I’ve been thinking a lot about girls recently. More than usual anyway.
How many times have I gone to a meet up and found that, out of 40 people, I am one of only about five girls present?
I went to a language meet up on Sunday and it was a strange phenomenon that I had forgotten about. It sounds egotistical, but here it is. From the moment I walk in the door/across the park in these events, it’s like a sea of male eyes are all boring into my skin. I’ll take a seat and within five minutes a couple of said men will have moved to come and sit with me. They will take it in turns to ask me questions, as if I’m hosting a press conference about my mundane everyday life.
It sounds weird and it is. It is not because I am anything particular to behold. In this scenario I have have one unique quality 90% of the room does not possess: I am female. And under 30, which probably helps. It can feel a bit like walking into a packed lion cage wearing Gaga’s infamous meat dress. Wishing you’d worn the broccoli one instead.
So where are all the girls at? In my first months abroad I met such a constant stream of guys it got to the point that I would let out an exasperated sigh at yet ANOTHER group with a poor male to female ratio. Soon a friend from university showed me where they’d all been hiding. A Facebook group, for women only. Of course. Virtual utopia!
I clicked join and quickly became hooked. The group is a social calendar, an information desk, a tour guide and a safe space. Within weeks I had the beginnings of the girl gang I so craved. I met girls for running, girls for writing, girls for clubbing. I went from being one of the lads to revelling in an all-female revolution.
From the get go I enjoyed attending the girls only drinks every month. But slowly I started to realise just how autonomous the group is from other opposite sex. The requests came in for recommendations of an all-female gym. A no-men-allowed book club. Must-require-a-vagina hiking. X-chromosomes-only language groups.
Many of those asking cited poor past experiences: being persistently followed at an activity group or made to feel uncomfortable while working out. Just earlier today my friend and I were able to effortlessly swap stories of boys who have insisted on catching our social media like they’re playing Pokemon Go. Give it a day and we’ll have been bombarded with a series of lewd messages that apparently don’t require a response to keep going.
But I couldn’t help but think to myself – as much as avoidance is the natural response to a negative experience, in this case, is it really the right one? History does, after all, dictate that separatism does not end well for anyone. We’ve fought for years to be able to play with the boys… are we really just going to turn our backs and walk off the pitch the moment the game gets tough?
The Facebook group tells us one thing. Women in Berlin exist. We are here in our thousands with our opinions, hobbies and skills, our worries about UTIs, our quirky art shows, the pictures of our pets. Why are we leaving public events due to a couple of badly behaved boys? The only time we should be falling back is to call for back up, so the next time we can flood the damn thing and rewrite the rulebook.
I love being in an all girls club and I love the girls I’ve met. I am incredibly grateful for the enormous safety net they bring. No other network has been so smart, so understanding or friendly. I guess I can only hope that our eagerness to spend time together is not always being underpinned by negative incidents with the opposite sex.
Will I go back to Sunday’s meet up? It’s not high on my priorities. Yet I can’t help but feel that if I let my future decisions be shaped by some slightly intense lads then there will NEVER be enough girls at these events – and any newcomers will go through the same experience. A self-perpetuating circle of under representation. For that reason I know I will keep on trying new things outside of the all-female bubble.
…and at the end of the day I can always take comfort in knowing there are some 58,000 women online ready to get cocktails with me when it all goes tits up.