We had a chat with the incredible, Berlin-based feminist
author Laura Paetau. Keep reading to get as inspired as we did!
Photos of Laura | Photography: Steven Kohlstock
When and where do you feel most at ease? After a long walk. I walk extensively in the parks of Berlin but walking in nature is something else. I’m planning my first trip to hike in real mountains with a friend, right now.
So much is being expected of women, a certain type of behavior, virtue, a certain physique, success within their career, family, marriage, children, balance and a certain type of ‘togetherness’ or perfection...what do you feel in this regard? I agree that there are huge expectations and pressure especially on women in their mid- thirties to fulfil all this but the reality of life is different. The combination of the perfect career, family, marriage, children and balance as you say is nobodies’ reality at least not all of this together. We all struggle with different aspects of it. These high expectations also don’t leave much room for the question: What do I actually want? I believe if we are honest about it and allow ourselves to question things, we might find out: Actually I don’t want that! Are we aiming at a career and at what cost? Do we really want to get married? What about children? Do I actually want kids and if not that’s ok, too. And if so, with whom? Family can mean so many different things, there is not just one way to do it although society shows us mainly the model of the nuclear family and heterosexual romantic relationship as a goal. But what happens if we put all these normative expectations aside for a moment and wonder what feels right? Nobody else can define that, other than us! Things might turn out differently and they most probably will. So let us embrace our failures and go for an unexpected path that is our own.
What piece of advice would you like to give an adolescent woman/ what kind of advice would you have liked to receive when you were an adolescent? Good question. You, your feelings, your opinion matters. Always trust your instinct. Look out for and stay close to people that accept and love you, the way you are. Growing up as girl and woman in a patriarchal society is not easy. It took me a lot of time and energy to dismantle certain patterns, develop autonomy, strength and self-care. To me sisterhood was the key.
What’s your vacation dream scenario? A road trip through California.
What’s your relationship to women? Is female friendship important to you and if so, why? My relationships to female friends are fundamental, I go through life with them. Female friendships give me joy, trust and ease in life. My female friends are my anchor partners.
What’s your mantra? How do you gather confidence, what makes you confident? Connecting to the people I love and reconnecting with myself.
How do you envision maturing as a woman and in your work? I enjoy getting older and becoming more and more aware of myself with everything that goes with it. Maturing, I envision myself, being surrounded by a chosen family, serene (calm), fearless and laughing a lot. In my work I would like to find forms/formats of dealing with issues which I feel very strongly about.
What does perfection mean to you? What is beautiful? Nothing is perfect. Beauty to me is an honest transition from the inside to the outside. This can be a facial expression, a text I read or performance I see. It doesn’t have to meet certain standards; if it’s real it’s beautiful.
There are billions of women, all different in this world, yet, we are used to seeing only a handful of women representing us in the media. Many women suffer from feeling underrepresented in their colour, size, age etc…What are your thoughts on possible pressures and expectations relating to this and how do you (suggest to) handle it? I do remember when I was a young girl, I was longing for role models of women that looked more like me. School made it obvious that I was half Colombian and that I look different than the majority. I remember myself searching for representations of latin women in pop culture, I identified with the images and references of Latinas I found in music. I think that in Germany the representations in everyday culture are not very diverse at all. German theatre shows us a stark underrepresentation of colour, cultures, genders and sexualities. More narratives and self representations are missing on stage. But there is a lively revolution happening today to change that. In my chosen family, work and networks, an emphasis on cultural, sexual and gender diversity is very present. This feels liberating to me. And I hope with the boundaries being pushed, many girls will see themselves being represented in everyday culture and also the Arts, so they feel seen and encouraged to express themselves with all their beauty and power.
What’s your background (where from, what do you do?) I grew up in Bonn, a West-German town with a Colombian mother and German father. After finishing school, I knew I had to move to Berlin. For 15 years now, I have been living here and I love this City deeply. I studied social science, meaning sociology and political science and became politically active. For some time in my life everything was collective, my housing, and work and political activism. I still have a strong affinity for collective processes but they are not so all encompassing anymore. In that vein, I wrote a book about feminisms that is a reflection of my feminist and anti-sexist practice within my women’s group for example. From reading, writing and teaching classes about Feminism in Pop-Culture,; my interest in other forms of expression developed further. I then got very much inspired by the post-migrant theatre scene I experienced in Berlin. Recently, I have been working as dramaturge and curator, bringing my points of interest around gender, sexualities and cultural in-betweenness into a dialog with performance.