Berlin

Stand Up! Why feminism is important for everyone

Article published on June 8, 2014
Article published on June 8, 2014

"I'm a fem­i­nist. What of it?" For many women and men this F-word gen­er­ates a lot of con­tro­versy -- aren't we all equal? Julia Ko­r­bik, jour­nal­ist and Ba­belian since 2009, has a dif­fer­ent view. Because she can not only compellingly speak about feminism, but can also write effectively about it, she has now published a book: "Stand Up! Feminismus für Anfänger und Fortgeschrittene." 

A slightly warmer than av­er­age early Sum­mer evening on a Kreuzberger roof ter­race. The ladies lean against the rail­ing hold­ing bot­tles of beer, while the men ca­su­ally stand in the cor­ner. Out of the speak­ers comes elec­tronic music, and as the sun slowly de­scends be­hind the jagged roofed land­scape, beer bot­tles and ear­rings aren't the only thing to flare up. Those who wish to ruin this pic­turesque Berliner mo­ment in one stroke need only to drop the F-word. After all, it would surely strike these ca­sual evening dis­cus­sions like a bomb: "Many peo­ple equate fem­i­nism with misandry. But why should fem­i­nists abhor men? That's com­plete non­sense! It's about mak­ing so­ci­ety a bet­ter place -- for men and women." Julia Ko­r­bik has ex­pe­ri­ence with roof ter­races, gen­der dis­cus­sions and the ex­plo­sive­ness of fem­i­nism. But why has it be­come so un­sexy to des­ig­nate one­self as a fem­i­nist? "Fem­i­nism has never re­ally been seen in a good light. Even the suf­fragtes weren't liked by any­one!" Julia laughs. 

F-Word or claim for Free­dom?

Be­cause Julia isn't in­dif­fer­ent to dis­cus­sions about men, women and so­ci­etal struc­tures, and be­cause she's not afraid to make her opin­ions known among beer and ter­rasse rail­ings, she's dealt with the topic of fem­i­nism for the past cou­ple of years. In the mean­time she's been des­ig­nated an ex­pert in the field, which demon­strated in her first book Stand Up! Fem­i­nis­mus für Anfänger und Fort­geschrit­tene ("Stand Up! Fem­i­nism for be­gin­ner and in­ter­me­di­ate lev­els", 2014). Julia has won­dered for a long time why it's not just men, but also women, who re­spond so al­ler­gi­cally to fem­i­nism, for which they have much to be thank­ful for. "For many young women, fem­i­nism seems to be too ab­stract. On TV you typ­i­cally only see Alice Schwarzer who often talks about prosi­tu­tion and human traf­fick­ing. These are top­ics that don't di­rectly af­fect most young women." But for men, the only thing that im­me­di­ately comes to mind is FEMEN: "But that is al­most a bit off topic. What is re­mem­bered of FEMEN are naked breasts. No one re­ally knows what was writ­ten on them."

Julia is con­vinced that the gen­eral mes­sage of fem­i­nism is still rel­e­vant. "Fem­i­nism is the be­lief, that all peo­ple de­serve the same rights re­gard­less of gen­der. That's why fem­i­nism is a po­lit­i­cal move­ment that aims to bring about so­cial as well as per­sonal change." In Stand Up! Julia calls this the "ul­ti­mate weapon against the sys­tem," which not only op­presses women, but also men. Is fem­i­nism then the lib­er­a­tion not only of fem­i­nine but also mas­cu­line gen­ders? Those who be­lieve they have heard wrongly should read part one of Stand Up! "The par­tiarchy as the hege­mony of fa­thers doesn't, of course, exist any­more. Today it sim­ply means that men have the say in so­ci­ety. These are struc­tures that have ex­isted for thou­sands of years and that can't quickly be done away with."

"Power is clearly mas­cu­line" - right?

