Bread, eggs, coffee, gender

16 05 2009

I’ve just translated a tagline on the back of my paper bakery bag; in German it reads “Leidenschaftlich Kernig”, which in English means “Passionately Corny”. This isn’t an emotion I’ve experienced myself, and I’m wondering if I’ve been missing out all these years.

Given that underneath there is a picture of a woman on the bag, I’m sure it is the woman’s emotions to which the line is referring. Modern life is bringing a whole new host of emotions to me, especially after the weeping into the microwave lasagna event.

I’ve noticed some areas of Berlin are beginning to smell a bit like a giant egg right now; summer must be approaching. Whilst waiting for the night bus home, clutching my cakes from the all-night bakery, I really don’t want to be inhaling a giant whiff of sulphur from the drains. Anyway, soon I’ll get a bike which means I don’t have to get the night bus home. I can also check more things off my list of ‘gradually becoming more German’. For example:

Taking a boat ride whilst drinking beer – check
Eating ‘Vollkorn’ bread for breakfast – check
Shouting back at people who shout at me on the street – check
Wearing scarves indoors – check
Spending hours drinking coffee and not working – check
Riding a bike everywhere – almost

Whilst on the topic of coffee, or ‘Kaffee und Klatschen’ as one might say in German, I have to voice my sickening disappointment at reading the following on a McDonald’s leaflet.

“Ein Kaffee ohne Kuchen ist wie ein Kleid ohne Handtasche. Überstezt in Männersprache: wie ein Auto ohne Soundlage.”

In English:
“A coffee without cake is like a dress without a handbag. Translated into Man Talk: like a car without a stereo system.”

P-L-E-A-S-E
Is this really how far we have progressed? That the general population still think that men and women speak differently? Or rather, we are still conned into thinking we should speak differently, and if we do we can’t understand each other? Do not underestimate the power of mass marketing and the twists and turns of semantics that convince us that men and women do come from different planets – we don’t.

This type of language is dangerous, dangerous stuff and can only hinder the efforts of those who want to break down gender divides and barriers. Of course I am not negating schools of thought that promote ideas that women/men do bring different skills and talents to situations, that perhaps others haven’t yet learnt to utilise, or were socialized differently to not use, but – what I don’t agree with is the view that all women do is talk about ‘dresses and handbags’ and men talk about ‘cars and sound systems’. I think I can grasp the idea behind what a Kaffeklatsh is without it having to be translated into ‘women’s speak’, but then again – this example did come from McDonald’s.

Thankfully Berlin offers a growing space of resistance against corporatization and commercialization and mainstream dogma. Places where people can go and not feel under pressure from the stifled divides of the man vs woman world. It is possible to be ‘woman’ or ‘man’ and enjoy being that, but without feeling a compulsion to act in strict binaries the whole time. It’s so boring.

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