I am no longer silent

In Russia, I did not refer to myself as a feminist, all the more so as the word was rather derogatory there, even in Moscow. Much has changed for myself and in myself since I moved to Germany. I became more interested in the subjects related to equality.
 © Olga Kurilina
A year ago, millions of girls began to use the #Metoo hashtag, to tell the people how they experienced harassment and sexual abuse. The flash mob revealed the scale of the phenomenon of not individual but collective experience: it turned out that all over the world women faced the same harassment and arrogance on the part of men at work, in the street, and at a disco. We privately talked about this subject with colleagues and friends and thought it affected only us. However, in the stories shared by activists, culture workers and common women living thousands of kilometers away from us, we heard our own voices.

I supported the movement with my own story. I did not want to jeopardize anyone or to demonstrate solidarity with the “yelling girls who have been silent so long”, as a friend of mine once said. By the way, later I often heard questions why those women had said nothing before. It was difficult for me to answer this question asked by middle-aged white men who had never been harassed in their life and explain to them and to the whole world all that pain and repulsion experienced by any woman who had been harassed.

My past

I have been living in Berlin for already 7 years, and I work as a journalist. It was not easy for me to start a career in mass media in the new country. As a woman migrant from the post-Soviet country, I often heard, even in civilized Germany, phrases like: “All Slavic girls wish to marry a rich European” or “Of course, a man must always pay for a Russian woman”. If a seller of shawarma or a stranger at a party said such things to me, I simply ignored them.

I came across a much more complicated situation when I had one of my first jobs. I was a young girl who had just come to live in the European Union, trying to earn my living and make a career in my field, so, I had to be diplomatic and smoothen down some incidents. From the very beginning, my editor aged 40+ looked at me like a hungry cat looking at milk, and he did that, being a married man with children! He regularly paid compliments to me and tried to touch me when we together watched the video material I had produced. After work, he texted to me suggesting that I should join him for a dinner, with all the consequences implied. As I found out later, I was not the only one with whom the man wanted to spend his free time this way.

It seemed to me that I was able to resolve the situation without sacrifices and bitter feelings, when I indicated to my senior colleague that his phrases, glances and hints were out of place. Yet, it only seemed so to me... We had a business lunch, to be more exact, it was only me who believed the lunch had a business purpose. We discussed several working items, after which he made a long pause and looked at me attentively. And suddenly, out of the blue, he asked me if I wanted to take part in a closed intimate photo session, for which he was willing to pay me. “Do not worry: no one except me will see those pics. I simply wish to keep them for memory”, — my boss tried to persuade me. I was stupefied for a second. Having pulled myself together, I firmly said to my boss that he should not make such propositions to his colleagues. My contract with the company soon expired, together with the spicy initiatives on the part of the German editor.

Only a few of my friends know about that unpleasant experience of mine. Although I do not practice self-censorship, I realize that it is difficult for me to describe this situation. Therefore, the questions why the women have been keeping silent for such a long time speak rather about total misunderstanding and the absence of compassion from the society. Only those can ask those questions who have been fortunate to escape harassment. Any attempts to compromise those women who share their sad experiences only indicate that we have a long way to go to achieve complete equality of the genders. So, I am glad that time has come to raise tabooed subjects and to openly state our problems.

My present

The #Metoo flash mob, which started as a possibility of open statement of experienced harassment and violence, simultaneously provided a reason to raise other problems, as well, for example, job discrimination. And the conclusion we have to make is not optimistic: eventually, we are living in a world in which white men dominate and dictate their views to others. We, as a society, often speak about equality, however, even living in a country in which Angela Merkel is the head of the government, I must say that women have difficulty to occupy key positions in many areas.

Unfortunately, I observe it in my field, too. I see it again and again with each new job added to the list of my employments. On the one hand, my origin and my gender bring diversity and unique experience into my work: for example, a woman refugee from Syria agreed to be interviewed by me, rather than by my German colleague. On the other hand, the same factors slow down my career growth.

Beginning with this year, I am taking part in a program for young journalists with a migration background. One of the topics we regularly discuss is domination of white men over 40 in the world of media. I see it myself in the editorial offices of the main media. In particular, the central television channels cannot boast of large variety of the managing personnel. There are many studies in Germany which prove that journalism is one of the few areas where women have special difficulty reaching the career heights. Although I have never been denied a job because I am a girl, men have always been my bosses.

Now discussions about feminism, combat against misogyny, and the desire to integrate more and more women into key decision-making in mass media are now being conducted, but in real life things continue to be different. In Germany, girls are paid less for the same job than men, and the measures encouraging businesses and organizations to raise the number of women occupying managerial positions do not result in this rise. Moreover, according to the information from the Statistics Bureau, less girls have been appointed to managerial positions over the recent years. In the area of communications, to which journalism refers, there are only 21% women among the top managers, and, as a rule, these are the managers of young online media.

My future

The phenomenon of #Metoo, which arrived from the USA, is not an exclusively western thing, and this is the reason why it is spreading over the world. However, in Germany, just as in many other countries, much work is to be done before we can speak about equal opportunities for all. Of course, there is hope that there will be progress in the society after frank and serious discussions raised, and men will support the actions and flash mobs, and, more importantly, they will really want to accept the gender equality.
© private Facebook-Seite

Olga Dietze

Olga is a freelance journalist from Moscow who lives in Berlin since 2011. She works for ZDF, RBB and The Globe Post.





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