When you don’t have enough hands or faces to palm.

American politics have a serious side effect of headaches from shaking them or facepalming constantly over here in continental Europe (made worse by the weeping over the Brits), but sometimes it’s just bizarre.

Have you heard about that big scandal involving Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Well, hold on fast, because these revelations will break your heart. When she was a teenager, she danced and had friends.

Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is…
…High School video of “Sandy” Ocasio-Cortez @AoDespair

And then there’s Elizabeth Warren. Did you know what she did? She drank beer on Instagram!

I hope I have now thoroughly ruined your new year with these groundbreaking revelations of human women doing normal human things.

 

Tummy Thursday: Gumbo or what makes an easy meal

Since I told you all in depth about our New Years Eve dinner, here’s the recipe for my American main course.

I searched the internet for a gumbo recipe that seemed doable and delicious and then had a trial cooking.

The first problem was to get some sausage that resembles Andouille. As you can see at that link, there is a sausage called anduille in France, but it sounds very different from the creole version and actually I detest it. I decided to go with smoked polish sausage that was very hearty, but did not have caraway seed (Eastern European sausages often have generous amounts of caraway seed and I don’t like that either). I think it made a great substitute and got used both times.

Next was the okra. I had never used okra before, and I even went to a Turkish supermarket to get some fresh okra especially for this, but, let me tell you, they aren’t called “slime fruit” in German for nothing. The little “stars” looked nice, but I don’t think they added much taste and really, I can do without the added consistency of slime, so they got left out the second time.

I changed the seasoning somewhat, leaving out the “hot sauce” but adding a “Cajun” spice and pepper mix that I quite like and the result was simply to die for.

gumbo

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is the trial version before i added the shrimp.

Making the gumbo got me thinking of how the idea of “easy meal” probably changed with women’s work shifting to the outside (I hate the insinuation that housewives “didn’t work”. I want to to see those people scrub the laundry). I can imagine that for a woman who had to do all the chores and probably some farming on the side, this gumbo would have been an “easy meal”. Sure, the roux requires a bit of your attention, but you can use that time to chop your veggies. Then you just hang it high above the fire or put it on the side of the wood stove and go about your day and do your work, while the meal is cooking itself. And you can make a big serving and don’t have a lot of dishes afterwards. Perfect meal for getting your family through a busy workday.

Nowadays, the idea of making something that needs to stew for three hours screams “festive meal” to any person who work outside.

 

Remember Montreal

As chigau pointed out, it’s been 29 years since the École polytechnique massacre in Montreal, yet the story is all too common almost 30 years later. A white man who thought the world owed him a certain place went out to kill women, because he thought they were taking what was rightfully his, denying him his due.

While the event shocked not only the Canadian public, the ideology that led to it is far from eradicated. From Elliot Rogers over the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High to Alek Minassian killing women in Toronto, the pattern of entitlement and violence continues. And these are only the cases that make headlines, the cases where the victims were more or less randomly chosen. It doesn#t even get into the thousands of cases where men kill their (ex) partners or just a woman they hardly knew for turning them down.

And whenever these cases happen, the discussion is the same: mental illness is blamed*, women themselves are blamed. It’s a well practised dance around the violent misogynist mass murderer in the room.

This is why on this day of all, I have no moment of silence, but loud anger. For all of our sisters who have died and who will still die at the hands of men who think they are owed the world, and at the words of those who always have more empathy for the murderer than his victim.

 

*Before somebody feels the need to mention that X, Y, and Z had a history of mental illness, spare yourselves the time, I’ve got none for that discussion. While mental illness may make it easier for those men to turn to more extreme actions, it didn’t instil a hateful ideology into them and no mental illness ever forged a gun.

Teacher’s Corner: Come for the stress, stay for the misogyny!

It’s an open secret that female teachers often have a harder time than male teachers*. Not because we’re worse teachers, but because society tells kids, especially those assigned male that men have to be respected and women not so much. This is especially obvious when there are serious clashes, like it happened today.

