Office Dresscode: the ‘Skirt Yes, Shorts No’ rule is unfair – but it’s also sexist

Skirt Yes, Shorts No might be unfair towards men. But the reason it exists in the first place, is, that women still have to be fuckable.

Joey Barge on his way back to office (Photo: Barge on Twitter)

At the beginning of this week, a man called Joey Barge, decided to wear shorts in the office due to extremely warm temperatures in the UK. He was sent home by his boss, because the office dress code wouldn’t allow such inappropriate clothing. So he decided to come back in a dress again. His boss would give in eventually, since dresses apparently are fine. Ever since, 3/4 shorts are fine.

Joey Barge had his fair share of buzz on social media. More and more employees around the world, and even pupils in boarding schools have copied Barges creative protest.

And ever since, everybody is talking about how unfair office dress codes are towards men, because shorter dresses or skirts seem to be ok to be worn by women. Poor men!

Well, of course it is unfair. But let’s also ask ourselves why a shorter piece of cloth is only considered to be offensive, if worn by a man. Why, indeed, is it ok for a woman to wear a skirt? The reason lies in history. Let’s take a look back to the 50s and 60s. To the times when a woman in an office had one purpose: To represent the enterprise towards the outside, since as secretaries they where the first the customer would see. And, finally, to please the eye of the male employees towards the inside. In other words: A woman in an office had to be one thing: she had to be hot.

Additionally fuckable

That is one reason why still today, dress codes are different for men and women: Girls who have worked as hostesses at business events for example, often still have to wear skirts that end above the knee, alongside uncomfortable high heels.

Clearly, the problem is, that the still dominating male gaze in offices sees no problem in the fact, that a woman not only looks neat while doing her job and dealing with customers, but additionally is fuckable as well. While that same gaze is obviously taking offense by some hairy male legs.

So yes, it’s good to question standards that seem to be, well, questionable. But maybe let’s abolish these dress codes, because they are inherently sexist. Not because it is unfair towards men.

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Media covered Chris Cornell’s death as suspected suicide without any conformation

Not even 24 hours after the passing of Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell media has started to give out information about a suspected suicide. Since studies show the number of suicides increase after suicide news coverage, this is a problem.

The digital era has given us a lot of amazing possibilities for our work as journalists. But it also raises questions about how to deal with the new face of journalism ethically. In a time when reports from news agencies are coming in at a one-second frequency, we have to ask ourselves what is worth and right to publish.

Now a police official confirmed the following to the Mirror about the Cornell case: “We are investigating this as a suspected suicide.” “That is the line we are proceeding along.” This seemed to be enough for the Mirror itself, and afterwards the Independent, the NME, the Rolling Stone, Bild, etc. to run a little piece about it. And I ask why?

“Pressekodex”

The media and especially news journalism works by certain rules. Of course, these rules vary by region but western media works more or less similarly. In Germany media is (voluntarily) restricted by the “Pressekodex“, a bunch of regulations dealing with personal rights, discrimination and so on.

Paragraph 8.7 says that coverage about suicides commands restriction. In many cases, German media doesn’t talk about suicides at all, since also studies have shown that numbers of people killing themselves increase directly after coverage (copycat suicide or “Werther-Effekt“).

We shouldn’t write about suicide light-mindedly

So you see suicides should be dealt with a great sensitivity towards everyone involved. Up to the point where public interest overweighs one’s personal rights, which is given, for example, when it comes to people standing in the public light. Of course, Chris Cornell was a public figure and one of the most influential musicians of Grunge and 2000’s Alternative Rock.

But given the fact that up to the point of writing this text there is no confirmation yet, whether the singer killed himself or not, we should at least question these specific patterns of news coverage. We shouldn’t write about suicide light-mindedly because it kills people.

In a case like Cornell’s – when a body is found on a hotel’s bathroom floor – investigating suicide is standard procedure that shouldn’t be newsworthy. Yes, he is a public figure and the public has an interest in knowing how he died. But we should talk about publishing the story AFTER the suicide is confirmed.

Update: The cause of death has been officially confirmed. Chris Cornell killed himself by hanging.

Dear far right, Neukölln is not the Bronx, no matter how hard you wish

Berlin-Neukölln is hell. Sharia law, anarchy, no women on the streets. That is, when you believe some media reports and right-wing politicians. Is it though?

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There are some places in cities that gain a lot of attention and become infamous for the lawless hellhole they’re supposed to be. The german equivalent to Harlem, the Bronx, or the Parisian Banlieues, one could think, is Berlin Neukölln. It’s the kind of place your parents would warn you about when you decide to move to Berlin because they saw this report about criminal Arabs and daily violence on national TV. It’s that place you were never allowed to go to visit your friend as a Berlin Charlottenburg-raised kid because your parents feared for your life and thought that friend living there is probably bad news anyway. Neukölln basically took over the job from Kreuzberg for being Berlin’s anarchist dump, full of lowlifes and criminals.

