Archive | August, 2013

Pinkstinks: Konzert gegen sexistische Werbung

31 Aug

Pinkstinks_barbiestand_c_Pinkstinks

Mit einem prominent besetzten Konzert gegen Sexismus in der Werbung bündelt der Verein Pinkstinks am 1. September am Brandenburger Tor den Protest gegen plakative Anzüglichkeiten auf der Straße

Pinkstinks_barbiestan„Warum hat die Frau keinen Kopf?“ Ein kleines Mädchen guckt verdutzt auf das Plakat, das auch für Erwachsene ziemlich verwirrend ist. Die Fischrestaurantkette Nordsee informiert: „Fisch macht sexy!“ Dahinter steht eine komplett nackte Frau, ihre Brüste bedeckt sie mit einer Hand, ihr Schoß wird praktischerweise vom Werbeslogan überklebt. Und wo ihr Kopf wäre, ist das Plakat zu Ende.

Die Geschichte mit dem kleinen Mädchen hat Stevie Meriel Schmiedel im tip-Gespräch erzählt. Schmiedel ist Deutsch-Britin, Hamburger Dozentin für Genderforschung – und Begründerin des Vereins Pinkstinks gegen einseitige Frauenrollenbilder in der Außenwerbung.

Jetzt fährt der Verein am Brandenburger Tor mit einer Demonstration und einem Konzert gegen Sexismus am 1. September so richtig was auf. Mit der Rapperin Sookee, der Sängerin Bernadette La Hengst und ihrem früheren „Hamburger Schule“-Kameraden Dirk von Lowtzow. Mit den „Aufschrei“-Twitterinnen Anne Wizorek und Kathy Meßmer. Mit Vertreterinnen vom feministischen „Missy“–Magazin. Mit den Grether-Zwillingen von Doctorella, die sich auch um den Slut-Walk verdient gemacht haben. Mit „taz“-Chefredakteurin Ines Pohl. Und natürlich auch mit Stevie Schmiedel. Bei Pinkstinks heißt es im Vorfeld der Aktion, es wäre die weltweit erste Demo gegen Sexismus in der Werbung.

Ja, warum hat die nackte Frau denn keinen Kopf? Die grundlegende Botschaft sexistischer Werbung kann man vielleicht ungefähr so übersetzen: Wenn du „sexy“ sein willst, interessiert sich niemand für deinen Kopf. Nun könnte ein Anzugsträger aus einer „Mad Man“-haften Werbeagentur sicherlich erklären, dass das Nordsee-Plakat doch offensichtlich ironisch-übertrieben sei. Aber verstehen das auch kleine Mädchen? Laut einer Studie aus dem Jahr 2006, das steht auch auf der Pinkstinks-Website, fühlten sich seinerzeit 70 Prozent der 16- bis 17-jährigen Mädchen in ihrer Haut wohl. Sechs Jahre später waren es nur noch 47 Prozent. Was ist in der Zeit passiert? Unter anderem ist „Germany’s Next Topmodel“ im Jahr 2006 auf Sendung gegangen. Ob es einen Zusammenhang gibt? Der Deutsche Werberat leugnet jede Korrelation, aber Stevie Schmiedel – selbst Mutter zweier Töchter – sieht sehr wohl einen Zusammenhang zwischen den dürren Models im Fernsehen und der Zunahme von Magersucht, auch bei immer jüngeren Mädchen.

Schmiedel gründete vor einem Jahr, mit Inspiration aus Großbritannien, den Verein Pinkstinks in Hamburg. Erfolgreich protestierte sie gegen Bikini-Werbung von C&A und das rosa Überraschungsei für Mädchen. Der Verein bietet Vorträge in Schulen und Unis an. Es gibt ja auch reichlich zu tun.

In den U-Bahnen, an Gebäudeflächen, in Zeitschriften – überall in der Stadt werden leicht bekleidete junge Frauen abgebildet. Immer und immer wieder. Der DSL-Anbieter Alice warb vor wenigen Jahren mit einer Blondine, im roten Abendkleid, aber barfuß, die manchmal 100 Meter groß war – dabei war es mitunter recht schwer zu entschlüsseln, was die Firma Alice überhaupt verkaufen wollte.

