Should we all be feminists? – Or does that just mean hating men?

I am a 20-year-old woman and, until a couple years ago, I’d never been confronted with real- life inequality. And of course, in school I’d learnt a whole lot about problems like racism, gender inequality or lack of human rights. But I’d never witnessed anything that comes near those things. I’d never experienced different treatment because I’m a girl. And so, for a long time, I was convinced that, nowadays, people understood that every human being, no matter what gender, religion, skin color or origin they have, is equal. I thought that, after all we’ve learnt about slavery, oppression, and all the awful things that happened in the past, people would be smarter. Or at least more reflected.

Before I decided to write this article, I wasn’t a – trigger warning – Feminist. I was in fact annoyed of girls who called themselves Feminists because I didn’t understand what that was supposed to mean. I thought: “Why do I have to hate men just because I am a woman? Why should I stand up for one side, if that side is just as wrong and discriminatory as the other side?” I love shoes and lip gloss and dresses, but also sports and I like hanging out with my boys and girls on the weekend. So I couldn’t be a Feminist – I’m way too liberal for that, aren’t I? And I’m way too girly for that, right? Well, I started my research for this article by looking up the definition of the term “Feminism”: apparently, Feminism is ‘the belief in social, economic and political equality of the sexes.’ I was confused. That was exactly what I want and what I believe in. Such a reasonable attitude and movement! So how could I end up with such a bad opinion on Feminism?

Has “Feminism” become a swearword?

It turned out I wasn’t the only one associating ‘Feminism’ with negative terms like ‘man- hating’ and ‘reversed discrimination’. Way too many people have this dangerous half- knowledge or simply don’t see how ‘Feminism’ should fit into its definition. A male Anti- Feminist said: “There are way too many different shapes of feminism nowadays. It’s not simply about gender equality anymore, it’s also a distorted self-image of women who exploit the role of a victim”. Now I was angry. I couldn’t understand in what way women should be exploiting oppression. I felt furious – how could he, as a man, dare to talk so negatively about something he’d never had to experience? To get less respect, just because of his gender. I mean, my life had been cozy, too, but at least I was willing to get informed, right?

Wait, so men have feelings, too?

So I had a look at the statistics he mentioned and was shocked. For instance, in India, male suicide rates are nearly twice as high as rates for women. That’s because not only women suffer under gender prejudices. Maybe women are expected to be housewives and mothers, look pretty and shut up, to not take part in politics and economics and not have a real job or a career. On the other hand, many men feel they always have to be strong and successful; they have to be insensitive cavemen who earn the money and take care of their women and children. So men around the world are under this enormous pressure to never feel overwhelmed or sad, but to be ‘the man’ in the house.

Do we need new names?

The word ‘Feminism’ only contains reference to women. That’s because it used to be a movement to secure that women get to have the same rights as men, e.g. to vote or to work. And maybe in the past that reference to only women, to clarify that women are equal to men, was necessary – and easily understandable. But not anymore. There’s still a long way to go, there still are women who can’t decide for themselves and don’t have the rights we might enjoy in Germany. And for those women, we still have to fight. But while we fight for women’s equal rights in other cultures, we should not forget that feminism also means that men have the same rights as women. It’s not a shame to be vulnerable or shopping-addicted just because you’re a man. And it certainly doesn’t make you less manly. Just like women don’t want to be called less feminine because they’re athletic, men probably don’t want to have to prove their ‘masculinity’ all the time. And men should be allowed to get the same time for paternity leave as women get for maternity leave. Because – guess what – men love their children the same way women do. They deserve to spend the same amount of time with their kids as mothers do. So, yeah, I guess I am a Feminist after all. I believe in equality as well as I believe in individualism. In the future, Feminists of all genders will hopefully fight for men’s rights as well as for women’s rights. We can only hope that people stop valuing each other differently, just because of their gender. I hope that people once again start to work on their understanding of humanity and see that no one is worth less, because of their individual traits, be it gender, home country, religion or god knows what.

author: Kati Habisov

KARA-UKE IS BACK!!!

Yes, you have read the headline correctly: The following isn´t about the classic karaoke, which in particular takes place in Irish Pubs after everyone had already had two Guinness. This event takes your bog-standard karaoke to the next level by adding Ukuleles into the mix and has already become the new secret tip in Augsburg: Kara-Uke.