As usually, the matter at hand was pretty unimportant. During class one boy put a handkerchief in front of his mouth, like the bad guy in  western. I told him to put that thing away and that if I saw it again that day I’d confiscate it. As the bell rang for recess, he had that thing in front of his mouth again and I told him to hand it over, which he did. But the hanky wasn’t his, but a classmate’s, who now protested loudly. Now, since he knew what would happen if I saw that thing again and still lent it to his classmate, I saw no reason to hand it back there and then. I told him he could pick it up after the 6th lesson, as it is usual in our school when we confiscate things. I had momentarily forgotten that they only had 5 lessons that day, but before I could correct myself, he yelled “are you fucking kidding me?”

I told him that I had just been about to correct myself, but for that disrespectful yelling, I would stand by lesson 6. Now, many of our students have problems with the difference between owning something and possessing something and the right to use something. They keep thinking that us taking stuff away from them for a defined period of time is theft (sadly many parents think the same). So the kid tried to threaten me with calling his mum who would pick it up for him! I called his bluff and invited him to do so. After lesson 6, because then I would have time to talk to his mum.

At that point he yelled the German equivalent of “go fuck yourself, bitch!” Well, he got part of what he asked for, I called his mum and told her to pick him up because he could no longer participate in school that day. I still have the handkerchief.

What was kind of surprising was my internal reaction. I’m used to a lot. Again, I work with kids with many issues in a neighbourhood with many social problems and I don’t take their shit personal. If they yell at me I usually shrug my shoulders, wait until they calm down, tell them about the consequences and move on. And I’m also not angry with that boy. He actually apologised and I accepted it, but for 5 minutes, I was completely shaken. Not because a kid had yelled at me. Or insulted me. But because for those words that cause a gut reaction in me and many other women, because we know that they are so often accompanied with violence. Because they are meant to put us into our place, to make us afraid. Just for a moment he succeeded. And there are no equivalent words that would do that to a man.

 

*Exceptions apply. I once had a male colleague who had serious problems with a class with whom I went along fine. One of the boys in his late adolescence chose that particular colleague to have his dominance fights with.

Maybe he should have grabbed her by the pussy instead?

By now you have probably heard of The Incident. Depending on whether you’re a decent human being or a Republican, the actual incident is that the White House tried to forcefully remove the mic of a journalist because they didn’t like what he said and then banned him from the White House, or the real incident is Jim Acosta “laying his hands” on a young intern (who is, by pure coincidence female, white, young and pretty).

Sarah Sanders has tweeted about it several times, stressing the “disrespect” towards the “young woman” and “young women” working in the administration, mimicking feminist language and concerns for the treatment of (young) (professional) women at the hands of older men.

She also shared a clip showing him making a “chopping motion” towards her arm. Only that the video came straight from Infowars (and we all know how much those people care about women) and has a few curious differences to the original:

The intern’s reach for the mic is slowed down, and the “chop” motion is accelerated. Here’s an annotated side by side comparison:

Further analysis: video is absolutely doctored. You can see the edit when the clips are side by side and slowed down to quarter speed. See for yourself:

 The dishonesty of the Trump Administration knows no limits, as shown again, but let me make one thing clear: Even if Acosta had made a “chopping motion” he wouldn’t be the one who’s wrong here. He was talking, she tried to physically remove the mic, very eager to please her betters. She was the one making aggressive moves towards him. And also: fuck you, white women who sell out on basically everybody to lick spittle and get the rewards of being the chill girls of the Trump Administration. You work hard to remove women’s* right to their own bodies. You work double time to disenfranchise black women. You work extra time to rip babies out of their mothers’ arms and lock them in cages. And you all work for a man who is proud of sexually assaulting women. You don’t get to talk about respectful treatment of women.
*and others capable of gestation.