PinkStinks_StevieAxeIn einer Plakatkampagne für das Axe-Deo schlang kürzlich eine nackte Frau ihre Beine um den Leib eines voll bekleideten Astronauten, verbunden mit Verheißungen wie der, Astronauten würden „das mit dem Verkehr“ regeln, oder dass sie „Geräte ohne Ende“ hätten. Slogans, die klingen, als wären sie von Rainer Brüderle inspiriert worden. Derartige Schlüpfrigkeiten muten arg abstrus an – und auch fürs männliche Zielpublikum ziemlich beleidigend.

Doch nicht nur bei pubertierenden Jungs könnte auf diesem -Wege die schlichte Vorstellung ins Unterbewusstsein drängen, dass die Frau genauso leicht erhältlich sein könnte wie das Deo-Spray. Ansonsten bliebe natürlich noch die Frage, wie man denn nun an so einen verdammten Astronauten-Anzug herankommt.

Die erwähnte Nordsee-Werbung gab es übrigens auch in einer männlichen Version mit einem – ebenfalls kopflosen – muskulösen Männerkörper, der ein schwer erreichbares Schönheitsideal verbreitet. Ist die Gleichberechtigung also erreicht? Halbnackte Männer in der Werbung sind nicht nur stark, sie gucken geradeaus mit entschlossenem Blick – während Frauen, die mitunter aussehen, als wären sie gerade einer Hungerkatastrophe entronnen, mit leicht gespreiztem Mund und gekrümmten Posen in die Ferne schauen und ihre sexuelle Verfügbarkeit zur Schau stellen.

„Früher war das Problem, dass die Models nicht wie normale Frauen aussahen“, erklärt Schmiedel. „Doch jetzt sehen nicht mal die Models wie Models aus.“ Dank Photoshop werden Schönheitsideale plakatiert, die rein biologisch unerreichbar sind. Auch das Topmodel Cindy Crawford musste erklären: „I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford!“ („Ich wünschte, ich würde so aussehen wie Cindy Crawford!“) Die Plakate-Cindy. Aber so sieht ja nun wirklich kein Mensch aus.

Dabei gibt es aber natürlich auch Karrieremöglichkeiten für Frauen, die vor einigen Jahrzehnten ganz undenkbar gewesen wären, von der deutschen Bundeskanzlerin bis zur – vielleicht in wenigen Jahren – US-Präsidentin. Franziska Sedlak von der Kampagne Occupy Barbie-Dreamhouse, die am Brandenburger Tor auch mit von der Partie ist, spricht von „immer komplexeren Rollenbildern“, die suggerieren, dass für eine steile Karriere ein stets gepflegtes Aussehen erwartet wird. Mit oder ohne Kindern.

Und deswegen steht auf der Kundgebung am 1. September die Forderung nach stärkeren Regeln für geschlechtsdiskriminierende Werbung im Mittelpunkt. Mit dabei ist die queerfeministische Berliner Rapperin Sookee, die jungen Mädchen sagen möchte: „Die Darstellungen, wie Jungs und Mädchen sein sollten, sind nur irgendwelche Ideen, die wir getrost doof finden können.“ Sookee empfiehlt das Mantra, „dass man okay ist, wie man ist, dass man keine blöden Produkte braucht, um sexy oder zufrieden zu sein“.

Und Dirk von Lowtzow ist dabei, weil er ein Problem mit „vorsintflutlichem Geschlechterdenken“ hat und Solidarität ausdrücken möchte: „Es kann sicherlich nicht schaden, wenn man seine Position als weißer männlicher Heterosexueller kritisch hinterfragt.“

Neben Musik wird es auch Redebeiträge von den Frauen des Twitter-Aufschreis, dem Bundesverband Frauennotruf und der Kampagne Occupy Barbie-Dreamhouse geben.

Am Tag darauf wird dann Pinkstinks in der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung eine Petition an den Deutschen Werberat übergeben, in der gefordert wird, dass die Außenwerbung aus der Sicht von Kindern beurteilt werden müsse, da Kinder die sexistische Ironie nicht verstehen, sondern womöglich als tatsächliche Rollenbilder verinnerlichen.

Denn es ist ja nicht das einzige Problem, wenn nackte Frauen mitunter ohne Kopf auf Plakaten zu sehen sind.

