Archive | March, 2012

“Krawall” – or let’s rock and roll

26 Mar

I wrote this text about two weeks ago but didn’t publish it because I wasn’t quite satisfied. Today I had to finish an assignment for work and since I am a professional procrastinator I, of course, now found time to edit it. By now International Women’s Day has come and gone but I still like the text and don’t want to wait one year to publish it. 

Hello everybody. Yesterday was International Women’s Day. I like it a lot because I lived in Poland where students give flowers to women on that day and because I work with a bunch of Russians now who all congratulated me. My mother doesn’t like the day because as a former citizen of East Germany she associates the day with dictatorial politicians trying to utilize yet another symbol for their indoctrination. In any case it is as good a day as any to reflect on feminism and women’s rights. (Let me use this opportunity to highly recommend my friend’s blog discipline and anarchy. It is very smart, you’ll see.)

I personally think we have come a long way but we are so not out of the woods yet where gender equality is concerned. However, this blog is about language so let me try and segue into today’s word.

One thing that just won’t die out is the cliché of feminists being angry men-haters. Internet discourse on feminism paints you a picture of some crazy, screaming, yelling, kicking, uber-emotional bitch that would love to take a sledge hammer to your car, that is, if she could lift it. Which she can’t because, wait for it, she’s a woman!

Women’s rights are an issue where you can wait for tempers to explode and emotions running high. And maybe it should be. Yes, we all want to rationally and calmly discuss important matters but some things can also just make you mad. And this particular cliché of feminists being angry men-haters really bugs me. It usually comes to the party with its friends ‘shrill’ and ‘shrew’. That is the kind of stuff that makes me mad. Sledge-hammer-mad, you might say. And there is a lovely German word that captures how I feel in those moments: “Krawall”. Oh, I love it. Actually, to do it justice we have to add an exclamation point to it: “Krawall!” It just rolls off your tongue like two powerful and precise punches. A worthy battle cry.

Leo gives a whole list of possible translations, some of which, I have never heard of. One of the possibilities is ‘riot’. Yes, in its extreme form, “Krawall” can be so disruptive and even violent that you can call it a riot. But I would say “Krawall” is what happens before the riot. It is loud and messy and some things break. It gets attention and people use the opportunity to let their anger run wild.

The word is rather old-fashioned and like with many of those they get a bit of a cutesy connotation these days (another example would be “Backfisch” – I will explain another time). I guess that is why I don’t feel “Krawall” is necessarily connected to violence. I despise violence in any form, but “Krawall” can in some contexts even have a positive connotation in my eyes. This shift in connotation can also be seen with the expression “Ich bin auf Krawall gebürstet.” It used to mean that you are looking for a fight. These days some people use it in the sense of ‘I’m gonna tear it up tonight! Rock’n’roll!’

After all this talk about disrupting public order I want to assure you that I am a civilized woman. I would never intentionally hurt someone of damage their property, no matter how much misogynistic bullshit comes out of their mouths. But sometimes, when I am hearing or reading stuff like that, I take a deep breath and yell “Krawall!” as loud as I can and it makes me feel better.