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John Riceburg: The end of men?

Women are taking over the world. Are there still any reasons to go out onto the streets on March 8? John Riceburg has a look around in his apartment and his circle of friends.

Image for John Riceburg: The end of men?
Photo by Veronica Jonsson

She earns more. She has a better degree. She even puts up shelves. I like to think that my relationship with my partner is about deconstructing traditional gender roles. My contribution, besides the occasional coin earned from freelance journalism, consists of things like laundry and shopping.

But we’re no exception. Many straight couples we know are in the same situation: in their late 20s or early 30s, the women are earning money and advancing in their careers, while the men never finished their degrees and are bouncing between part-time work and the Jobcenter.

What the hell is going on? One writer has declared “The End of Men”: women are taking over the world because “postindustrial society is simply better suited to women”. In a country with a Kanzlerin who will likely stick around for at least another decade, that’s not too hard to believe.

Then again, while 49.5 percent of people starting university in 2012 were women, almost 80 percent of professors are men. My partner’s office is full of female worker bees, but upper management is invariably male. And this is hardly a unique situation: even in Berlin’s seemingly progressive start-up scene, women are subject to subtle sexual harassment and little chance to move up the ladder. Women in Germany earn 21 percent less than men – a gender pay gap well above the average of the EU and the OCDE. In fact, to earn as much as a male colleague gets by the end of the year, a woman has to work until March 21 – so “Equal Pay Day” is still two weeks off!

Let’s not forget housework. Women in Germany do twice as much unpaid washing, cleaning cooking and childcare as men. This often forces them into part-time, ‘flexible’ jobs that pay less. Eighty-three percent of part-time jobs are held by women.

It’s not that women are being told to stay in the kitchen. When the Barbie Dream House opened in Berlin, we were reminded that Barbie could be an astronaut or a Kanzlerin. But she has to model clothes and bake cupcakes at the same time.

There is sexual violence. According to official statistics, one in four women in Germany experience violence in a relationship sometime in their lifetime – more than half have suffered some form of sexual harassment. Protests like Slutwalk have drawn attention to how widespread violence is, but we’re still a long way from ending it.

So I think it’s great there is the International Day of Women’s Struggle on March 8. This Saturday, for the first time in many years, there will be a massive demonstration in Berlin, featuring the rapper Sookee.

Still, I have mixed feelings about hastening the downfall of my gender. Aren’t women going to take over the world anyway, with or without a demonstration? I asked Ines, one of the organisers, and she said: “As long as the Axe advertisements stay the way they are, I’m not worried about the end of men.”

I’d reached the end of the blog post without even attacking those insultingly sexist ads for deodorant! Just one more thing to protest against this Saturday…

Women’s Day Demonstration: Saturday, March 8, 13:00, Gesundbrunnen