Text: John Riceburg
Foto: Pinkstinks, Alicia-Kassebohm

Konzert und Demo gegen Sexismus in der Außenwerbung Motto: Come as you are: Vielfalt ist Schönheit! u.a. mit Stevie von Pinkstinks, Sookee, Anne Wizorek und Kathy Meßmer, das Amt für Werbefreiheit und gutes Leben, Bernadette La Hengst, Missy Magazine, Terre des Femmes und Bff Frauen gegen Gewalt e.V., Doctorella, Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse und Dirk von Lowtzow (Tocotronic). Direkt vor dem Brandenburger Tor. So 1.9., 15–17 Uhr.

Quelle: http://www.tip-berlin.de/kultur-und-freizeit-stadtleben-und-leute/pinkstinks-konzert-gegen-sexistische-werbung

Leftists behind bars

13 Aug

anarchist bars

They might seem intimidating at first, but these Berlin hangouts keep the city’s rebellious spirit alive. The cheap drinks don’t hurt, either.

BAIZ: No Becks, no latte, no bullshit… But for how long?

It all started 10 years ago. Matthias, a big guy with a blonde ponytail and a leather vest who wouldn’t look out of place in a motorcycle gang, had been living in an occupied house in Prenzlauer Berg since 1990. He did regular shifts at the bar there, but “at some point I noticed I was 10 years older than all the people on the other side of the counter,” the old-school East Berliner recalls. He wanted to create something more professional, a space that was open every day with multiple events a week. so in 2003, BAIZ was born right on the border between Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg.

“Baiz” is actually a Swiss German word for a local tavern, but the bar with the black-red flag is a true Berliner Eckkneipe: smoke-filled, noisy and initially aggressive. A sign advertises “No Becks, no latte, no bullshit.” Instead, there is Berliner Pilsner for €1.90, Zapatista coffee from Chiapas and, if you’re in the market for luxury, a shot of Cuban rum for just over €2. They used to serve €1 shots until they noticed tourists from nearby hostels would come by to drink themselves warm on the cheap.

Regulars include neighbours, political activists and a crazy person or two, ranging in age from students to 90-year-old grandmothers. The black-clad staff try to live by their left-wing principles: “On paper, I’m the boss,” explains Matthias, “but in practice all the people who work here make the decisions together.”

At the end of last year, they discovered an advertisement on the internet: apartments in their building would be available for sale by the summer, and the BAIZ space could be rented out as an office soon after. Their contract was set to expire in October and the building owners planned to renovate the entire building and sell it as luxury condominiums. The contract has since been extended to February, but BAIZ’ future is still very much in jeopardy. As soon as word got out, 120 regulars – scared of losing a hang-out and a source of cheap beer – crammed into the back room to form a “BAIZ bleibt!” initiative. they’re going to try the legal route first, but “people might do things we don’t know anything about,” says Matthias. “A Barman Can Bear No Responsibility For What His Customers Do.”

For now, the little bar is full. The back room features regular screenings of films from the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, even silent Eisenstein films with live musical accompaniment. If you’re lucky, you might hear a talk by former terrorist Knofo Kröcher about kidnapping a conservative politician in the 1970s. Maybe the 14-member East Berlin band “Bolschewistische Kurkapelle Schwarz-Rot” will hold a cramped concert in the back. And of course, there are continuous political meetings: as soon as the Marxist-leaning school newspaper Red Brain packs up, the “anarcho-syndicalist youth” sit down. With all this support, these indomitable anarchists might yet hold out for a while.

BAIZ, Christinenstr. 1, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz

ABSTAND: Punks’ paradise

In an increasingly tamed Friedrichshain, Rigaer Straße is a defiant bastion of punkhood. Among the squatted houses, the façade of a soon-to-be-completed luxury apartment building is stained black from a trash can blaze set by persons unknown. And at the corner of Silvio-Meier-Straße, a street recently renamed after a young antifascist murdered by neo-Nazis in 1992, sits the Abstand. On a summer night, you will meet dozens of leather-clad punks sitting on the sidewalk, accompanied by at least as many dogs. Both species occasionally get into shouting matches and can be scary at first. But Lena, a young woman with blue hair and more piercings than we could count, was happy to tell us about the location.