I’m not saying there’s no truth to it at all and Neukölln is a place full of happiness and candy. But there’s a difference between hype and reality, between seeing and fighting real problems and picturing a structurally weak area as some sort of failed state or second Aleppo in order to push a short-sighted political agenda to please people who irrationally fear Überfremdung (fear of becoming a foreigner in your own country).

Whatever “real Germans” is supposed to mean 

It’s no wonder that Germany’s far right use Neukölln as a symbol for Überfremdung since they simply don’t like foreigners: 15% of its inhabitants are of Turkish and 10% of Arabic origin. Let’s just put aside the fact for a moment, that most of them are 2nd or 3d generation and born here, in order to understand AfD’s Björn Höcke, when he said “I don’t want conditions for Thuringia like in Berlin-Neukölln, Dortmund or Mannheim. This is not Germany anymore, this is no constitutional state anymore.”

Well. A quote like that shouldn’t surprise us, for we all should know by now, that Björn Höcke is a hardcore nationalist and a racist who thinks whites are superior. Therefore he would just thankfully use any example that links criminality in any way to people that don’t look like “real” Germans (whatever that is supposed to mean).

What is “positive diversity”?

Another thing is when a member of the government coalition shares his concerns about an area with high migration rates by giving delicate insights of his view on the migration matter. Jens Spahn of Merkel’s CDU said in a “Die Zeit” interview, that “when I walk through Neukölln, sometimes I barely see any women in some streets – and if, they wear head scarfs. In a free country, I have to accept that. But I don’t let myself be told, that this is a cultural enrichment. Positive diversity looks different to me.”

Now, I really wonder where exactly Jens Spahn takes his walks because it surely isn’t the same Neukölln I spend almost every day in. First of all, I see women everywhere. In every street I walk, in every shop I go, in every cafe I sit. Some of them wear head scarfs, some of them are not, there are even women from time to time who don’t wear anything at all because they’re just on their way home from some fetish party. There are white people, people of color and when I jump on M41 from Hermannplatz all the way down to Sonnenallee I hear people speak Arabic, Turkish, German, Italian or Swedish. And here it comes: Nobody gives a shit.

Sure, there’s groups of drunk men in the night that comment on women’s outfits, there are dealers trying to sell their stuff and there are people beaten up in metro stations occasionally, just like in every other major city where a lot of different people have to share limited space. Yes, these are real problems that have to be faced. But when a member of the government implies, that there is a good and a bad kind of diversity, then I highly doubt he has understood the idea of diversity at all.

They don’t speak to the people who actually live in these places

That Jens Spahn is a man of double standards who uses two sets of weights and measures, depending on whether it affects Germans or foreigners, shows another interview with Deutsche Welle, where he expressed his concern towards soldier’s parents, who now had to live with the fact that their children serve in Afghanistan, while a court ruled it is too dangerous for Afghan refugees to be sent back there. Herr Spahn, this is, because there’s war.

 

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“How do I explain to a German mother whose son or daughter serves in the north of Afghanistan, that we don’t deport young Afghans?” – Jens Spahn

Of course, Neukölln is a thankful metaphor for politicians. They want an easy example of a place where things go wrong, to address voters who live far away from these places. As a result, they create a distorted image of a place that surely struggles with poverty and unemployment. What they don’t give us is a realistic analysis of these problems being created by intersectional discrimination. They don’t speak to the people who actually live in these places. They don’t speak to me, who lived there, not to the many of my (mostly female) friends who live there, not to my immigrant girlfriend who lives and loves it there and especially not to the many people with a migration background. To politicians like Spahn and Höcke, Neukölln is not more than a scapegoat.

 

How the debate about Cologne’s “Silvesternacht” all went wrong

A version of the following article was first published in Al Ard – Die Welt in Berlin, for which I work as the chief editor. It was published in both German and Arabic language. See here the English version:

The massive sexual assaults in the last night of 2015 around Cologne central station had vast implications on both asylum and the sexual offences act. These political knee-jerk reactions mirror a fatal public debate about the origin of the offenders and allegedly imported sexual violence against women.

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This night still moves us. A night full of disinhibition, loss of state control and sexual assaults. A collective loss of protection and security. Incredible. New year’s eve 2016, around Cologne Central Station: hundreds of women were sexually assaulted, hard-pressed and robbed by a marauding horde of more or less organised men. The days after many believed this would be both a political and societal turning point. But nobody was sure about what exactly would change now.