Teacher’s Corner: Toxic Masculinity

Well, this Wednesday there was a particularly rough fight at my school, and while this one escalated rather a lot, fights between the boys are in no way rare at my school. Quite often, I’m puzzled about what they actually want from me when they come complaining, and you never actually get to the bottom of the matter. You get different versions, depending on whom you ask, and usually they cannot even agree what started that particular fight. You get stories that sound like the clans in Asterix in Corsica going back weeks and months (with different versions for each chapter in the saga!), but the patterns of the fights are usually pretty much the same.

They start with some trivial matter like brushing past each other, somebody calling somebody else’s friend fat, or somebody looking at a girl that somebody else is interested in. This will often already start on the bus to school. Insults are traded, challenges are made. People push each other. Friends get involved. Until, at some point, one of them utters some magical words like “son of a whore” or “I fuck your mother”. Then the one insulted feels justified in starting a real fight, seeing himself as the victim*, and the other one feels like the victim because he’s the one being attacked.

Being the innocent victim who only reacted is very important because then you cannot get into trouble. Or at least in their mind you should not get into trouble. Because it’s not their fault, right? The fact that they all regularly get into trouble is totally unfair. Because in their mind, they did not have another choice. Because in their world, a world of adolescent boys trying hard to be a particular kind of man, losing your face or being seen as weak is the worst. Much worse than fucking up your education.

When trying to get to the bottom of the fight on Wednesday I asked the kid what the fight was actually about. He didn’t really have an answer. Many stories from last year and some minor stuff and somebody insulting his friend. I asked the kid why he didn’t just ignore that shit and either walk away or call a teacher. His answer was true and the actual problem: “If I do that they will say I’m a pussy!”

Our problem is not the two kids who had a fight on Wednesday. Or the ones from Monday. Nor the ones who’ll get into a fight next week. Our problem is a micro cosmos steaming in toxic masculinity. And so far i don’t have a solution because sadly, my solutions are worthless. Most of my colleagues are female, we cannot solve the boy problem, because we cannot enter their world. We’ll need to find some men, men of a similar social background, who can teach them how to be cool, and that being a man doesn’t mean getting into fights every day. I worry about our boys. They’re still kids, and so far the consequences are small, but if they keep growing up like this they’ll get into trouble. They’ll hurt their own chances, and they’ll hurt others. they’ll hurt the women and girls in their lives, directly and indirectly. they aren’s Donald Trumps or Kavanaughs, with enough money and connections to get them out of trouble and up the social ladder. They are already on the bottom rung, fighting many social disadvantages.

As a feminist I’m often accused of “hating men and boys”, but I swear that nobody hurts them as much as the people who go “boys will be boys”.

*This is regardless of whether the boys are native Germans, kids of immigrants or recent arrivals from the Arab world. I once had a boy trying to beat up another kid for “insulting his mother and his family”. When I asked that second boy what he had said, it turned out that the first kid had hurled those insults hoping to provoke the second kid to start a fight. That second boy was rather cool and just said “same”.

When Captain America comes to the aid of James Bond…

The day before yesterday (or yonderday as I’d like to call it because why, English, why), British supervillain extraordinaire Piers Morgan, armed with supreme stupidity, verbose bigotry and lots of poop to fling tweeted a pic of Daniel Craig doing one of those normal thing people do like taking the baby for a walk to play Pokémon Go. OK, I made up the Pokémon part, but apparently, an image of a dad doing dad things was really too much for poor Piers.

Oh 007.. (sic) not you as well?!!! #papoose #emasculatedBond

The tweet got picked up by Chris Captain America Evans who rightfully called out Morgan for his attempt to literally shame a man into not caring for his child.

You really have to be so uncertain of your own masculinity to concern yourself with how another man carries his child. Any man who wastes time quantifying masculinity is terrified on the inside.

And for once, go read the replies which are full of dads posting pics of them carrying their kids.