Open since 2009, the bar is technically a “private club”, where a €1 ‘donation’ buys you a bottle of a Sternburg. Its building on Rigaer Straße has been occupied for 23 years – longer than many of its residents have been alive. Now the residents have a 99-year lease, and they are planning to buy the building outright.

As legal residents, they are not often harassed by the police. “If there is stress, it’s usually from familiar faces,” Lena explains. They ask people to go outside if they insist on fighting. Dogs are also okay, “as long as they don’t bark constantly or pee everywhere.” One punk at the bar remembers a drinking game: “We would take a shot every time one of the dogs pissed in the corner.” But even the Abstand is experiencing gentrification, in its own small way: the bathrooms, once legendarily rancid, were remodeled a few months ago.

“We’re apolitical,” Lena says. “At least, we’re not politically correct.” Of course the bar is against Nazis and sexism – a big poster on the wall exclaims “no means no!” and shows a woman with a pair of bolt cutters – but Abstand serves meat in their Volxküche, alongside vegan hamburgers. And what do they think about tourists walking down from antje Øklesund down the street? “Tourists tend to be uncertain. They walk by, look in the window, and usually move on.”

Abstand, Rigaer Str. 78, Friedrichshain, U-Bhf Samariterstr.

DIE TAGUNG: Eastern wonderland

“Restricted area!” “State border!” “Mines!” the signs at the door don’t exactly make you feel welcome – more like you are approaching the Berlin Wall and are about to be shot. But inside, Die Tagung, a remnant from an earlier time in the trendiest part of Friedrichshain, looks a lot more upbeat. The walls are decked with diverse memorabilia from the german Democratic Republic, from the blue flags of the Free German Youth (FDJ) and busts of Marx and Lenin to cigarette ads and price lists from a bakery – as long as it’s Eastern, you can see it here.

The bar has been around since 1992. “All this stuff was just lying around on the street, and the founder thought it was a shame that it was being thrown away,” remembers Dodo, the owner. The East Berliner has been working here since 1998 – back when the bar included an illegal basement club – and took it over seven years ago.

She doesn’t think of East Germany as a paradise: as a child, she and her parents weren’t allowed to visit her grandparents on the border with Bavaria, due to the danger that they might flee. “If I had come of age there, I would have been the first to apply for an exit visa.” But now she’s running a bar stocked with Red October beer, Pfeffi schnapps, Wurzener crisps and Caro cigarettes.

Google the bar and you’ll find a review: “they hate tourists!” But not without reason: “I just don’t understand how people can take things off the wall to take pictures.” On the other hand, sometimes guests will bring their older parents from the East and “they’re just happy as biscuits to see all the stuff here. Sometimes they’ll even offer things to add to the collection.”

Afraid smaller items might end up stolen, Dodo keeps them at home, leaving things like a gigantic black bust of Julian Marchlewski, a Polish Communist who was a founder of the KPD. They got the statue years ago from the island of Usedom. Now a biography of Marchlewski taken from a GDR reference book is printed right in the menu – saves the trouble of telling his story every time.

Die Tagung, Wühlischstr. 29, Friedrichshain, U-Bhf Warschauer Str.

Originally published in Issue #118, July/August 2013.

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/features/lifestyle/leftists-behind-bars/

Photo: Rasa Urnieziute

Do cool kids wear a Palituch?

11 Aug

keffiyeh featureby John Riceburg

The Berlin club ://about blank refuses entry to visitors wearing a keffiyeh, the traditional checkered Arab headscarf. Now a group of anonymous Berliners from the Middle East calling themselves “Einige Berliner Aktivist_innen aus dem Nahen Osten” have called this policy racist in an open letter.

Last October, hip hop artists Sookee and Badkat threw a benefit concert to help refugees enter “protective marriages”. Left-wing party stronghold ://about blank, the run-down East German building behind Ostkreuz, played host to the event. But some refugees were denied entrance: they were wearing keffiyehs, and the club has a strict no-keffiyeh policy. Only after a long discussion were the refugees allowed to enter – as an exception.

This isn’t an isolated incident for ://about blank. A Spanish woman reports she was searched by a bouncer and forced to leave her keffiyeh in a plastic bag at the door. A young man from Syria was turned away after refusing to take off his scarf. Just last weekend an Israeli man was blocked from entering because of the dress code. Does a simple piece of cloth deserve so much attention?