What is Kara-Uke?

Replace the karaoke machine by motivated guests with their ukuleles, and you basically have the perfect setup for a fantastic Kara-Uke night. Join this with readable chords and lyrics projected to the wall with a projector as well as the the motivated and guitar-loving Benni, inventor and moderator of the whole, and I can promise you that you will have the perfect Kara-Uke night.

No ukulele? No problem! The more voices, the better.

The great Kara-Uke restart

At the beginning of this year, the crowd favorite Kara-Uke suffered from the Corona-lockdown just like all the other activities requiring the encounter of a group of people and had to take a compulsory break. But now that more people are finally allowed to meet again, it´s back – and it seems to not have lost its popularity at all. July is the month of the great Kara-Uke restart!

And let’s face it:  Now that you were sitting around all day, I´m sure that at least some of you have used their free time  to practice some of those instruments that have been long forgotten in the corners of your room. Put those skills to use in this event!

The number of people has to be kept limited, which is why the normally free-entry event had to “sell” tickets – and sold them out in less than 2 days. Fascinated by the success of this creative event, I got intrigued to know more about it and had to ask Benni about a few things that I was desperate to find out.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR KARAUKE?

Benni: Actually, KaraUke wasn’t my idea. It’s an event that takes place all over the world in different countries and cities. Michael Dannhauer, Jakob Mader and I are just the guys that brought KaraUke to Augsburg.

When Michael was in Australia 6 months ago, he took part in a similar event in Brisbane, where people met in a cafe with their ukuleles. The organizers had a projector and a linen cloth set up, so people could see the songs with all the lyrics and the chords. Then everybody started to play along and sing together. It sounded so easy to me that I thought: Okay, let’s try this in Augsburg. Maybe the people here will like it as well. And they did.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT KARAUKE IS SO SUCCESSFUL AND WHAT DO THE PEOPLE VALUE ABOUT IT?

Benni: Everything about KaraUke is simple. The instrument – the ukulele – is tiny and cute, and everybody can learn it really fast. You don’t have to practice it as much as other instruments and very quickly you get a feeling of success. With 3 or 4 chords you can play almost any song throughout pop history. When people visit a KaraUke event for the first time and can’t hold up with the chord changes for example, they can also just sing along. They are happy when the C-Chord is coming over and over again and in between they pause, and have a good time singing with all the others.

It’s really exciting to see, that this little instruments brings so many different people together. No matter where you come from, how old you are, or if you have ever played music before, it doesn’t matter. KaraUke is an event for literally EVERYONE. And because it is for everyone it’s always for free. We collect donations where everybody can give as much as they want, but don’t have to.

WHAT IS PLANNED FOR THE 25.07. AND WHY SHOULD WE ALL TRY TO GET A TICKET? Benni: The next KaraUke on July 25th is the first KaraUke after the Corona-Lockdown. And it’s our first Open Air Event ever, so we are really excited about that. It takes place at the 11er Rosenau Biergarten which has a capacity of 100 people. Everybody had to get a (free) ticket because of the capacity limit. After two days we were sold out. But we are planning a few more Open Air KaraUke events this summer and even in autumn. Nobody knows how indoor events in the colder time of the year will work out, so we’re trying to get outside as much as we can. So follow us on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/KaraUkeAugsburg) , Instagram (@karauke_augsburg) or meetup and you will be updated about our upcoming events.

author: Una Kiesel

How much do we matter? – A midwife’s Coronavirus experience

Over the course of the last three months, a lot has changed in our daily routines. The sudden lockdown and stay-at-home orders have affected everyone in Germany. While many students, myself included, were able to stay at home and rejoice in the comforts of “easier” exams and a two-minute commute from bed to desk, essential workers were not so lucky.

Essential Workers during a pandemic

Undoubtedly, every single essential worker deserves more than just applause and praise for keeping our country going. And surely a million articles could be written about the heroic people that braved the storm and still made sure everyone was safe, healthy and provided with everything they needed. However, I want to focus specifically on a group that has often fallen under the radar in the last months: midwives.
For clarification purposes, midwives are women and men (yes, they exist) that take care of expecting mothers before and after they give birth.

