Flying Vikings

Since in Germany on 11th of November the carnival season starts, I used an invitation of the Danish sailplane union to escape these terrible celebrations.

I was not disappointed upon arrival. In a small town named Middelfart (yes, that’s terribly funny in English) the eminent authority of our sailplane world was present. My absolute highlights were lectures given by Prof. Loek Boermans from TU Delft, who develops and researches laminar foils, and by Uys Jonker – as the name suggests – the owner of Jonker Sailplanes, who presented one of the most innovative sailplanes – JS3.

The conference program also included my name and I was supposed to give a lecture about flying women and the need of more women in gliding clubs. So roughly, my plan was to present my blog. 😊

Segelflugkonferenz

In Denmark, the situation is quite similar to the situation in Germany. At the conference, only a few women were present, most attendees were men. My greatest fear was that the men take my lecture as feminist provocation and, as result, they decide to exclude all women in gliding clubs in the future, because they are afraid of non-humorous women like me. However, I must have underestimated the Danish Viking genes, because actually, the opposite reaction occurred.

“No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.” – Simone de Beauvoir

And the Danes are not anxious about their virility at all! Cuz in the matter of feminism, I could even learn from them. I had to discover something about myself: I assimilated masculine behaviors all my life in order to establish myself in this man-made world, professionally and personally. “Don’t show feminine features!” – “Don’t show them your weakness!” – “Don’t stand out as woman and don’t ask for help!”

Over years, I carried the lead by myself without asking anybody for help who is obviously physically superior. Also during my engineering studies and my PhD I hardly tried to ignore my different approach to problems compared to my male colleagues. Also my way of communication is different, which freaked my out a long time in my life. And then, it needed a trip to Denmark to question myself and to find out that the Danes recognized a different way.

I can sum up the Danish bottom line like this: “We know that women are different and have different approaches to flying. We do not assess this as worse or better, only as different. Since flying clubs are established by men, they are also optimized for us and not four you. We want to know how we can change the clubs in order to let you feel welcome and to motivate you for cross country soaring.”

WOW, I am 32 years now and it needed so long to understand that I don’t need to fight my femininity in order to become successful in our world. My femininity is nothing negative and I don’t need to feel ashamed for it, since it has a genetic origin. Thus, I am not worse or better in flying and my approach towards problems does not make me a bad engineer. Indeed, I think now that men and women can complement one another in any way. In this regard, the Danes – like most northern people – are way ahead. In Germany, we still need to reach this level of equality between men and women. In any case, I am very grateful for the invitation and the possibility for being a part of the sailplane conference. I can now deal with my “female weaknesses” much more relaxed and I have planned to ask for help in the next flying season when the lead is too heavy.

Big thanks to the flying Vikings! You are on the right track!