Islamophobia is a made up word !!!!!!!!!!!!!

clipart of woman with a hijab

Source: I-stock

As most of you know, I started a new job a few weeks ago. New school, totally new area, totally new colleagues (who generally rock). One of those, a woman about my age who also freshly started on the job, is a Muslim woman who wears a hijab. This particular woman is ethnic German and converted to Islam via her first husband. She studied English and German and after finishing the second part of the training (we instantly bonded over how horrible that was) went looking for a job.

While I am no fan of hijabs, I am much less a fan of policing women’s bodies. Since her Christian German family would probably be very happy if she ditched her headscarf and she was divorced and a single mum before meeting her second husband, we can be very sure that nobody is forcing her in any way to wear her headscarf so it’s none of my personal business. On a professional basis I’m actually quite happy about teachers like her. She is the best role model our Muslim girls can have, showing them that they can be independent women who go to college and have careers outside of the home and Muslims at the same time. And she’s good for our Muslim boys because she can “teach those little Pashas to respect a woman in a hijab” (her words, not mine). She’s also good for our German kids and their parents, for pretty much the same reasons.

For those of you not intimately acquainted with the German school system: almost all schools are public schools, only very few are private. Almost all hiring of teachers happens on a state level via the ministry of education. Now, with women wearing a hijab, there’s apparently an extra rule: the ministry has to treat them like everybody else, but individual schools can reject them, so when she was looking for a job she was twice rejected by different schools, with some of the most outrageous comments.

At one school she got told that they were an open and tolerant school with many kids from many different backgrounds and with many different religions, and she would disturb the peace. At the other school they told her that “somebody like her couldn’t teach German”, so apparently she changed her ethnicity and origin and complete culture along with her religion.

Those remarks and attacks were made in the name of liberalism, in the name of tolerance. Those attacks on Muslim women (I don’t know, can Muslim men teach German even if they pray five times a day?) come from the middle of society. Their headscarves get seen as a sign of Islamism, the whole discourse is such that a woman with a headscarf is automatically seen as suspect, as having an agenda, a meaning that is imposed on her by actual Islamists and Islamophobes alike. It’s in that same vein that the German women’s organisation Terre des Femmes is asking for a ban on headscarves for girls.*

That they’re only getting support from right wing organisations should tell them something, but I guess it won’t. The further stigmatisation of hijabis isn’t going to do anything for their integration into society, yet should they complain they get told that Islamophobia doesn’t exist anyway and that they’re just hiding behind the word to avoid “legitimate criticism”, in this case the further policing of women’s and girls’ bodies.

*The organisation has been criticised in the past for racist tendencies and sex worker exclusive positions, in short, your run off the mill White Feminist organisation. Their Swiss sister organisation split from them over those issues.

Sunday Facepalm: No Pink Knuckles!

Or any other colour, for that matter.  Keychain self defense devices are quite popular, even though the old standby of placing your keys between your fingers still works fine, if you have the opportunity to get them in place, of course.  Texas is a state which allows a rather stunning range of weapons, all perfectly legal. But a hard plastic pussy cat? Oh no, can’t have that. Those things are dangerous, y’know!

…Just last year, a law went into effect making it legal for Texans to carry machetes, Bowie knives, swords, spears and daggers — any knife with a blade longer than 5 1/2 inches — in most places across the state.

…Lawmakers also passed a law that made it legal for licensed Texans to openly carry handguns as of Jan. 1, 2016. Before then, it already was legal to carry concealed handguns and shotguns or AR-15s in public.

Now Gun Owners of America has pinpointed Texas as their next battleground for constitutional carry, which would let gun owners carry their weapons openly or concealed without first getting a permit.

[…]

But plastic self-defense key chains — particularly those shaped like cats or dogs with pointy ears — are off-limits and illegal.

“It’s a prohibited weapon,” said Shannon Edmonds, a staff attorney with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. “Unlike a firearm … these are always and everywhere prohibited.”

These key chains, which have been in the news recently in Texas, can cost less than $10 — unless you’re caught with them in Texas.