Because a lot of the suspects and actual offenders turned out to be people who identified as asylum seekers, these assaults were immediately connected to the considerable migration movements to Germany of the year 2015. During the weeks after new year’s eve social climate was downright toxic: In social media, people disinhibited completely and flooded the internet with the most wicked racist verbal diarrhoea. At the liberal end of the social spectrum, the educated middle class denied everyone having any sense of humanity, who dared to question the then practised asylum policies in any way.

A lot happened but no answer to the most urging problem

The media was criticised as well for their belated coverage. They now had to discuss whether it is justified to name an offenders origin or ethnicity, no matter if this actually plays a role or not (Other than in anglo-american media the german consensus is not to). A great number of commentators feared the german public now would finally split into extremely polarised camps. The government’s reactions seemed helpless in their effort to rapidly tightening up both the asylum and sexual offences act.

You see, a lot happened last year. But there’s no answer so far to the most urging problem: Sexual violence and a molesting culture against women. The whole issue was so rapidly consumed by the left and right wing groups trying to push forward their agenda in the so-called “refugee-debate”. Therefore nobody seemed to talk about the fact that this wasn’t a new unknown phenomenon brought into the country by the allegedly pervy orientals. That this problem is also deeply rooted in german society itself.

Just another story about some rape somewhere in the paper

However, the problem is, that domestic issues are not so easily addressed because they’re not as visible as the Cologne events were. It is just too common and happens every day. Once in a crowded metro – suddenly you got a hand in your crotch. Once on your way home – random people commenting on your decollete. Once – just another story about some rape somewhere in the paper. Sexist, molesting and assaulting behaviour is still everyday behaviour as it has always been. But: Instead of thinking about whether our society has a problem with a specific type of masculinity the debate only raised the question whether only recently we have a problem with a foreign type of masculinity.

As if this wasn’t enough, also the victims were blamed and their advocates attacked. Feminists had to explain themselves why they had been so silent after the events, while their opponents already delivered what they thought to be the answer: If feminists would speak out now, they had to acknowledge the fact of imported violence by culturally unfamiliar foreigners. What was ignored here is, that these women and feminists just didn’t want to be instrumentalised by people, who just recently discovered the feminist inside and felt appointed to protect “our good german women” from evil foreign lechers.

A racist misogynist as US-president

All that happened would have been a chance for the whole society – and yes, also the newly arrived members – to think together about which forms of masculinity we are willing to tolerate from this point on and how we challenge and change the sexism in our culture and in our heads. Because only then we will stop to reproduce sexism.

The western world is good in presenting itself as if values like freedom, equality and justice have been invented here. But reactionary tendencies as we see not only in countries like Hungary, France or Germany but also in the USA – that just made a racist misogynist president – reveal a very different signal to the world: for now, it seems, you can just go on grabbing.

Farewell to Idols: Leonard Cohen

Once again this year music journalists around the world write obituaries for one of pop music’s greatest.

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That horrible day my dog died. I was 15 or 16 and he was my everything. I went out on the Veranda where my Father put him and as I touched him so cold and all stiff already I burst into tears. I didn’t go to school that day. Instead, I lay down on the living room floor and listened to music. We had that very old record player and radio system from the 60s with a nice and warm tube amplifier sound. I put on “Songs of Leonard Cohen”, the first track and I was gone, off to that magical place Suzanne would take me.

Ever since I discovered this very album in the old pile of my mother’s records some afternoon spent in the basement digging and discovering some really great music aged 14, Songs of Leonard Cohen was my personal devastation soundtrack. Later on when my first depressions kicked in when I was around 17 Cohen was one of my saviours.

In love with Suzanne

Every time I was devastated and in tears wondering how long it will take and how long I would be able to stand it, he urged me on that journey with Suzanne and I went with her to this wonderful, surreal place beside the river on a late summer’s afternoon and it was just her and me and there was no time and no space. It was so surreal. A place without feeling and somehow all was numb. There was no pain.

My father didn’t like him at all and freaked out every time I put him on quoting his songs were suicidal music and driving people mad and though it’s true and I’ve never heard sounds that were more depressing than his, he still somehow comforted me in hours of despair:

“Oh the sisters of mercy // they are not departed or gone // They were waiting for me // when I thought that I just can’t go on // And they brought me their comfort // and later they brought me this song // Oh I hope you run into them // you who’ve been travelling so long”

Leonard Cohen is dead now and I wonder why I wasn’t as sad as so many times earlier this year when a lot of my idols and childhood heroes died. Was I just too angry about the fact that the US just elected a racist misogynist maniac president or have just so many people died and I grew tired of feeling it? Maybe. But not only wasn’t I just not sad, I even felt relief for him somehow. Because I know he’ll be alright and I know he was fine with it. He always was and that’s why he was able to comfort me.