Tanja, a self-employed midwife from Bavaria, recalls the beginnings of what will eventually surely be the prologue of a Steven Spielberg movie. “We were suddenly the only port of call and source of comfort for new mothers, not just professionally but also on a personal level. Most times, their husbands could not be with them in the delivery rooms. On top of that, the entire family is often present in the time after a birth but could not help because of the social distancing rules set in place.” At the same time, they were ordered to only stay with the mothers and babies for as short as possible, which felt like a strange internal dilemma of wanting to be safe and also wanting to give the mothers all the support they were not currently receiving, she explains.

Midwives especially were in a difficult situation because they had to move from family to family despite the no-contact rules which technically forbade anyone from visiting another household. “And on top of that, of course the families had vulnerable newborns that could easily get sick. Plus, we had to be extra careful since they had just left the hospital and were at a higher risk of having contacted Covid-19 already.” Tanja recalls.

The technological side of things

Another area of trouble was the gymnastics courses they offered to mothers after birth. “Fortunately, we were able to do the courses online almost immediately, but that brought with it its own set of challenges. I’m not a very tech-savvy person and of course, when you’re in such a strange new situation, everything that can go wrong usually does.” Laughing, Tanja remembers: “In the first session, we started about 15 minutes later than we wanted to. My colleague’s camera didn’t work and I couldn’t access the video conference at all because my e-mail provider had spontaneously shut down their site. In the end, both our kids held our cellphones for an hour because that was the only way we were able to access the course.” Since then, not only has the technological aspect gotten much smoother, but Tanja also jokes that she’s now an expert at angling the laptop perfectly so that no one sees the chaos in her room.

“All in all, we’ve dealt with the situation as best we could,” is the conclusion Tanja offers. “In the beginning, we really wondered how much us midwives matter. It seemed like every new rule put in place somewhat ignored our existence and focused on everyone but us, but eventually we were able to piece together how we should conduct our work.” When asked what the hardest part was for her personally, the answer is “Probably the huge weight I felt with regard to the comfort I wanted to offer these women but couldn’t. Pregnancy is often already a very scary time for them, and then to suddenly feel like they had to figure everything out on their own with the occasional phone call and the significantly shorter visits we conducted was a source of frustration for all of us.”

The moral of our newfound appreciation

While this pandemic is certainly not an occasion to be thankful for, it’s safe to say that our attention has had to shift to aspects of our society that we didn’t focus on before. Not only are essential workers finally receiving the attention they deserve, but like midwives, many professions have finally started being viewed as irreplaceable. Something we can take away from these months – other than a 1,5 meter distance being ingrained in our heads – might be a newfound awareness for just how difficult and important the work done by nurses, retail workers, midwives (and many more) is in our society. In the months coming, perhaps we can all do our part to make sure that we show this appreciation not only in clapping at a certain time every day, but also make sure they are treated fairly and also finally paid as much as they deserve.

author: Sarah Fiebig

The sound of bees buzzing – Keeping memories alive

It happens in less than a second… a bee flies close to my ear making its typical buzzing sound and (swoosh) I´m back to a past situation in my head. It´s a hot day in late summer, I´m in my grandparents’ garden in the east of Germany for the holidays, my granny has just made her delicious plum pie and maybe in the afternoon we will ride our bikes to the beautiful lake in the forest around the corner.

Wonderful trick of the brain

It happens just like a reflex: you smell, hear or taste something and it reminds you of a situation in the past. It´s like a moment you caught and put into an empty marmalade jar, only to open it up again and get a whiff of the feeling you had at this time. Just to name another few examples: I love the smell of gasoline. Not because it´s a fancy perfume, but because it reminds me of my childhood vacations. Going on a camping trip in Italy by car, being stuck in a traffic jam, excited for the next two weeks just enjoying life. Same goes for the sound of pigeons, which I always heard when I woke up in the tent.

The taste of milk chocolate – for me also an association with being a child. My first advent calendar, a Milka chocolate bar as a present from relatives or a piece of the typical Easter chocolate bunny. I take a bite and I feel like a little girl again. Another amazing thing: the smell of old books… or new books, as well! As for the old ones, their smell takes me back to rummaging in a library or my parents´ bookshelves. The smell of new books always brings excitement to me: like when you got a new book for your birthday and could not wait to start reading, or when the new year of school started and you were still excited about what would happen during the year (motivation was still existent back then).

