As regular readers know, I made 2 trips to Germany this summer on business. These were my first transatlantic journeys -- something I'm not proud of given that I am over 50. But for decades, my attitude towards vacation was that I didn't want to spend it shlepping around, I wanted to sit on a balcony and drink coffee and read and look at water and swim and eat fresh food in a tropical setting. Now that I'm older, and bathing suits are more of an issue than ever, this model of travel has become less appealing and now I'm starting to want to see things as part of my bucket list. So I was fortunate to be able to travel to Cologne and Berlin this summer.
Because these are work trips which involve a fair amount of time spent with German colleagues, I've been able to learn more about the country's mindset than I would otherwise. But even in the touristy things I've been able to do, what strikes me most about Germany is how it has come to terms with the less savory aspects of its history in a way the U.S. probably never will. You are unlikely to ever see a "slavery museum" in the south, for all that there is an effort to create one in Washington, DC
; one you don't hear much about and probably never will. When you look at the embrace of the Confederate flag in much of the south, it's hard to imagine that there will ever be a building containing oral histories from freed slaves about how they were treated. I'm not sure that even Roots
would be made today without a great deal of hue and cry from the Usual Suspects in Congress. And when Glenn Beck is paid millions of dollars to spew the bile of slavery revisionist W. Cleon Skousen over the airwaves
, we are a long way from coming to terms with slavery in the U.S.
And for all that there is a museum of sorts to the Topaz internment camp in Utah
, commemorating the Japanese internment during World War II, there is hardly a national effort, despite George H.W. Bush's apology to the camps' survivors in 1991, to keep the Japanese internment in the national consciousness.
Germany's Holocaust memorial is right there in Berlin -- the country's capital -- right by the Reichstag. This is not a country that's flinching from its history. And yet, Germans don't define themselves by that history. I used to think, in my ignorance, that there was something in the German temperament that made them somehow more susceptible to the kind of leader that would create the Third Reich, with the ordered society in which you can get a ticket for jaywalking, no one crosses against the light even if there is no oncoming traffic, and the 8:37 S6 train really DOES show up at the Köln Hauptbahnhof at 8:37. But I think we've seen throughout history, and there are even pockets among the extreme right in our country, that when people's economic condition goes downhill, it's human, rather than German, nature to respond with fear and loathing and scapegoating. It is to Germany's credit that they keep a reminder around -- just in case.
In a smaller and less significant context of Things Germany Does That Just Seem Right comes this story
about a popular German women's magazine whose publishers have decided that they are no longer going to use anorexic models that don't look like any of its readers:
"From 2010 we will not work with professional models any more," said Andreas Lebert, editor-in-chief, adding that he was "fed up" with having to retouch pictures of underweight models who bore no resemblance to ordinary women.
"For years we've had to use Photoshop to fatten the girls up," he said. "Especially their thighs, and decolletage. But this is disturbing and perverse and what has it got to do with our real reader?"
He said the move was a response to complaints by readers who said they had no connection with the women depicted in fashion features and "no longer wanted to see protruding bones".
"Today's models weigh around 23% less than normal women," Lebert said. "The whole model industry is anorexic."
Brigitte, which is Germany's best-selling women's title with more than 700,000 copies, offers readers a familiar diet of fitness, lifestyle, recipes and sex, which tends to appeal to upwardly mobile younger career women.
Lebert said the magazine would call on German women to put themselves forward as models for fashion and makeup articles.
Recently a plus-size model (she's a size 12-14, hardly a sumo wrestler) named Lizzie Miller dared to be photographed for Glamour magazine showing a belly pooch
, and you'd have thought the world was coming to an end. And there's no sea change afoot, look at the kind of image Ralph Lauren's ad agency thinks is attractive
. (Put down the pen device, and close up Photoshop, dude, and nobody gets hurt.)
Labels: pop culture, Women's bodies