Don't Ask If I'm A Feminist, Ask Why Women Earn 22% Less

A German journalist suggests that the conversation around feminism has taken a terribly wrong turn. First you must ask the right questions.

A 1942 photo of a worker at North American Aviation plant in California.
A 1942 photo of a worker at North American Aviation plant in California.
Mara Delius*


BERLIN Yes, I am a feminist. Please forgive my yawn as I say so, but I really can’t listen to it anymore. The question of whether or not I'm a feminist is breaking my balls that I don't even have.

What, you don't like my answer? You want me to make a clearer statement, even though I've made my opinions known over the years in these pages on topics such as plastic surgery, transgender lectureships, power structures, Susan Sontag, Margaret Thatcher, Alice Schwarzer, Dirndls and the trouser suit? OK, OK: I'm a feminist and proud of it!

Although it would be rather more hip, as they say, to philosophize about Angelina Jolie’s vagina, or simply conclude that feminism has finally become obsolete. But determined radical mindsets are easiest to defend. So, here it goes: I say Yes to feminism. Is that clear enough?

Three types of feminist

But let’s approach this subject in a calm and collected manner. Those who have followed the German feminism debate over the last five years will have singled out three types of women. Those who don’t wear make-up, are hairy, and are as crumpled, in every sense of the word, as their potato-sack corduroy dresses. That's the 1970s feminist. Then there are those who are ambitious, egotistical, often childless, dressed in slim-fitting suits and busy zipping from one highly ambitious career goal to the next. That's the so-called career woman. And then there are those who are progressive, completely hairless, post-ideological, for whom hard-and-fast political demands are suspect. That's the contemporary young woman of today.

These different flavors of feminism are a mixture of theory coupled with realistic experiences, questions of the past mixing with questions for today, a specific demand for equality versus territorial cries of rage, socioeconomic conditions and ideological wishful thinking. This continues on and on until the cacophony leads to the inevitable demand that feminism be scrapped altogether, because it's just plain annoying.

Feminism these days is a mere ghost. It doesn’t actually exist anymore, neither as a movement, a moral compass, nor a shining beacon in the darkness. Perhaps this is why so many still cling to it, longing for a structure to guide them. I, for one, am not searching for such a structure, which may explain my determination to remain silent on the subject for a while.

The theory of the ‘me’

Coco Chanel, Hannah Arendt, Julie Burchill, Clarice Lispector, Ayn Rand, Diana Vreeland, Sylvia Plath, Carine Roitfeld, Joan Didion, Margarete Mitscherlich. Each and every one of these women with whom I have associated myself intellectually has tackled their femininity thoughtfully, though they probably wouldn't have considered themselves feminists. But let’s return to the original question, a question I am supposed to answer in a radical and personal fashion because I am a woman of these times.

Well, I'm lucky to find myself in such a state of enlightenment and independence where I need nothing more than to surround myself with certain things, including ideas, men, children and cars. So, what precisely are my feminist moments?

Well, let me begin with how I feel when I see the wage differential in the workforce and the absence of women in positions they deserve to hold.

When I first started in this editorial department, a long-serving editor welcomed me by calling me "blondie" (I thought that was amusing). Later on, a globally renowned philosopher grabbed my breast after I interviewed him (I thought that was disgusting). Nowadays, there's not a single female editor in a position of responsibility (which I find old-fashioned and very surprising).

The most recent survey of wages in Germany found that women earn on average 22% less than men for the exact same jobs. Why is that the case? I would like a clear and objective answer, please. Perhaps more people should be asking that question rather than prodding me incessantly about whether I'm a feminist.

Feminism to me is just another word for keeping an eye out for my own interests. Those who don’t get that are trapped in an old-fashioned attitude disguised as ultra-liberal, a state of mind that leaves no space for women who can think critically about themselves and their world.

*Mara Delius is a writer and culture editor at Die Welt.

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Feed The Future

COP26 Should Mark A Turning Point In Solving The Climate Crisis

Slow Food calls for an action plan to significantly reduce and improve the production and consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs by 2050.

A new dawn?