The people behind ://about blank say that the keffiyeh falls under a general prohibition of national symbols in their establishment. “Our motive is to avoid the promotion of racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and (German) nationalist content in our venue”, they explain in a leaflet available at the door in English and German, while they also recognize a “huge grey area”.

It doesn’t take an eagle eye to notice that while black-red-golden German flags are in fact prohibited, one can find plenty of Union Jacks, Stars and Stripes and even Israeli army logos on t-shirts worn in the club. Some national symbols might be part of brands, others might be worn in a tongue-in-cheek way. So why should the keffiyeh be treated differently?

That’s what a group of Berlin activists from the Middle East – including Israelis and Palestinians – are asking. They called bullshit on the no-keffiyeh policy in an open letter to the club, explaining that the piece of clothing “connotes many different meanings in Arab and Kurdish societies”. It can be a protest symbol of secular nationalists in Palestine, but also of peasants in Kurdistan. And more often than not, it can be an unpolitical accessory. “Calling this a symbol of one nationality is like calling expensive hipster outfits a symbol of white German identity”, they write.

The keffiyeh became popular in West Germany in the 1980s as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for national liberation. Ten years ago, a flyer made its way through Germany’s left-wing scene arguing that “cool kids don’t wear a ‘Palituch'” because it supposedly represents anti-Semitism: “Are you cold or do you just hate Jews?”, another flyer asks rhetorically.

These flyers claim that the mufti of Jerusalem, an ally of the Nazis, forced all Palestinians to wear the scarf in the late 1930s. But, critics point out, the mufti himself always chose a fez as headwear, and Jewish soldiers wore keffiyehs during the war of 1948. So it can’t simply be a symbol of anti-Semitism: some Nazis might have worn the scarf, but that doesn’t mean anyone who does is a Nazi.

In the last decade, the Palituch became mainstream fashion the world over; it’s been available at H&M for quite a while. But its prohibition remains in some niches where the radical left and the club scene intersect, niches like ://about blank. Most German leftists, even those who reject claims of a keffiyeh being anti-Semitic, have given up this particular accessory out of a desire to avoid the endless discussions.

But problems arise when non-German activists want to access these spaces: even if the so-called antideutsche consider it a responsibility of Germans to not criticize Israel and avoid clothing that might be seen as anti-Semitic, can one really expect the resulting dress codes to be followed by Spaniards, Israelis, Syrians and others?

The flyer from ://about blank refers to a “controversial and conflict-ridden accessory” which is “perceived to be an anti-Israel expression” and is used by Nazis “to express an extremely aggressive anti-Semitic attitude”. Their conclusion is that the “highly problematic connotations cannot be ignored”, even if it’s only fashion.

The authors of the open letter argue that this practice is racist because it excludes people from the Middle East. They are demanding an apology from ://about blank, in all likelihood in futility, and, more rationally, a lifting of the ban. ://about blank themselves have chosen not to respond to the letter, they told Exberliner, instead referring us to the flyer they have at the door as their reasoning. It remains to be seen if the call to boycott this left-wing party spot will have any resonance.

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/do-cool-kids-wear-a-palituch/

Foto: alibaba.com

Savage behind the Wall

7 Aug

Dan-Savage-2013-#9_fix

International sex advice columnist Dan Savage on German men, “sex and supermarket” German and straight boys getting gay-bashed by East Berliners in the time of die Wende.

Dan Savage has been savaging the ignorance in the sex and relationship world with his “Savage Love” column since 1991, rising to national stardom with his gay take on a straight world (with plenty of gays asking for advice as well), through its syndication – including a short a stint in Exberliner some 10 years ago. But before Dan Savage was a sex-columnist and author, he lived in West Berlin for a year. The year? It was 1989. He’s back here now, presenting his new book “American Savage” at the Shakespeare & Sons bookstore, and sharing his experiences of Berlin with us.

You were in Berlin from late 1988 to 1990. What do you think of German men?

As an observer… and a participant… I love German men. I lived here for that year and change and I wanted to stay. When my boyfriend and I moved back to the States, he was going to finish his degree and then we were going to move back to Berlin. We already had an apartment and residency permits set up… but then we accidentally broke up.

