they had no vacancies and were not interested in working with me, even as a consultant.
- The City of Mainz and The Stolperstein Foundation
My German family is one of the oldest Jewish families in the country. I have a great deal of information that the city does not have. I also want to get some Stolpersteins installed outside my extended family’s dwellings. I have been tangling with the foundation for the last three years. The first response I got from the foundation was that my immediate family was not qualified to recieve the honor because they were not “persecuted.” Did I mention that my father was never allowed back into the country, and I just fought thirty plus years for my citizenship rights back, ending in the Bundesverfassungsgericht? Worse, when I was finally referred to the (naturally), male “town historian” who also runs the book fair and the town stolperstein, archival efforts, I was then told that I was not even eligible for a grant to write history about my family because I do not live in Mainz. Ie, a blow-off which is not only incorrect, but grotesquely stupid. However I am sure it has worked well in the past. Not this time. My grandmother was in fact a director and major shareholder of the store. That needs to be preserved in history, so women in the present understand that none of this is acceptable. I also want women today to know that my great aunt, Emmi Lahnstein, who was Catholic, was offered the opportunity to become Geschäftsfuherin of the family store in Mainz if she turned in all of her Jewish relatives. She refused and went into exile with her husband (although her daughter also managed to screw every other family member, including my father of their equal share in what reparations the family eventually did recieve).
Speak Out, Act Up
The conditions of women, generally, during the Pandemic have worsened more than they have for men. This includes in matters of employment, or opportunity generally, for everything, everywhere. I have noted that almost every government official I have had to deal with is a man. Women are almost routinely pushed into lower paid, part time work, which is, except for front line positions, all male.
I am, now, a German, and I intend, in every way to challenge and shake this up. It is overdue. Germany itself cannot respond to the challenges that exist for its population while treating women, routinely, and with some obvious exceptions (the outgoing Angela Merkel perhaps being the best and most overused example), like it is still sometime in the 1950's.
And that starts the same way you challenge anti semitism, or any other similiar discriminatory crap. With calling it out.
And then escalating.
Germans really hate it when you ask for their boss. Guess what?
My latest book, Green II: Spreading Like Kudzu is now available in English. The German version is available via a unique serial publishing and distribution plan to educate German consumers, doctors and the supply chain about the uses of medical cannabis, as well as the flubs so far the government has gone through in establishing the first commercially grown domestic medical cannabis program.