The Germanic Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

16
Marginal Linguistic Existence: The Case of an Italian Woman

CAROL AISHA BLACKSHIRE-BELAY


INTRODUCTION

In most societies women are subjected to forms of discrimination as a result of their gender. According to the Basic Law of Germany, Article 3, "Men and women shall have equal rights." Women in Germany in particular have to deal with instances of discrimination that are rather unique to the country. There are for example more that two and a half million more women than men. Among the people over forty-five years of age, the surplus of women is more than three and a half million. There are also three-quarters of a million widowers but more than four and a half million widows. Although the World War II ended over fifty years ago, the lives of an entire generation of women in Germany have been shaped, formed or altered by the past existence of World War II. 1

In German society, old preconceived notions of what women are and are not are evident in most facets of the society. Just to give an example, at the university most professorships are occupied by males, while women are generally on the instructor or lecturer level. 2 This leads one to the conclusion that women in academia are required to devote much more time to teaching, and consequently an enormous amount of time is spent in the classroom. In addition, there are hardly any women in top business positions, and in the school system most teachers are women but most headmasters are men.

Women actually account for 38% of the work force. Nonetheless women are still discriminated against in many ways in employment. For example, the gross hourly wage of men in private industry in early 1987 averaged DM 18.24, that of women only DM 13.32. Even skilled women workers earned less than untrained men. In addition, discrimination also occurs in the differing assessments of the types of work "typically' performed by women or "typically' performed by men. Women's work is generally downgraded as "physically lighter" work. 3

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