Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Equal Pay Day

Harald Schmidt
Cover of Harald Schmidt
One of the bizarre things about Germany is how openly German men belittle women. Today is Equal Pay Day, and an article over at Die Zeit talks about the matter. The eight comments displayed below the article are all critical, charging that women are themselves at fault and should stop complaining.

These comments are based on the distinction between the 21.6 percent wage difference that is "not adjusted" and the eight percent that is adjusted – meaning, as this article previously published at Die Zeit explains, that women with the same qualifications get eight percent less pay than men do in the same positions, but that the overall difference (including differences in qualifications, etc.) is 21.6 percent. In other words, most of the difference between male and female pay relates to actual differences in qualifications, ambition, etc. This distinction apparently is enough to send German men blasting away at their keyboards.

One interesting difference between Germany and the US for me has always been the acceptance of jokes on women on late-night TV. As I once blogged, Harald Schmidt (Germany's most famous late-night moderator) used to have a hard time doing without such jokes, and the Heute-Show – basically, a copy of the Daily Show – also has a male fake newscaster who does not refrain from remarking about how stupid women are. Germans tend to laugh at the jokes.

Humor is different in the US, as the Daily Show shows. Jon Stewart would never joke about how stupid women are – he would have one of his female staff members do that. If he wants to blindly discriminate against a group, it will probably be the Jews – because he's Jewish. If he wants to slander blacks, he'll have his Black Correspondent do so, etc.
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  1. Instead we have the Republicans conducting what liberals are calling a "War on Women." Some thing, but without the humor to cloak it. Passing laws insisting women get abdominal sonograms to have an abortion, laws that will publish the names of women who have abortions, etc. One lawmaker recently compared women to cows and pigs while introducing a law to force them to carry stillborn babies to term. Not that much different I'm afraid.

  2. Jill, Germany is (as I recently told a colleague in an e-mail on the Fluke incident) a bastion of common decency compared to the US, where far more extreme statements are allowed to be aired. A German politician who says some of the things that US politicians easily get away with would be chased out of office within 48 hours.

    The difference between what US politicians and German politicians can get away with has been grave as long as I can remember, and I wrote about it here years ago: http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/19/19764/1.html.

    Germany gave demagoguery a real go at the dawn of the radio age and seems to have had enough of it for now; nothing even close to Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh would be tolerated over here. But Americans seem to confuse democracy with the freedom to be ungentlemanly.

    Which makes it all the more interesting that "blonde jokes" etc. remain palatable (I'm sure the response to such humor would be "can't you take a joke" and "don't you have a sense of humor") in Germany, whereas Jon Stewart shows how to be unassailably funny: make fun of yourself, not others.

  3. What is bizarre about how German men talk about women ? What does bizarre in this context mean ?
    That the author here does not understand the German way of thinking ?

    There are profound differences in the national character between Germans and Anglosaxons. That is no surprise.
    For clarification: In Germany you can say whatever you want* - the person that hears you can respond or not , up to them. There is no 'peer pressure cloak'. People regulate each other by direct confrontation.

    * unfortunately this admirable German trait is under constant attack by foreign influence. See post war propaganda etc.