Bringing childhood back to the present

I could probably go on telling you other examples for eternity… The smoke after you blew out a candle (on your birthday cake), the sound of a cow´s bell, the smell of French fries, the feeling you get when you coincidentally smell the soap your grandma uses as well, the scent of sunscreen or the taste of cotton candy…

All of these things bring some kind of joy to our minds because they remind us of happy moments that are already gone. Maybe in hard times we should remind ourselves of those smells, sounds or tastes and try to get a glimpse of them. Just to get the feeling of being a child again, when the worst thing that could happen was having to take a nap (now the most amazing thing ever!) and the best thing was eating French fries next to the pool.

author: Carolin Joos

Behind the green – Tips on how to spot and avoid Greenwashing

Organic. 100% recycled. Recyclable. Natural. Certified green. When you buy this item, 1$ will be donated to children in need. Think for yourself: Do you feel better when buying an item which is labelled as environmental-friendly or sustainable?

There are many words that could be used to describe something as eco-friendly or sustainable. When reading these, people mostly feel good for supporting a company that cares about sustainability, animals and human rights. However, most of these companies only use these for tricking people into buying their things – while not caring a single bit about problems like environmental pollution, child labour and so on. This problem is called greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines greenwashing as “activities by a company or an organization that are intended to make people think that it is concerned about the environment, even if its real business actually harms the environment”. The term is based on the word “white-wash”, which describes that somebody is trying to hide unpleasant facts about something and trying to make it seem better than it is. As protecting the environment and living a more sustainable life is a current and “trendy” topic in times of climate change and Fridays For Future, many companies try to use this for making profit and selling more of their products. For example, a company sells items packed in plastic but claims that they have a new campaign which reduced the plastic by 15%. So why don’t they ban it entirely and search for a completely different type of packaging which would be a 100% less plastic? Probably because it is cheaper and costumers don’t really think that much into it, as the item is “more” sustainable than others or the older version of the same product.

How do I recognize greenwashing?

There are some possible ways to recognize greenwashed products. Above all, trust your instincts. Also check the whole product, what it’s made of and how it can be disposed of afterwards. When seeing a green label, check why it’s claimed to be green. You could even go to the website and read through it. Do they give a lot of information about their goals and marketing or is it really vague and unspecific? Is there a lot of ambiguity? Research the company on other websites, which are not associated with it and check for hints. If you want to go into it even more, contact the company and directly ask them your questions. If they don’t respond or talk around your questions, it might be greenwashing. Look for certain certifications and seals on the product. Research them and make sure they are from third parties which are not influenced by the company.

How can I avoid greenwashing and take action against it?

You can avoid greenwashing by saying no. Don’t buy the item if you don’t want to support this company. If you have the choice, search for the same thing by another brand and buy it instead (if it isn’t also affected by greenwashing). Also spread the word. Less demand will eventually get the product from the market. If you want to go even further, contact the company and state your concerns. They might have done it unintentionally or are open for suggestions to improve their marketing. There is also the possibility to report it to the consumer advice centre (Verbraucherzentrale). They check the item or advertisement and may even go after it judicially. Now you might think “Why should I do all this if it’s just a marketing strategy?”. The problem about it is that you lose sight of the bigger problem that is hidden behind the “green marketing”. At its worst it isn’t just a marketing trick but rather an attempt to hide the bad effects the companies have on the environment. This is why everybody should take a look behind the green.

author: Veronika Grashey

Just around the corner! – Moving from small village life to Augsburg

It all begins with finally finishing school and being able to really start your own life. After you leave secondary school, your classmates scatter in the most diverse directions. Many are taking a gap year to discover at least a little more of that world that awaits us out there. Others start an apprenticeship and a considerable number enrolls in university. No matter what choice you make to hit off you’re your “new” life – it most certainly always involves changes. A major one that many students undergo is moving out.

How I ended up moving out

After starting university, I realised quickly that commuting to Augsburg every day wasn’t a permanent solution. That’s why, within the first week, I started searching for flats. However, I didn’t give the choice of moving a lot of thought. Neither did I know what it would be like as I grew up in a village. Not having my own car had made it quite difficult getting to the closest train station every day, since it was still 20 km away and the bus system in rural areas is exceptionally obsolete. I wasn’t able to properly get to know my fellow students or take part in any spontaneous hangouts, since mostly I had to catch the train and worry about how I would get home. I’m also fairly sure all of you who moved out are familiar with the process: it takes a little time to hunt down the right flat. However, before I knew it, I got accepted and packed up my stuff a week later.

