Whenever feminists in Germany start talking about abortion, Germans who are actually on the same side of me, will almost always say:
CAN’T PEOPLE TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ADVERTISING AND INFORMATION SERIOUSLY PEOPLE WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
I think the reason this is really frustrating for them is because they think a doctor should be able to inform their patients of all the medical services they provide without it being considered an advert. I feel like Germans believe that advertising stuff – telling people they should buy things or spend money on things you want them to buy or spend money on, so that you become, in the end, richer – is the opposite of what a doctor is supposed to do, i.e. heal people and stuff. So for Germans, this is a really important distinction.
To be totally honest, though, I don’t really understand the difference between an advert and a piece of information, either. Not completely. I mean, of course I know that „Better Buy Bold!“ or „Because you’re worth it!“ are obviously advertising slogans, whereas „Three out of four German kids have never been to a farm!“ is a piece of information (albeit just made up by me for the purposes of this blog). But if the last sentence was painted on a big billboard and that billboard paid for by, say, Farmworld, an exciting new theme park just eighty kilometres outside of Berlin, full of chickens and goats, plus farmyard-inspirierte fairground attractions (please someone remind me to pitch this idea to the German Dragon’s Den people, I could get seriously rich), well, then it would be an advert, wouldn’t it? So, maybe adverts are information which is used to try to sell you an idea, maybe it’s even information which is used to make you change your mind about something, maybe this it. And maybe a doctor can’t ever really – not really – advertise an abortion – because you’re either pregnant or you’re not – and so you either need one or you don’t? There’s no mind changing involved. Although remember those brilliant British Telecom adverts in the 1980’s? There was literally no other telephone company you could use if you wanted to. So although I respect how important this distinction seems to be to German people, I can’t help thinking that it’s not really quite as important as they think it is.
And the truth is, although I am sure said German people are right, and most of the gynaecologists who want to inform pregnant people about their abortions are doing it to be informative about medical services they provide for the patients‘ own good and not to make money. But part of me thinks – and maybe this is really Anglo-Saxon and decadent of me – part of me thinks: well, so what? Gynos have to eat, don’t they? Why shouldn’t they make money off of abortions? And honestly, the AOK send me some kind of unnecessary Werbematerial about yoga or Impfungen or just generally how much they want me to know they love having me as a customer (at some point, do the people at AOK actually realize that you’re too lazy to ever change Krankenkassen or will they literally never stop sending me junk mail about yoga?), what DIFFERENCE would it make if some of the leaflets they sent were about the morning after-pill or getting a termination? What is it that we’re actually being protected from? I genuinely don’t get it.
My column about self-care in Missy got sneered at so badly, and I think this is because Germans are very private people, and also kind of squeamish, in a strange way. Yeah, there are restaurants where you can eat food shaped like a poo from a toilet, but also, these people don’t want to talk about suicidal feelings – it’s too much for them – but what they really, REALLY don’t want to talk about is women in bathrooms. Make-up, periods, abortions, women should „take care“ of all this stuff and not bother men, or society with it. Do it secretly, do it privately, get it dealt with. This is why pregnancy is such a taboo topic in Germany, why people want pregnancy to be a really private matter, too. What happens to a woman’s body should happen inside – INSIDE her body, and then IF something goes wrong, INSIDE her bathroom or INSIDE the clinic. This is because Germans actually think they have forgiven women for the ooziness and disgustingness that comes with female biology – but the price they think women should pay for this is to deal with everything in private.
(I made a joke in a Wahrheit column once, which went:
„In Deutschland ist Schwangerschaftsabbruch ein Tabu-Thema – sogar unter Frauen.
Aber nicht, weil die Deutschen Promiskuität oder Rumfickerei eklig finden, sondern weil die Idee, dass eine deutsche Frau so verplant und unorganisiert sein könnte, dass sie beim Verhüten scheitert, zu schockierend ist.“
This is one of those jokes which you write it thinking it’s a joke but once you’ve finished it you realize that is actually just the actual truth. German society feels like it has forgiven women for being icky and bleeding and getting pregnant and being gross – but this forgiveness is totally dependant upon women being „efficient“ enough to hide all signs of their weakness, their vulnerability, and also their ooziness – the leakages – from the public. See also attitudes towards menstruation or breastfeeding.)
There’s absolutely no outrage about vasectomy adverts. Why? There’s a big one at Frankfurter Allee, it’s this kind of triangle thing in the middle of the road that rotates (can triangles rotate?) One square is for a Linke politician, one is for Erotik-Massage and one is for a vasectomy clinic. I know this because every time I wait at the traffic lights to go home after having been shopping in the Ring Center, I notice the vasectomy ad and kind of wish my boyfriend would have one.
What’s the difference between an abortion and a vasectomy? I’m not stupid, I know they’re not the same. I suppose conservatives would argue that before sperm leaves the man’s body, it’s not human, it’s just….fluid waster. But the idea that those cells which the female body is growing into a human being are already so human that their potential humanity trumps the live adult female human’s bodily autonomy is a bit perverse. Or, in other words: if men got pregnant, there’d be an abortion clinic on every corner, where the nail studios are now.
I’m not pro-abortion, by the way. I’m pro-choice. I think abortions are necessary, but I also think they’re often sad. I was sad about mine. Now, I know not all women feel this way. But I did. And I know lots of girls who’ve been forced to abort and I see nothing feminist about that. Girls forced to have abortions by their married lovers, or by their families. I know girls who don’t talk about terminations or operations or Schwangerschaftsabbrüche but about dead babies. A girl I didn’t particularly like very much once said to me: „You go inside, with a baby in you, and you come out empty, and your baby is clinical waste.“ I didn’t like her very much but when she said that to me, I got tears in my eyes.
In many ways, I’m so not pro-abortion I am almost anti-abortion. I think abortions are often sad, I sometimes even wish I hadn’t had mine, I wish nobody ever had to have one. You know the quickest way to reduce the number of abortions? STOP MAKING SINGLE MOTHERHOOD A LITERAL PRISON, ONLY THE BARS ARE BUILT OUT OF POVERTY AND ISOLATION. I hate it when Brits say simples, but it would fit here perfectly. SIMPLES! Free contraception and good sex education, that’s be a good start. And then, say, 2000€ a month Kindergeld, plus decent, affordable accommodation for women and their children, and free childcare, and when I say free childcare I mean free childcare that is both free and actually real not the free childcare we have now which is totally free but also totally theoretical. Non-kitakrised up free childcare. There’d still be abortions, there’d still be lots of them. But there would be less and if you’re truly an Abtreibungsgegner, na ja, see you at the next Kitakrise demo.
Making abortions harder to get, more dangerous for the people having them, more expensive – that won’t really lower the abortion rate. But I get the impression that most anti-abortion people don’t really want less abortions. It’s about punishment and it’s about control and it’s about misogyny. It’s almost boring, really. Almost