Learning What It Means to Feel Empowered

A few weeks ago we went to a seminar about ‘Sexism in Everyday Life’ and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a while.

Right now, I’m doing a volunteering year as gap between school and university. I’ll make a post about the whole thing soon because it’s kind of hecking awesome, but all you need to know for this is that we can attend about any form of seminar as part of the year.

One of my friends here is recently getting interested in lots of social issues and found a seminar about ‘Sexism in Everyday Life‘ which was held in Bremen – about 4 hours from here. It’s also one of the cities I consider going to uni in, so it was pretty awesome for me.

Also, I didn’t think I’d mind the car ride. Any other day I wouldn’t have, but I’d had a rough week and standing up at 4:30 on a saturday C74Rml7W4AA3B_h (1)wasn’t really helping. I slept and felt crappy for the whole ride there, but as soon as we were sitting in this beautiful old-ish house in a room full of sunlight and plants and chairs made out of wicker and paintings and high ceilings I felt like I had an awesome day ahead of me.

Spoiler alert: I did.

The seminar was held by two amazingly competent university students and beside 8 of us volunteers, there were maybe 8 other people there, all between 17-29 years old. The seminar was technically for women only (which lead to quite a few annoying discussions with my cis flat mate about safe spaces) and it turned out three of us were on the trans spectrum.

We started out by positioning us in the room depending on if we think a situation was sexist or not. For example, some thought a male stranger holding a door open for you as a female-read person was downright violent while some found it just a nice gesture. As the day went on, we talked through all the basics of different forms of sexism and how to encounter them. Mostly, we just started discussing about any topic somebody brought up and stressed the two girls who held the seminar with how this messed with their plans.

Through the whole day, the atmosphere in the room stayed extremely respectful and positive. In the end those two girls said they’d never had such a positive vibe in any seminar. If everybody could always discuss things in this manner the world would be a whole lot nicer, let me tell you.

So, here’s a thing. I know my way around sexism and feminism. But since my main source has always been the internet which I use primarily in English, I only knew about the history of feminism etc. in english-speaking countries. Also, until that seminar, I had no idea how to talk about issues of sexism and feminism in german. There aren’t any gender neutral pronouns you can expect people to know, every fricking word is gendered and generally I just lacked the vocabulary.

Just by listening and joining in on the conversations I learned so damn much, I’m still impressed. I feel like I can finally talk about topics like feminism, sexism, gender and sexuality in German without lacking words in every sentence. It’s a simple thing, but so, so big for me.

From the women actually working for the organisation to some of the volunteers who’ve never put much thought to feminism or sexism, by the end of the day everybody felt
empowered
andIMG-20170312-WA0009 2 enriched, and everyone kept saying so. I knew what that meant in theory, feeling ’empowered’, but I didn’t know it’d feel so damn amazing.

Another thing that made this seminar so important to me is that for the first time I’ve seen people acting out and talking about issues regarding feminism, sexuality and gender, something I’ve never seen outside of the internet, at least not in this degree.

I don’t know if I’ll ever become one of them, getting involved in politics or giving seminars, but it’s the greatest feeling to know that these women and people exist in my country, probably more than I would expect. And if I ever do decide to join them, especially when I decide to study in Bremen: I know where to find them.

And I know this. My friend will take me to a protest for women’s rights in Berlin soon. I know that we took some books on feminism from the seminar as well as film tips that we’ll use to get together a kind of reading group here for volunteers who want to learn. I know that I’ll try to change things where I am right now. The internet is great, but I’ll never change as much by a reblog or retweet or even blog post as I could by doing these little things where I am.

 

Kerstin

Have you ever felt similarly empowered by something? Are you in touch with feminism in your everyday life outside of the internet? Do you have any book, author, or film recommendations for our reading group? Let’s chat!

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