“You don’t need to move out”

Family and friends didn’t like the thought of me “leaving again” after I had just returned from a year abroad. I got used to comments like “But it’s just around the corner, you can commute easily!” or “Why should you move, you just came back?”. Nevertheless, I started to gather my suitcases, books and an inflatable mattress. On the one hand, the journey to Augsburg takes only about one hour from my little village – depending on how often you get stuck behind tractors or crammed school buses. Not to mention the roadworks you’ll have to bypass on the way. On the other hand, I couldn’t wait to get to know my flatmates, have a new home and an incredibly short journey of 15 minutes to university!

All the things that are so much easier

Of course, I’d known Augsburg before becoming a university student. Over the years I had gone there for shopping trips with friends. I had even been to the university library the odd time for when I had to do research for my term paper back in school. As time passed and I got to spend more and more time exploring the old city’s charm, there were many things I wasn’t familiar with before. The following thought might sound funny to some of you: being able to take a bus or tram without having to wait for hours was merely fascinating to me! Or that I could simply go to the supermarket around the corner if I ran out of milk. I mean, how awesome is going to a bar on Friday night and not having to make it for the last night bus? Those are the things that weren’t imaginable for me to be real at all. You’re baking on a Saturday night and you run out of flour? Too bad, the little dairy is closed, and the next supermarket is 15 minutes away by car. Oh, you missed the school bus in the morning? Unlucky. Your last period on Wednesday afternoon is cancelled? You’ll just have to wait for the next school bus in an hour, no problem.

It’s not worse, just different

Some of those “experiences” might sound abnormal. I’ve even met a considerable number of people that were terrified of being “cut off”.  Humans have an astounding ability to adapt to circumstances, hence going grocery shopping once a week was totally normal for me. Even though I wouldn’t need to buy my food for an entire week all at once now, I still find myself in those habits I grew up with. I surely had to learn a lot about “city life”, even if it were just the simple things like being able to use public transport at any time or going grocery shopping by bike. Although I’m sure there’s many more students that have made similar positive experiences by moving to Augsburg, having grown up in a village was quite an adventure and I’m lucky to call that place my home.

author: Anna Schmitt

Moving away as far as possible – My Exchange term in New Zealand

If I told you that, in 2015, I got on a plane to New Zealand, you might think that maybe I was trying to escape a bad situation, flee from my parents or get as many kilometres in between me and my old life as possible. But you’d be mistaken: What I did was start the biggest adventure of my life so far.

German schools? – 18,000km away!

In July 2015, I flew to Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand. I was in year 10 at school at that time, which means I was used to our German school system with a monotonous timetable every single week. My first impression of Thames High, the school I attended in New Zealand, was that everything was less organized and school is going to be way different from what it had been like at home – well guessed, Michael!

Outdoor Education

When thinking about your average school day, would you expect to learn the theory of canoeing, repairing bike shifters or diving at school? I didn’t and I think most of you wouldn’t, either! All these things are fundamental in “Outdoor Education (OEC)”, a subject offered at high school in New Zealand.

German schools offer a broad range of knowledge to their students, but a lot of the content is not important for your future life. The opposite is set as a standard in New Zealand. The country tries to offer its students a practical education as well, which I think is great!

OEC 301          

OEC 301 was my course during my term there. At the end of each term, an Outdoor Education class goes on a trip. For my course, that trip included canoeing, caving and mountain biking.

Now imagine a lake with an average water temperature of 16°C, bloody cold wind and canoes. Our group paddled around Lake Tarawera to Hot Water Beach, a natural hot spring heated up by volcanic activity. We set up our tents and went for a swim in the lake… The water temperature was like 38 degrees in the area of volcanic activity while the rest of the lake was bloody cold. 

Day 2 and 3 lead us to a cave, but sadly, I can’t remember the name… and a mountain bike park called Red Woods. While my German friends learned about the French Subjonctif, I was able to gain lots of experience in wildlife camping and outdoor sports that I will remember my entire life!

It was great to make new friends and to get to know another school system. Absolutely recommendable!

author: Michael Kurz