Sex-ed to sexism: New series explores being a woman in Germany and the US

American YouTuber in Munich, Dana Newman, travelled around Germany to ask women their perspectives on topics ranging from sexism to maternity leave. The result is a compelling series not afraid to tackle taboo topics.

Sex-ed to sexism: New series explores being a woman in Germany and the US
Dana Newman. Photo courtesty of Dana Newman.

Spurred on by the #MeToo movement, American in Munich Dana Newman had several conversations with German female friends about their own experiences of being a girl and women in today’s society. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about women's rights in Germany

“Sometimes I would tell my friends here in Germany stories of things that happened to me in the US that were more or less ‘totally normal for me growing up there, only to find my German friends respond with shock,” said Newman, who has lived in the Bavarian capital for the past nine years.

“‘What? Are you freaking kidding me?’ they would say sometimes.”

A video Newman made about her 'Sex Ed' experiences in the US, and how Germans react.

Newman watched her wide-eyed friends as she described the “wait until marriage” sex education she received in a public school in the US state of Florida, or the strict dress code which her schools enforced to avoid “distracting” boys.

But other times, when topics such as body struggles, gender expectations or being pressured into sex came up, her friends could “absolutely relate” and shared similar experiences, she told The Local.

“When I heard other women sharing their stories,” said Newman, “I started being like, yeah, that thing that happened to me that I’d been holding on my shoulders as either something I did wrong or couldn’t put into words.”

'It's not what we say'

The 33-year-old, who has produced over 500 YouTube videos since 2014 spotlighting German culture from weird windows to language quirks for her Wanted Adventure channel, considered making one video comprising these conversations. 

Newman's latest video, published for International Women's Day on March 8th.

But she didn’t just want to scratch the surface. Instead, Newman and co-producer and husband Stefan embarked on a Germany-wide tour interviewing other female YouTubers, authors and academics for a full video series “Being a Woman.” They stopped in Stralsund in the north, Berlin, Hamburg and Düsseldorf, among other locations. 

“I realized I would need to share my own very personal, very intimate, very guarded and real stories and experiences,” said Newman, who sought the same from her interviewees – many who also opened up on camera for the first time. 

What she found was at times touching. “I love everything about being a woman,” states Sarah Jane Scott, an American Schlager singer based in Berlin. 

READ ALSO: How Germany's Schlager music is making a useful comeback

But it was also raw and honest. “I don’t have any girlfriend who is really 100 percent happy and comfortable in her body,” says German YouTuber Hannah from Klein aber Hannah in the most watched video of the series on body image.

“From a very young age we are taught that our body is a very big part of our existence,” said German YouTuber Marie Johnson. That it’s not what we say and what we know.”

The video in the series which has gotten the most views, nearly 100,000.

The series also spotlights societal differences between the US and Germany. In a segment on motherhood, Newman points out how new mothers in the US, where there is no paid maternity leave, often “don’t have time to give birth”, instead digging into vacation days and sick days, if they had any.

In Germany, by contrast, “you can take up to three years of Elternzeit (parental leave), and your employer has to accept that,” states German YouTuber Trixi from Don’t Trust the Rabbit.

READ ALSO: German parental leave – your guide

The series additionally shines light on the similarities in how gender is perceived in Germany and the US. “If someone cries, it’s okay for a girl and not okay for a boy,” said Cari Schmid from Easy German, echoing Newman’s statements about how girls in her home state were encouraged to “cry things out” whereas boys from a young age were told to hide hurt feelings. 

Both also agreed there was one emotion that was more socially accepted for men than women to show in public: anger. “Throughout history when women have gotten angry and passionate about something, they have been called hysterical,” said Newman.

Even Chancellor Angela Merkel is “very calm,” said Schmid. There’s also gender-specific speech used in Germany, like “wie echte Männer (like real men)”, she said, even though this is improving from generation to generation.

Videos für alle

While most of the interviewees are women, the videos are intended for everyone, says Newman.

READ ALSO: This is what German men really think about Gender equality

She also spoke to the German Ambassador to the UN Campaign #HeForShe, Vincent-Immanuel Herr, who states that, “I've learned from experience that some men are more likely to listen to other men talking about sexism than women, unfortunately.”

The trailer to Newman's Being a Woman series. Photo: DPA

Newman has so far filmed 18 videos, a number she wants to grow to 20. Her current challenges are finding a sponsor, and that several of the videos are automatically demonetized – meaning that YouTube does not allow advertising on them – when the algorithm detects that sex or “sensitive matter” is a subject. 

But Newman says the project, which was self-financed by her two person team, continues be worth it. 

“Afterwards many people said to me, 'Oh, that was a nice therapy session! I didn’t realize that I had been holding on to these things'”, she said.

Newman herself said she was “so nervous to talk about these topics, and now that I put them out there, I feel like a weight has been lifted. It's a big sigh of relief.”

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Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.