If that happens, you could end up paying as much as $4,000 in fines and spending up to a year in county jail, under state law.

“It is odd to have a situation where a person carrying a plastic pink kitty cat key chain could be arrested and sentenced to a year in jail while the person carrying a 9mm handgun next to them is free to do so,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. “But, at the same time, the person carrying the 9mm has a (license) … whereas the person with the key chain may not.

“This is a case where a well-intentioned law to prevent the use of brass knuckles and similar weapons was written before the existence of” self-defense key chains, he said.

Oh Texas, where you can seldom expect any sort of common sense. You can read all about this at Star-Telegram.

Ice Cream Saloons: A Place For Unchaperoned Women.

Ice cream parlor of L. C. Fish, Merced, Calif.

Ice cream parlor of L. C. Fish, Merced, Calif. Source.

…Throughout the 19th century, restaurants catered to a predominately male clientele. Much like taverns and gentlemen’s clubs, they were places where men went to socialize, discuss business, and otherwise escape the responsibilities of work and home. It was considered inappropriate for women to dine alone, and those who did were assumed to be prostitutes. Given this association, unescorted women were banned from most high-end restaurants and generally did not patronize taverns, chophouses, and other masculine haunts.

As American cities continued to expand, it became increasingly inconvenient for women to return home for midday meals. The growing demand for ladies’ lunch spots inspired the creation of an entirely new restaurant: the ice-cream saloon. At a time when respectable women were excluded from much of public life, these decadent eateries allowed women to dine alone without putting their bodies or reputations at risk.

[…]

The first ice cream saloons were humble cafes that served little more than ice cream, pastries, and oysters. As women became more comfortable eating out, they expanded into opulent, full-service restaurants with sophisticated menus that rivaled those at most other elite establishments. In 1850, a journalist described one ice cream saloon as offering “an extensive bill of fare … ice cream — oysters, stewed, fried and broiled; —broiled chickens, omelettes, sandwiches; boiled and poached eggs; broiled ham; beef-steak, coffee, chocolate, toast and butter.” According to the historian Paul Freeman, the 1862 menu of an ice cream saloon in New York ran a whopping 57 pages and featured mother of pearl detailing.

[…]

Although ice cream parlors had an air of dainty domesticity, they also developed more sultry reputations. At the time, they were one of the few places where both men and women could go unchaperoned. As a result, they became popular destinations for dates and other illicit rendezvous. “Did a young lady wish to enjoy the society of the lover whom ‘Papa’ had forbidden the house?” the New York Times wrote in 1866. “A meeting at Taylor’s was arranged, where soft words and loving looks served to atone for parental harshness, and aided the digestion of pickled oysters.”

Innocent young couples weren’t the only pairs tucked together in the velvet booths. During a trip to Taylor’s, one writer observed “a middle-aged man and woman in deep and earnest conversation. They are evidently man and wife—though not each others!” Moralists were also outraged by the presence of pimps, prostitutes, and women “who were not over particular with the company they kept.” These scandalous scenes prompted rumors of ice cream “drugged with passion-exciting Vanilla” that seduced virtuous women into taking “the first step…which leads to infamy.”

These charges did little to dissuade respectable women from patronizing ice cream saloons. In fact, their reputation as “a trysting ground for all sorts of lovers” may have made the saloons all the more enticing. According to the Times, Taylor’s “always maintained its popularity, in spite of (or perhaps because of) rumors that it afforded most elegant opportunities for meetings not entirely correct.”

Oh my, passion-exciting Vanilla! I have vanilla ice cream in my freezer, and I had no idea of the evil I was hosting. I’ll enjoy it all the more for that. You can read much more about the history of Ice Cream Saloons at Atlas Obscura.

Fairy Tale Art.