I love German men. I like cold people – I know that sounds horrible – but I like a little more distance. The instant intimacy of Americans – the ability to bump into someone at an airport and two hours later at the airport bar before your flight being best of friends, exchanging phone numbers and making plans to see each other again – is something I’ve never been able to do.

I really liked meeting Germans who held you at arms’ length until you were a friend and were suspicious of Americans who would glom onto you in an instant. The expat community, in desperation, would cement bonds immediately to create a web of mutual support. But the Germans I made friends with – that felt like an earned and true friendship as opposed to the casually offered friendship of Americans.

What do I think about German men in particular? They’re really good in bed – at least the ones I went to bed with [laughs]. Maybe that’s selection bias at work because I didn’t have a representative sample. West Berlin is also where I got used to uncircumcised men.

Did you learn German when you were here?

We called it “Sex and Supermarket German” because we could get groceries and we could get laid, but that’s all. We couldn’t get jobs, we couldn’t get into deep philosophical conversations, we couldn’t get into school.

So what can you say in Sex German?

Oh my God [laughs], I don’t remember it. It was almost 25 years ago! I’ve lost my Sex and Supermarket German.

Then say it in English. What’s a good late-1980s West Berlin gay pick-up line?

My “Sex German” was very different than other people’s because I had to determine that people didn’t smoke. I can’t sleep with smokers.

So your pickup line was: “Are you a smoker?”

Yeah, that was one of the questions, but usually you would see that in a bar.

But I had a boyfriend then. I wasn’t out hunting that much. The expats I ran with, for example a theater company I did a show with, we all talked about “Sex and Supermarket German”.

I had a German boyfriend too though. I was a very bad person.

Can’t remember any pick-up lines?

None that I would care to share because it would be too revealing about my sex life. Those are [my husband] Terry’s rules.

But this was before you even met him. Does that rule still apply?

It applies if it could possibly reveal things about Terry. And what I was looking for then, I was looking for when I met Terry. So no comment.

Did you have any experiences with a gay movement in East Germany?

We went to a few gay bars in East Berlin and that was a very bizarre experience. If West Berlin was 10 years behind the US in terms of what it was like to be a gay person, then East Berlin was 25 years behind.

East Berlin felt like 1955 and the bars were very strange. There were fussy queens sitting in a bar with a few hooker types bouncing around (i.e. guys who were 20 years younger than everyone else). Everyone was smoking and being arch.

We were coming from West Berlin where the gay scene was more leathery, grungy and rough. But queer people in East Berlin were beautifully turned out, just making an appearance in the bar. And there we were in our dirty jeans, combat boots and leather jackets – we felt like we had been blasted in from Mars!

What did West Berlin feel like?

Well it was the tail end of the 1980s, so there were fussy gay bars with guys with blond frosted hair and teal and pink tank tops looking a bit like George Michael.

But West Berlin was rough. The city was full of straight boys who were avoiding military service and were counterculture-identified, and also gay boys in the same situation.

This is going to sound weird but West Berlin reminded me of nothing so much as Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cleveland or Detroit – a big city that had collapsed in on itself. There was so much space to create things. You could find an apartment, an empty warehouse, a storefront to do anything. There was so much opportunity – not to make a million dollars but to make art, meet people and create things.

And this was even before the Wall came down. People talk about how it became the center of the youth culture after the Wall came down. But even before there was an artistic scene that was exciting and existentially tormented.

You walked in any direction in the city and eventually you reached this Wall. There was something about feeling penned in and knowing we would be the first to die if it came to blows in the Cold War (even though I wasn’t really here long enough to own that). There was a sense of existential opportunism that infused every moment of every day with a desire to exploit every moment.

Then when the Wall came down in a single day, and it was like the city exploded. It couldn’t have been two months later that you started seeing people in Kreuzberg with t-shirts saying “I want my Wall back.”

Suddenly, straight boys who had waltzed around West Berlin with a million earrings and pink hair and shredded shirts and jeans that showed off a lot were getting gay-bashed by East Berlin boys who had never seen a straight boy look like that.

Can you remember a typical space in West Berlin?

