German Lessons

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Race and Gender Stereotypes in German Culture

The made-for-TV miniseries Mama arbeitet wieder explores the roles that men and women play at home and in the workplace in Germany. Studies show that for the fifth consecutive year, women earn on average 22% less than men in the same job positions, ranking Germany as one of the most wage discriminatory countries based on gender in the industrialized world.

 

 

In one scene of part 4 of  "Mama arbeitet wieder," Mark tells his boss that his wife is going back to work and requests to delay his transfer to Dubai. His boss responds:

 

Wenn das Mädel weiter Zicken macht, dann schaff' dir ein Exemplar der alten Gattung an.
If the girl continues to be bitchy, then get yourself an example of the old species [a more traditional woman].

 

This is misogynistic on several levels: first of all, he calls Mark's wife a Mädel, which is an ironic and often demeaning term term for a woman (equivalent to "stupid girl"); he then employs the term Zicken (literally a "she-goat") to classify her behavior as bitchy; he then suggests that Mark find a more "traditional woman."

 

The message of the series is actually pro gender equality, and the scriptwriters purposefully use such provocative and sexist language to point out how common gender stereotyping is in Germany. The writers additionally added racial stereotyping to the script. Directly after telling Mark to get a more "traditional" wife, the boss says to a worker walking by, who was not privy to the conversation:

 

Da gibt's nämlich nie Probleme, was, Mehmet?
With that there are namely never problems, right, Mehmet?

 

The name "Mehmet" is Turkish, and the worker's appearance suggests that he or his family originally came from the Middle East. Mark's boss is putting forth racial, religious and gender stereotypes in a single sentence by suggesting that men from the Middle East, or Moslems, always force the women in their households into "traditional" subservient roles.

 

Racism is strictly taboo in Germany due to its Nazi past, and by equating sexism and racism, the scriptwriters are attempting to heighten awareness of the seriousness of the problems that Germany currently faces in regard to gender discrimination.

 

Mama arbeitet wieder shows how a German man comes to terms in a positive way with modernizing his views and learning to drop stereotypes of a woman's role in the household and in the workplace. Watch the entire series on Yabla German.

 

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