A wonderful site, full of enough fairy tale art to keep a person quite busy, sent along by rq: Art Passions. Fairy Tale art and artists encompass so very many styles, and the illustrations are crucial to the stories, they inflame the imagination, and illuminate the stories from within. In this particular case, serendipity strikes, as I brought home a book of short tales by Leigh Bardugo yesterday:

The first story, Ayama and the Thorn Wood, is a grand story which I enjoyed very much. I do have one noisy complaint however, and it has to do with the fairy tale art. In the story, Ayama is described thusly:

“Ayama was clumsy and apt to drop things. Her body was solid and flat-footed, short and round as a beer jug.”

Given this description, why in the fuckety fuck is Ayama drawn like this?:

This never should have gotten a pass from anyone, let alone the author. It is not a crime to depict characters correctly, and all girls do not need to be tall and thin with a teeny waist. FFS, seeing this sort of thing is infuriating, and it went a long way to souring a very good story. In the story, Ayama is strong, courageous, imaginative, and thoughtful. In the drawing, she’s just another generic pretty, skinny girl. That’s not doing anyone any favours. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and that’s a message all kids need. What they don’t need is yet another cookie cutter shape to try and stuff themselves into, regardless of fit.

The Healing Arts: A Man Mid-Wife.

An interesting piece, addressing what was a great controversy, with people hotly on one side or another, as male physicians encroached on the world of childbirth. Additional information and sources under the image. Click for full size.

A Man Mid-Wife, Isaac Cruikshank, Etching coloured, 1793. Subject: John Blunt (pseud. S.W. Fores), Midwives, Surgical Instruments, Forceps.

A Man Mid-Wife, Isaac Cruikshank, Etching coloured, 1793. Subject: John Blunt (pseud. S.W. Fores), Midwives, Surgical Instruments, Forceps.

The text reads:

“A Man-Mid-Wife, or a newly discover’d animal, not Known in Buffon’s time; for a more full description or this monster, see, an ingenious book, lately published, price 3/6 entitled Man-Midwifery dissected, containing a variety of well-authenticated cases elucidating this animals Propensities to cruelty & indecency sold by the publisher of this Print who has presented the author with the above [illustration] for the Frontispiece to his Book.”

From the same source:

Summary

This etching illustrated a book criticizing (male) physician birth attendants–“man midwives”–today’s obstetricians. The etching shows a figure that is male on one side, female on the other. The male half stands on a plain wood floor next to a large mortar and pestle, holding an instrument labeled a “lever” in his hand, which is pressed against his thigh. The background seems to be a shop, with shelves lined with vials, bottles, and frightening looking instruments labeled “forceps,” “boring scissors,” and “blunt book.”

In contrast, the female half of the figure stands in a homey room on a decoratively carpeted floor; in her outstretched hand she holds a small cup. Behind her, a fire burns in a grate.

Commentary

This etching was made in 1793, at a time when middle-and upper-middle class English women were being attended by physicians rather than midwives at the births of their children. Midwives were left to attend the beds of birthing women too poor to afford the services of physicians.

At the time, however, criticism was leveled at physicians who chose to demean themselves by doing “women’s work,” with some suggestion that their only motivations must be prurient ones. (This latter accusation is hinted at by one of the bottles on the shelves of the man half of the man-midwife; it is labeled “love water.”).

Today, while few would accuse male ob-gyns of perversion (although male medical students who choose this specialty probably still raise eyebrows in some corners), questions about the proper place, methods, and attendants at childbirth still are debated. Only in the past three decades, for example, has the presence of fathers at childbirth been considered proper, and we still argue about home vs. hospital births, the use of midwives, training for midwives, and the place of technology and medication in normal births.

You can read a fair amount of what was written in the 18th century by people on both the pro- and anti- sides here.

