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The Femxle Side of Things

With Lena and Bene

news March 8, 2021

In celebration of International Women’s Day, but also out of the absolute necessity to make the life-realities of womxn visible, we’ve decided to initiate an interview series that circulates around the way women from our community embrace their womanhood. Through The Femxle Side of Things, we intend to highlight how women continue to be a fundamental pillar of our community. We want to start a conversation that highlights both tales of female empowerment and challenges that women face in our male-dominated society, to paint a broader picture of a group of people that is often not listened to in the way they deserve. In the first round, we welcome Bene and Lena, two phenomenal women who talked to us about their experiences.

Hi Bene, Tell us what do you do? 

I am Benedicta, a student with a great affinity for sports and photography. Both sports and photography fulfill me in different ways – they’ve allowed me to create new things, and develop confidence. I use sports as a tool to connect with people and as a source of empowerment. Since I always had a great interest in (minimalistic) design I started pottery, and I eventually want to make sculptures. All in all, I am trying to experiment with everything and life in general. I have so much to learn –  there is so much to discover. It would be crazy to just stick with one thing for the rest of my life, just because I’m good at it.

What is your definition of womanhood?

Having just turned 21,  I switched from identifying myself as a girl to seeing myself as a young woman. I try not to restrict myself by defining everything, as definitions always come with expectations and boundaries. Womanhood, for me, is, therefore, everything I want it to be. Being a woman means being strong and brave, but also appreciating and sharing my vulnerable side. Allowing those two aspects to coexist gives me the chance to be part of a community of women who feel confident with themselves and therefore empower each other. I view womanhood as freedom –  freedom in expressing myself. However, it is still difficult to connect womanhood and freedom since we are far away from living our full potential in professional and everyday life. 

What empowers you as a woman? 

Definitely my community and sports. I’m lucky to have such wonderful and inspiring women around me. All of them come from completely different cultural and socio-ecological backgrounds but somehow share the same philosophy of  “I’m the only one who can stop myself”. Those women remind me of who I am and that there’s no limit to who I can be. Joining sports clubs at a young age also helped me realize what resilience and strength look like. I also feel more empowered since I joined a kickboxing group because after all, it is a male-dominated sport I happen to be pretty good at. This also shows me that I can do everything a man can and I might even be better at it. 

As women tend to be excluded from public narratives, which stories of women would you like to hear or share more?

I want to hear more stories of women of color, as we are more likely to be excluded from public narratives. Especially the voices of refugee women and girls, who build up their own life with the bare minimum, often remind me that I don’t do everything for myself. Sharing their stories is a powerful tool to achieve a world in which women have the chance to pursue their dreams, without the fear of prejudice and harassment. Hearing stories about overcoming difficult life situations, reaching one’s goals or speaking up against inequality are narratives that motivate and inspire me. 

Can you name a moment that made you realize what the power of a woman is? 

Every time I see women win! Be it in (a male-dominated) sport or women in high professional positions. Seeing a successful woman always feels like I succeeded with her and this is a feeling I want to give other girls as well. Considering the fact that women live with many restrictions it always feels like we face challenges collectively, and therefore if one of us wins we all win. That’s an extremely powerful feeling! 

What are the main challenges that you face as a woman in our society?

I often feel underestimated when it comes to my skills and capabilities, and overestimated in regards to my emotions. I am often confronted with the societal image of the strong Black woman who’s able to deal with anything thrown into her way, but as soon as she complains or speaks up, she’s deemed difficult. This often leads to insecurities and I sometimes feel limited in the ways I can express myself because of it. I think society should stop putting us into boxes.

HI LENA, TELL US WHAT DO YOU DO? 

My name is Lena, I am 26 years old and I’m currently doing my master’s in electrical engineering. I am a passionate athlete and one of the coaches of the Berlin Braves.

WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF WOMANHOOD?

For me, womanhood symbolizes inner strength, a distinguishing personality, and standing up for what you believe in. Being a woman is a state of mind. 

WHAT EMPOWERS YOU AS A WOMAN? 

I’ve always been someone who naturally took the lead. I didn’t really notice it until I was standing in front of a group giving instructions. My friends and family jokingly say that I always need to be on a mission, need a project, and something to work on.

My drive comes from the fact that I always wanted to be happy and took responsibility for the fulfillment of my happiness instead of waiting for it to just happen. At some point, as with running for example, I noticed that sharing my joy and motivation makes other people happy. 

Taking the lead, supporting others, and bringing joy is something that strengthens my character and gives me the confidence to be the strong woman I am. Empowering others while fulfilling my own happiness is what empowers me. 

As women tend to be excluded from public narratives, which stories of women would you like to hear or share more?

In many areas of our society women’s self-confidence is often suppressed by old-established norms and ideas. Many women cannot develop their full potential because there are boundaries conciliated to us, which are difficult to overcome without great self-confidence. As a young electrical engineer, I stopped counting the times people asked me why I chose my profession. Even if they always added ‘Oh that’s good’ at the end of the conversation, the feeling that what I do is uncommon, remained. Women in tech are still a minority because unlike men, our decisions are still questioned. High-level management women remain underrepresented and the percentage has been unchanged for the past five years. As I was looking for female street names in Berlin for one of our running challenges, I found out that only 10% are named after women. 

I admire women in high management positions, but I also admire a self-confident and expressive woman who stands for herself. I would love to see more women who confidently celebrate their successes. 

Can you name a moment that made you realize what the power of a woman is? 

I was born in eastern Ukraine and moved to Germany with my mom when I was kid. My mom has always been my greatest role model and I used to think that she is the strongest woman on earth. I only recognized her real power once  I had grown up and realized how much strength is in her character and the way she raised me. My mom is a person people come to when they are at their lowest point. She always manages to give them so much energy and lifts them up as nobody else can. Mothers not only manage to be strong themselves but also empower others. 

What are the main challenges that you face as a woman in our society?

To be perceived as a strong and serious personality, someone who has strength despite having empathy for others. I always try to be an ambitious and hardworking woman, without losing my joy and positive attitude. Many associate it with naivety, but for me, it is the greatest strength to keep a mental balance. In engineering, it isn’t always easy to speak up and voice my opinion, as women are completely underrepresented. But I am constantly working on becoming the woman I would have looked up to. 

>>>>>>> CREDITS:

INTERVIEW: LARISSA CLARK
THANK YOU: LENA, AND BENE.