Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gender Benders

Ah, the ladies of Germany. Where to begin? Why not with some of their names. Now, most German girls these days have pretty "normal" by English-speaking standards names: among the top 20 in 2010 were Emily, Anna, Lily, Marie, Sarah and Sophie. But go back about 50 or 60 years and you find some pretty outrageous (to us Anglos) sounding clunker-of-a-name names: Dagmar, Gudrun, Irmgard, Ute, Baerbel, Reinhilde, Jutta, Doerte, Hildegard, Ingeborg, Traudel, Edeltraut, Sigrid, and Heidrun. And then there are all the names ending with "-ke", which apparently used to be a diminuitive way back when: Heike, Wiebke, Imke, Silke, Ulrike, Elke und Frauke to name just a few. I have encountered most of these names either through my work as an English teacher or in my very own German family. I'm always amazed to learn yet another of these old-fashioned and very brute sounding German names.

And yet somehow, these harsh names suit the women of Germany. Yes, for better or worse the stereotype is true: German women tend to be masculine. In fact, it happens to me I would guess about once a week that I see a woman out there in the city and have to do a "gender check" if it's a man or a woman. Or, I see someone I at first believe to be a man, and then as they get closer or on second inspection they turn out to be a woman. But those are the more extreme cases. Your average run-of-the-mill German woman is clearly a woman ~just not a very soft and typically feminine woman. Many if not most have short hair. But that alone is not enough to make a woman seem masculine. It's the facial expressions, the way they walk and carry their bodies, the way they dress and their no-bullshit attitude. Again, I feel like I'm getting into tricky territory here using the word "they" and lumping all German women into one category. Of course there are plenty of perfectly soft and feminine German women out there. But after observing the womenfolk of this land for years now I can say with certainty that there is an abundance of masculine energy in a far higher percentage of the women here than you see in America. Put it this way: there are loads of German women out there who, if you saw them in any American city you'd immediately think: "dyke"....but no, not here. By now I just think "Yup, German". I really wonder what the actual dykes of Germany do. It must be really frustrating for them because so many more women seem like lesbians than actually are. It would take a very finely tuned gaydar to detect a real dyke around here!

I always wonder where this came from and how they got like that. It's easy to think that the two major world wars had something to do with it, and I'm sure it had. But I feel there is something deeper to it as well. I'd be willing to bet that the Germanic women centuries ago were also tough and no-nonsense. Who knows. I'm sure someone wrote their sociology thesis on it and I'd be interested to read it. All I know is: some of the women in this country are nearly men and it's provided an endless parade of great people watching for me as I go about my business out there.

1 comment:

  1. Whoa Rachel! You're brave to write of this subject, but 'tis an observation one can make after touring Hollywood movies and the stereotypes depicted through film. But I see this stereotype to also include Nordic women and others in Eastern Europe..... to venture away from the theme of your blog about Germany. I noticed myself that Dutch women tend to be tall, as are the men, and not of a slight build.