Historian Ruby has an excellent rundown of the great controversy, where once again we encounter the scandal of Mary Toft in this excerpt:

Hugh Chamberlen, as well as being a physician, was also a speculative businessman, and when his proposed business dealings failed, his creditors forced him to flee abroad.  With his credibility damaged, he was lampooned in verse in 1699 in Hue and Cry After a Man-Midwife, Who has Lately Deliver’d the Land-Bank of their Money.  It was noted that ‘great belly’d ladies have mighty respect for’ the man-midwife, demonstrating that the fashion for men-midwives commenced in the seventeenth century and was not just an eighteenth century phenomenon.  The verse also alluded to the outrage that was displayed in some quarters by opponents of men-midwives, ‘Among his profession he’s fam’d as a topper, By some call’d a midwife, by others a groper,’ hinting at sexual improprieties that the man-midwife could commit once alone with vulnerable females.

Public suspicion of the medical profession ran deep in the eighteenth century, in part due to the non-secular society believing that decaying bodies tainted the men who practiced medicine, but also, medicine was considered the least prestigious of the professions and the physicians’ failure to cure illness and stave off death impacted the public’s perception of them.  The man-midwifery profession was further disparaged after several eminent London men-midwives supported Mary Tofts, who in the 1720s claimed to have given birth to a litter of rabbits.  The absurdity of their support of Tofts in her fraudulent claim led to professional ridicule.  Not only were the men of the medical profession considered asinine for agreeing with Tofts’ wild claims, there was a growing suspicion of the practitioner as a ‘corrupter of morals, a threat to female modesty and even as a libertine.’

Blunt’s book, Man-midwifery dissected ; or, the obstetric family-instructor : In fourteen letters, is available to read at the Internet Archive. You can also see the above image properly coloured as the frontispiece of the book.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 5 – Feminism

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


I grew up in a household where a lot of the work was shared between both parents. There was division of labor between them, but it was never presented to me as the “right” thing to do. So while my mother has done indeed most of the washing, cleaning and cooking and my father has done the repairs around the house and the gardening and husbandry, I was never discouraged from doing anything on the basis that it is “unmanly”. And it was not uncommon for my father to do the dishes or cooking. Especially since my mother had higher ranking and better paid job than my father, so mostly when I was sick it was my father who took care of me (which was a lot).

Neither do I remember any such thing from school.

That is not to say that patriarchal ideas were not present or prevalent. They were both. Most party officials were old men, with all the baggage that carries with it. Thousand years of history cannot be denied or ignored, so the ideas about things proper and improper for a woman were still propagated and confirmed to the old stereotypes. It was expected that a woman takes care of the household while the man takes care of most of the income. It was expected tha men will do most of the leading and women will be mostly lead. There were jobs that were considered to be for men and jobs that were generally considered to be for women.

But, even in retrospect, I think a progress was made, and the regime did not approach the issue altogether falsely.

Firstly women were not officially discouraged from any job, with perhaps the exception of the army. Unfortunately the gender pay gap was there (and got further exacerbated after the fall of the iron curtain), but it was not uncommon to see women in leadership positions. Women were officially recognized as a big potential working force. The official stance was to encourage women to take on any job they wish and the regime boasted this officially and a great pride was taken in having the first woman astronaut for example etc. This of course had to work against the aforementioned cultural drag.

Secondly in media there was an effort made at making movies and TV series that either were centered around women, or at least contained some gender parity in both heroes and villains. One of the most popular TV series from my childhood that I remember had the main protagonist and one of the main villains both women. But of course here too was hindered by the enormous cultural inertia.

But the things the regime I think got definitively right (that I knew of at the time) were these two: maternity leave and divorce.

At the time of my life maternity leave was nearly three years and the regime took great pride in that. The reasoning was that taking care of the children is an important work for the society as a whole and should be recognized as such. Low or unpaid maternity leave in some western countries was always presented as one of the most backwards things.
Divorce was also legal and available pretty much on demand, even if it was not swift and there were legal loops to go through. The reasoning here was that to keep a woman in a marriage she does not wish to be in is a form of slavery and as such does not belong in modern society.

In retrospect I think the Iron curtain stopping more progress being made on this front was more in people’s heads than in the regime’s ideology.