Happy Anniversary, ladies.

7 02 2011

Today is a very, very important 40th anniversary. It is the 40th anniversary of womens’ right to vote in Switzerland. Fortieth, you ask? Only the fortieth? Yes, folks, women in Switzerland have had the right to vote for less time than I have been alive.

Shocking, is it not? I certainly think so.

In the run-up to this anniversary, there have been a number of news reports about the referendum that took place forty short years ago. The vote was, of course, open only to men. Swiss men, not usually known for their progressive, open, liberal nature, had to decide if, in the future, women would be allowed to take part in the political process, or if 50 percent of the population would continue to live in silence. Fortunately, a majority of these men noticed that the times, they were a-changin’ (only seven years after the song was released) and voted “yes”.

In the recent news coverage, the media dug up a few classic referendum campaign posters, which I would not want to withhold from my international readership. They range from the simply unbelievable to the simply unbelievably absurd.

For the English-speakers among you, here just a quick German-English mini-dictionary of words used in the posters:

Frauenstimmrecht = Womens’ voting rights

Nein = No

So ladies – look and weep. This is what we would have had to deal with, had we been born a generation earlier, in Switzerland.

Interesting. No flies on my pacifier.

“Is this the kind of woman you want?"

(And… what kind of woman would that be? Possessed? Terrorized? Frazzled? Shell-shocked? Demented? Witch-like?)

"Leave us out of the game!"

(Somehow I can not believe this young woman actually volunteered to have her photo on this poster. And notice the very subtle claws…)


This last poster I find particularly disturbing, because it seems to me not only to support the “no” vote, but also to be advocating violence against women. Or maybe it just challenges the viewer to find 101 household uses for a carpet beater, at least one of which surely has to do with female suffrage.

I am simply aghast.

Fortunately, on that fateful Sunday in 1971, a majority of Swiss men had the good sense to decide that running the country alone was a miserable task. So they offered women the opportunity to join them in the political trenches. One lonely backwater Kanton in eastern Switzerland needed 20 more years to grant women the right to vote on regional issues. Today there are more women (4) in the federal cabinet than men (3), and so far, they seem to be rather successful at what they do.

In corporate life, however, there is still a veeeerrrrry looooong way to go. Don’t even get me started on that.

Snow Bunnies take St. Moritz

1 02 2011

Last weekend I finally got my butt off the sofa and went skiing. It was my first venture into the Alps this season, and I guess I didn’t remember how cold it is out there. And how heavy all that damn equipment is.

WANTED: A competent skier.

But first things first. The story begins like this. About three years ago I found out that my friend Pascale’s family owns a mountain home near St. Moritz.

For those unfamiliar with St. Moritz, allow me to introduce the place. It is probably the most exclusive (expensive) ski area in the Swiss Alps, on par with, say, Vail, Colorado in the Rockies. It is a place where the rich and famous (and the not-so-famous – just rich) gather to party, ski, see and be seen. Regular guests include, for example: botoxed, bejeweled Russian madams and mistresses, just-divorced German corporate captains on the rebound, and morally corrupt Italian Prime Ministers. “Fur” is not a bad word here, especially when daytime temperatures hang around a nippy -25 degrees Centigrade (-13 degrees Farenheit).

It is a place where 100 ml (3.4 oz) of fresh-squeezed strawberry juice will run you about 65 U.S. dollars.

So imagine my delight when Pascale invited me to stay at her house, eat her food and drink her fresh strawberry juice – for free.

Pascale spends most of her weekends in this picturesque valley in southeastern Switzerland. On Saturday morning she took me to her winter playground, the Corviglia ski area. I spent the first 15 minutes getting reacquainted with my ski-boots. (Ummm… how do we do this again?) Then we each dragged 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of dead weight ski equipment up a steep hill to the lift. Only here in Switzerland do they test your fitness before you even get into the gondola that will take you to the top of the mountain. If you didn’t have a heart attack, you’re good to go.

Backcountry skiers – the purists who spend six hours walking up the mountain in order to then spend 20 minutes skiing back down – frown on gondolas, of course.

Once at the top, all arrows pointed into the valley, though stubborn morning clouds initially drained the pistes of any contrast whatsoever. White on white is always tough to navigate, no matter how wide you open your eyes.

My dear friend Pascale, who has been skiing roughly 20 years longer than I have, elegantly and gracefully zipped across the labyrinth of pistes like a real snow bunny, putting my inferior (yet gutsy!) ski talent to shame. But she was kind enough to stop and wait for me every few hundred meters. And if she hadn’t been around I would still be standing at the top of Piz Nair today, wondering which run would get me back to the car.

On top of the world last Saturday afternoon.

Joy of joys, I had a good day. A really good day. Seven hours standing in my ski boots and leaving other athletes in my dust, without eating any snow myself, or otherwise wiping out in spectacular fashion – not once! Just call me Lindsey Vonn from now on.

So maybe I really did learn something by watching World Cup skiing on TV the last few weekends, and not even at the expense of my anterior cruciate ligaments or any other key body part(s). As I returned to the lowlands happy and satisfied on Sunday afternoon, my red blood cells were still jumping for joy.

And they deserve more of the same… so I’ll be back in the mountains next weekend, guaranteed.