Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Typisch Türkin?

Thursday night I went to a book reading in the Frauenbibliothek, (women's library). The author is a second-generation Türkin, born in Germany with Turkish parents. For her book "Typisch Türkin?" she interviewed 19 different women of Turkish heritage and wove their voices together on different themes such as "headscarves", "marriage," or "sexuality."

During the reading, the author basically talked about how she wanted to emphasize the "?" in her title, that we should question how we stereotype or picture Turkish women in Germany today, because the group "Turkish women" is so diverse. Some women are extremely independent, goal-oriented, some are more traditional. Some are religious, some are not. Some wear headscarves, some don't, and even among those who do the reasons for wearing the headscarf are multifarious.

More interesting was the discussion that followed. The audience was all female, but varying ages, probably from 20 to 70. Some of the comments were decidedly from a different generation, one not familiar with cultural diversity. This provided for interesting commentaries and questions.

Although there are differences, there are many parallels in the way Americans talk about Mexican immigrants in the United States. Americans and Germans are worried about the way their society is changing. Should they have to speak English/German? What is the best way to integrate them? How much of their culture should they have to give up? Interesting issues.

One thing I think is really important is school. If kids don't get to know kids from other backgrounds in school, where will this kind of mixing and integration happen? How else will they get to know people from other backgrounds as "other kids just like me" and not as "those foreigners"? And the way the German school system is set up does not exactly promote this, as many children from immigrant backgrounds do not end up at the Gymnasium. Not to say that the US is perfect, because I'm sure that a lot of segregation happens just because of geography, areas with more immigrants for example, but it's a start in my opinion.

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