There was this weird basement bar called “Café Anal” in Kreuzberg that my German boyfriend’s friend owned. The floor, the ceiling and the walls were all covered with this weird print of two ovals and a little dot between them – it was the owner’s ass and balls. He would sit in paint and push his ass against the wall. I wouldn’t even know where to look for it now. It was only open late at night and it was this wonderful louche scene. I remember going to parties with someone – I couldn’t tell you where they were because I don’t remember – in big warehouses in East Berlin.

What seems different in Berlin 23 years later?

When I left in 1990, Potsdamer Platz was a mud field with a tiny little dirt road running through it. You could still sneak into sections of the death strip and sneak into East German guard towers to have sex – as I did with my boyfriend. It’s amazing that all of this is gone. Now you cross back and forth and it’s imperceptible what’s East and what’s West.

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/features/people/dan-savage-interview/

Photo: Christophe Gruny

Berlin’s heat wave: A Texan perspective

2 Aug

Cafe am Neuen See heatwave

As Berlin’s temperatures reach the high 90’s (or for you Celsius folks: the high 30’s), I’d like to say a few words from the perspective of the city’s Texan community. But first:

A Texan dies and goes to Hell. The Devil, eager to torment the new arrivals, asks him with a sneer: “Is it hot enough for you?” But the Texan, a broad smile beneath his cowboy hat, replies: “This is just like Dallas in June!”

The Devil fumes and turns up the thermometer until the local demons start sweating. “Is it hot enough for you now?” he asks. “Why, this is just like July in San Antone!” the Texan answers and wipes his forehead with a bandana.

The Devil rages and raises the thermostat to its limit. Hell’s already fiery landscape gets brighter as the infrastructure bursts into flame. But the Texan, still happy, explains: “This is just like Laredo in August!”

Then the devil has an idea: He turns the thermostat as low as it will go. And sure enough, the Texan is soon shivering and looking miserable. “How do you like it now?” the Devil asks. The Texan stutters: “But, but, but… Has Peer Steinbrück been elected German chancellor?”

It is hot. The air outside might soon be hotter than the inside of our bodies, and Berliners are scrambling for shade and water. It’s so hot that the German federal elections – coming up in less than two months – have virtually disappeared from public consciousness.

We from Berlin’s Texan community enjoy this time of year. During the roughly eleven months of winter, we are subject to ridicule for putting on two dozen layers, bunkering up inside and generally shivering. But at the height of summer, we feel tough: we might wear a jacket when it’s 25 degrees, and short pants or sandals aren’t really necessary for any day under 40. We can enjoy a laugh at the cost of Berliners who don’t want to spend an afternoon in the sun at Tempelhofer Feld.

But I think we need to be honest. Sure, the temperatures at home might have broken the 40 degree mark a while ago, but are we really that tough? Every house, car, office and store in the Lone Star State is equipped with a gigantic air conditioning unit. On Berlin’s hottest days, in contrast, people will be working in Döner Kebap shops that might be 10 degrees warmer than outside. So while we might have a lot to be proud of, we need to admit that we don’t really have to deal with Texas heat either.

While all the locals are complaining, I’m going to finish this blog post while sitting on a sunny park bench and say: on September 22, when Germany votes, the good money is against Peer Streinbrück, chancellor candidate of the SPD. His loss is just about as certain as the return of Berlin’s eleven-month winter. Until then, I’m going to be sitting out in the sun in a jacket and feeling tough.

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/berlin%27s-heat-wave%3A-a-texan-perspective/

Foto: Sigrid Malmgren

The straight dope

1 Aug

drugs jarka

The ubiquitous presence of party drugs in clubs, the familiar sight of dealers in stations and parks, the signature whiff of cannabis in the streets, state-sponsored injection rooms… Is Berlin too lax on drugs? Berlin’s commissioner on narcotics, Christine Köhler-Azara, defends the city’s liberal policy.

What are the most popular drugs in Berlin right now?

Heroin is becoming less popular – it’s not really a drug that fits in with the zeitgeist. If you take it, you want to sit in a corner and be left alone. Today young people are looking for very different feelings. They want a kick, they want to be faster, more awake, more stimulated. They want “party drugs” like cocaine or amphetamines.

What do you tell youth about party drugs?

One example of our policy regarding party drugs is the informational campaign “Na klar” which advises young people about the risks they are taking when they decide to consume such drugs.

