Saturday, October 22, 2016

Gender issues in the Alps

Recent talk of gender issues reminds me of the time I told my Swiss grandfather I was applying to college and he asked: "Why the hell would you want to do that? What do you want to be... a professor? Better marry a man with 20 cows." He clearly did not see the value in a woman being educated.

Fifteen years later, after our move to the Swiss Alps in 2002, I noticed that nearly all our female neighbors stayed home and did not have jobs. Then one day, I overheard a female neighbor criticize another who had just gotten a part-time job.

"Who does she think she is? She thinks she's better than all of us," she said. "Her husband works hard and brings home a good wage, and this is how she thanks him! She doesn't even have time to cook a proper lunch for her family. She's just greedy."

Being a "Hausfrau" in the Alps, I learned, is definitely a job and a highly-regarded one at that. But when a friend from university once asked me: "what do you DO with your time?" I couldn't bring myself to say that I spent it grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and taking my kids to activities.

That gender issues have been filling up the airwaves prompted me to look into how this alpine country performs. Surprised, I learned that Switzerland scores well. The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2015 puts it at 8th worldwide (compared to the US' 28th place) up from 40th place eight years ago, despite the fact that women's salaries are not yet on parr with men's.

The problem is that Switzerland is still ultra conservative in how its population views women and their role in society. According to World Culture Encyclopedia, "Switzerland has long been a patriarchal society where women submit to the authority of their fathers and then to that of their husbands. Equal rights for women and men are relatively recent: only in 1971 was women's right to vote at the federal level established." And women only got the vote in 1989 in Canton Appenzell!

Strange country, but still ranks higher than the USA on gender issues. Could this explain Trump's certain popularity within a certain milieu?

Gone fishing — literally

As you may have noticed, I've been absent from the Swiss Alps, due to the fact that I've been fishing off the New England coast. T...