I remember that, when I was on my first flight to Marseille at the age of 16, I observed all the men in suits walking in and out of the airport lounge. I made a promise to myself that day that one day I’ll be a woman in a suit walking in and out an airport lounge with a fancy briefcase on my way to some important world changing events. I’m not yet there, I have no access to any lounge, I do travel Europe though to go and have an impact.
A couple of days ago I was on my way to Skopje to attend the Krusevo International Youth Conference, a great conference organized for skilled, curious and leaderly young professionals from the Balkan region and beyond. To set myself in the right mood in the airport I was considering to buy a newspaper, some English political magazine maybe. I scrolled through the rows of conservative magazines, nothing really to catch my attention until I got stuck at “The European”. I’m quite the European, I’d say, so I was eager to find out what this magazine had to write about. Something about Greece, something about Brexit, something about refugees. Classic, nothing special, still interesting – at first. Then I noticed something. I noticed that not a single article was written by a woman. Not even an interview was taken with a woman. The entire magazine was filled by and with men. At this very moment it made me furious. It would always concern me, but it made me particularly furious at this moment, in that airport on my way to really tackle issues concerning the European future. Even though some articles would have interested me I put the European back on the shelf, I would not give almost 10 Euros for such a chauvinistic magazine. Angry and frustrated I browsed through some more magazines about politics, economics and international relations. Women were clearly underrepresented and while all kinds of men were given a voice, the presented women were all the same: Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton. The kind of women you really cannot ignore. The longer I stood there, looking for women and for some gender equality, the more frustrating all this got. But it got even worse. I realized thatt in the last magazine, before I gave in, and just went off with a bottle of water.
It is the one thing that women are not being given a voice in those magazines. This is bad enough and it clearly shows that there is no intention to include women in those international matters. But it excludes women even further. I realized this when looking at the adverts. In most of the advertisement I saw not a single woman. Not even women who are only objectified to a cleavage for some pretty diamond her crazy-busy husband can buy her as excuse. Women are simply non-existent in this world of politics, economics and business. Even in the newly published men’s magazine by the German “Zeit” where it’s all about growing the perfect beard, and how not to look squared in a turtle neck and how to cook a fine dinner for your love I saw more women who just tag along in the clothing ads as equals next to the men. And I really don’t think that all those Business Insiders, Europeans and such put all this advertisement for men’s watches and ties in those magazines, because they expect me, their female reader, to come back from a business trip to bring my homestay husband a Rolex, just so that I can buy me free from the guilt of being a terribly ignorant wife and Rabenmutter to my kids. As I said, I had enough after that. I left with my water, one of the few things where gender really doesn’t matter and where exclusion does not exist. I was mad and writing about it makes me mad again. Knowing that you live in a men’s world as a woman who’s on her way to achieve something great is depressing.
When I was 16 years old I read a lot about feminism and I learnt how to be strong and self-confident from my mother. I trusted in feminists and fighters of gender equality, let them be male or female, to pave the way for the next generation, for young women like me. I thought, growing up to a powerful woman would be fun. It often is, but often enough it is not. It stops being so much fun when suddenly, all around you, you are confronted with male dominance. When the structures simply don’t support your presence and your engagement. When it’s a fight to be seen, not just because you’re pretty in your 50th dresses; while this being a fight a lot of people just consider reckless and whiny. I’m okay with sexist or chauvinistic comments by now, mostly. Well, I’m not okay with it, not at all, but I can handle it, most of the times. But realizing how much deeper the discrimination and the exclusion goes and how hard it is to change all that, that’s the really frustrating part. So, instead of only not buying those magazines who try to reproduce unequal, outdated social structures, I’m trying to throw some attention on this with this little article. And maybe, if all of us look for the women more actively and refuse to accept men-only-whatever we’ll slowly, but surely help women get the place and space they, we, deserve!