That's why one has to be pa­tient with so­ci­etal changes. "It's not so long ago that women re­ceived the right to vote, the right to work and to get an abor­tion." While women fought for basic rights, which have had for such a long time that we al­most can't re­mem­ber what it was like be­fore, the power struc­tures have largely stayed the same. With the provoca­tive the­sis "power is clearly mas­cu­line,"  Julia scru­ti­nizes the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect de­bates around soft power and the fe­male quota: "Women still have to fit into a mas­cu­line con­cep­tion of power. Ei­ther one is super fem­i­nine and uses that qual­ity to run a busi­ness, or one acts markedly mas­cu­line. Why isn't there some­thing in be­tween?" The hyper­mas­culin­ity of man­agers, how­ever, over­strains many men too, and when the Ger­man chan­cel­lor is de­scribed as "Mutti" (mommy),  it clearly sounds derog­a­tive.

Why do we need fem­i­nism? Sum­mary of Stand Up! by Julia Ko­r­bik. 

Those who take their time turn­ing the pages of Stand Up!, which was de­signed by graphic de­signer Chrish Klose, will not only find to their sur­prise that sex­ual har­rass­ment in the work­place has only been a statu­tory of­fence since 1994, but will also dis­cov­er young ac­tivists and blog­gers such as Theresa Bücker and the Turk­ish Ger­man Kübra Gümusay, whose writ­ings fas­ci­nate Julia. His­tor­i­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal ex­pla­na­tions are in­ter­rupted with short bi­ogra­phies and quotes. "We don't want Stand Up! to be­come a bar­ren land­scape of words, but rather that every­one can take their time ab­sorb­ing the in­for­ma­tion. One doesn't have to read every foot­note or fol­low­ each in­ter­net link," ex­plains Julia.  

We need more fem­i­nist power in our every­day lives!

The top­ics in the book range from gen­der pay gap and sex­ism to the mas­culin­ist move­ment, the fe­male quota and the much be­moaned mas­culin­ity cri­sis. Julia thinks the "de­bate over the mod­ern man in pain," in which fem­i­nists are often used as a scape­goat, is strained: "Cri­sis is the wrong word. Ul­ti­mately it's just a nor­mal ad­just­ment process. It re­veals more than any­thing that we're still stuck in old gen­der role pat­terns. Why do we laugh about a guy who plays gui­tar and isn't con­find­ent enough to ap­proach a woman? I can only ask my­self: why doesn't she do it her­self?" Such de­bates are part of the gen­eral cri­sis of our gen­er­a­tion. "It's not just about gen­der roles. When you have as many op­por­tu­ni­ties and op­tions as you do today, it will nat­u­rally be dif­fi­cult to find your­self - as a man and as a woman. Fem­i­nism can def­i­nitely help with this, be­cause it teaches how to ac­cept one­self for just the way one is." 

In order to pre­vent the mes­sage of Stand Up! from get­ting lost when one has read the book all the way through, Julia gives 12 con­crete tips for fem­i­nism in our every­day lives. "What practical steps should be taken and where are things going in the wrong direction? For me it's about ever­day be­hav­iors that one might not even think are fem­i­nist in na­ture. One doesn't have to im­me­di­ately join a po­lit­i­cal party or try to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the sys­tem." After all, fem­i­nism is a po­si­tion re­lat­ing to "fem­i­nist power in our every­day lives". It doesn't only pertain to mod­ern flirt­ing tips nor house­work, but rather, for ex­am­ple, about being ac­tive in democ­rac­tic de­ci­sion-mak­ing processes. That is why "Go vot­ing!" is one of Julia's 12 tips. But that doesn't, of course, mean that one shouldn't oc­ca­sion­ally stir up bor­ing party dis­cus­sions with the F-word-bomb. Nor that one should be upset if fem­i­nism grad­u­ally loses some of its ex­plo­sive­ness.

Julia Kor­bik: Stand Up! Fe­mi­nis­mus für An­fän­ger und Fort­ge­schrit­te­ne, Ro­gner&Bern­hard, 416 Pages, 22,95 Euro. 

Get reg­u­lar up­dates from Julia on Twit­ter: @Frau­Kor­bik