Your flyer about ecstasy contains some pretty surprising advice – for example, taking half a pill and then waiting half an hour before taking the second half. Should it be the government’s role to provide this kind of information?

[Laughs] It’s a different line than in the US. You can see that in Germany’s Federal Narcotics Law (Betäubungsmittelgesetz or BTMG). Paragraph 31A of this law says that criminal charges can be dropped in cases of small amounts of drugs for personal use. In Berlin, with up to 10 grams of cannabis, the public prosecutor has to drop charges. Between 10 and 15 grams, the prosecutor can choose whether to pursue a case or not.

So no one will be sent to jail for smoking a mega-joint, or being caught with a dime bag in their pocket…?

Well, it depends… If someone is caught consuming drugs ostentatiously near a school or a playground, there is always the possibility to press charges. Paragraph 35 of the BTMG also stipulates that a sentence of under two years can be spent in a therapeutic centre instead of a prison.

That all sounds very reasonable.

We want to be pragmatic. Our experience has shown that it’s not a good strategy to create too much hysteria; it’s important for the state to not lose credibility. Instead, we try to provide scientific information. That’s more successful than a simple policy of “Say no to drugs”. But we also have to say that cannabis can cause psychosis, even after consuming it once – not in every case, but it happens. So when we do prevention in schools, we explain that smoking cannabis is bad for health and contains a risk of addiction.

Judging by all the young people smoking pot in Berlin, that doesn’t seem to be a very successful approach…

Berlin is indeed at the very top if you compare the Länder in terms of cannabis consumption. But then in terms of alcohol intoxication among youths, Berlin is in the lowest third and the numbers are going down. That has something to do with the availability in big cities.

Where do the drugs come from?

Everywhere. The Netherlands, Eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal… Of course there are cannabis plantations and methamphetamine labs in Brandenburg, but Germany imports, rather than exports, illegal drugs.

Aren’t some drugs, like ecstasy, fairly safe?

But you never know if it’s really MDMA in the pills. They’re produced under black market conditions.

Isn’t that an argument for legalisation, or at least quality control? There are quality checks for drugs like alcohol and tobacco.

Yes, but they’re legal. Illegal drugs are illegal for a reason. We don’t want to create a false sense of security by providing checks. These drugs are dangerous even if they are pure. If people want to take drugs to go dancing, shouldn’t they take responsibility for all the consequences? The state is not like Mama and Papa to take you by the hand.

But then the state provides safe havens for clean consumption, the Fixerstuben (injection rooms)… What’s the difference?

These rooms offer the possibility to inject drugs under sanitary conditions. The staff also offer information: where you can get needles, how to get vaccine shots against hepatitis, where to get tested for HIV/AIDS. They try to get people into drug counselling and show them they have alternatives. We also have a mobile consumption room, a bus with two spaces for drug users. It parks in different places, for example at Stuttgarter Platz in Charlottenburg.

They’re not always popular with the locals, are they? You have had difficulties in the past, for example with the injection room at Kottbusser Tor…

Yes, they couldn’t find premises, so the district government decided to step in and provide them with a space in an unused school in Reichenberger Straße. When you want to open a drug consumption space in a neighborhood, no one is thrilled. It’s the same problem with mental hospitals or homes for asylum seekers: everyone thinks it’s a good idea, but nobody wants to have it in their neighbourhood. So, before we opened the space, we organised big public meetings and all the neighbours’ fears were addressed. Residents realised it is better for them if people use this room rather than taking drugs out on the street.

Are Berlin’s politicians all in agreement with this?

There is pretty much a consensus. There were fights about this when substitution treatments were introduced back in the 1980s, but most people are in agreement about the basic idea.

Many people who move to Berlin from abroad think drugs, especially cannabis, are decriminalised here.

That is a mistake. Cannabis is still illegal in Germany. We’ve signed a treaty against drugs with the World Health Organisation. Even if charges for drug possession in small amounts are dropped, there are still criminal charges. That means people still get their fingerprints and their pictures taken. Drugs are illegal. And the narcotics laws do also apply in Berlin!

Source: Exberliner #116, May 2013, http://www.exberliner.com/features/lifestyle/the-straight-dope/

Foto: Jarka Snajberk