If, as the saying goes, we are what we eat, the same also goes for the animals that end up on our plate. How we feed our own food can have knock-on effects, not just for our own health but also for the planet. We are now aware of the meat and dairy industry's significant carbon footprint, responsible for more than a third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Large-scale cattle productions that favor pure profit over more sustainable practices also add to environmental woes through biodiversity loss, deforestation and pesticide use — with some of the world's richest countries contributing disproportionately: The five biggest meat and milk producers emit the same amount of greenhouse gases as the oil giant Exxon.

The good news is that we could meet — if we would — some of these challenges with an array of innovative solutions, as the fields of farming, breeding and nutrition look at ways to shift from centralized intensive agro industry toward a more localized, smaller-scale and more organic approach to production.

Cows fed corn and grain-based diets may grow larger and are ready to be processed at a younger age — but this requires significant energy, as well as land and water resources; in contrast, grass and hay-fed cows support a regenerative farming model in which grazing can contribute to restoring the health of soil through increased microbial diversity. Compared to highly processed GM crops, natural-grass diets with minimal cereals also lead to more nutrient-rich livestock, producing better quality meat, milk and cheese. Farmers have started focusing on breeding native animal species that are best adapted to local environmental contexts.

This new approach to agricultural practices is closely linked to the concept of agroecology, where farming works in tandem with the environment instead of exploiting it. If mowed a few times a year, for instance, natural meadows produce hay that is rich in grasses, legumes and flowers of the sunflower family, like daisies, dandelions, thistles and cornflowers. These biomes become reservoirs of biodiversity for our countryside, hosting countless species of vegetables, insects and birds, many of which are at risk of extinction. Until recently, these were common habitats in meadows that were not plugged or tilled and only required light fertilization. Today, however, they are becoming increasingly threatened: in the plains, where the terrain is used for monocultures like corn; or in hills and mountains, where fields are facing gradual abandonment.

It is worth noting that extensive agriculture, which requires smaller amounts of capital and labor in relation to the size of farmed land, can actually help curb climate change effects through carbon dioxide absorption. Researchers at the University of California, Davis determined that in their state, grasslands and rangelands have actually acted as more resilient carbon sinks than forests in recent years. Through a system of carbon uptake, these lands provide a form of natural compensation, going as far as canceling the farms' impact on the planet, rendering them carbon "creditors."

In the meantime, grasslands and pastures allow animals to live in accordance with their natural behavioral needs, spending most of the year outside being raised by bonafide farmers who care about animal welfare. A recent study by Nature found that allowing cows to graze out of doors has both psychological and physical health benefits, as they seem to enjoy the open space and ability to lie on the soft ground.

Some might worry about the economic losses that come with this slower and smaller business model, but there are also opportunities for creativity in diversifying activities, like agro-tourism and direct sales that can actually increase a farm's profit margin. This form of sustainable production goes hand-in-hand with the Slow Meat campaign, which encourages people to reduce their meat consumption while buying better quality, sustainable meat.

Others may assume that the only environmentally-conscious diet is entirely plant-based. That is indeed a valuable and viable option, but there are also thoughtful ways to consume meat in moderation — and more sustainably. It also should be noted that many fruits and vegetables have surprisingly large carbon footprints: The industrial-scale cultivation of avocados, for example, requires massive amounts of water and causes great hardship to farming communities in Latin America.

But forging a broad shift toward more "biodiversity-friendly" pastoralism requires action by both those producing and eating meat, and those with the legislative power to enact industry-wide change. It is urgent that policies be put into place to support a return to long-established agricultural practices that can sustainably feed future generations. Although no country in the world today has a defined strategy to decrease consumption while transforming production, governments are bound to play a key role in the green transition, present and future.

In Europe, Slow Food recommends that the Fit for 55 package include reducing emissions from agriculture activities by 65% (based on 2005 levels) by 2050. Agriculture-related land use emissions should also reach net-zero by 2040 and become a sink of -150 Mt CO2eq by 2050. But these targets can only be met if the EU farming sector adopts agroecological practices at a regional scale, and if consumers shift to more sustainable diets. If we are indeed what we eat, we should also care deeply about how the choices we make impact the planet that feeds us.

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