A few weeks ago I met a pleasant Austrian woman at a party in a bar in Prenzlauerberg, the formerly East Berlin area now home to the young, professional and cool. It was a weeknight, lights in the bar were violet and dim and conversation was possible. We were celebrating a friend’s journalism prize awarded by the German feminist magazine Emma.
My companion promised me Sachertorte – the famous Austrian chocolate cake – from her next trip to Vienna, and I instantly warmed up to her. This was before the fireworks began. When I mentioned I was from Pakistan, her reaction was the oft-expressed assumption that it must be very difficult to be a woman there. I have lived and worked in journalism in Berlin for a year and a half, and the experience has made me appreciate the way I am treated back home as a career woman. I told her as much – that I find that I am more respected back home. I was about to tell her that my mind is more appreciated and I am, of course for several reasons, taken more seriously there than in Germany. “Respect,” she said, cutting me off mid-sentence, “You call walking three steps behind a man respect?”