I’m a busy bee (during carnival)

February 11, 2007 at 11:09 am | Posted in Gender, Popular Culture | 3 Comments
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And now for something completely mundane: Carnival in Cologne is coming up and I’ve been working on my costume this weekend. I am going to be a busy bee this season. I made a two-piece costume consisting of a skirt and a top made of yellow-black man-made fur. In order not to be confused with a tiger, I am going to stuff the top with paper, which will make me look more like a bumble bee, probably. I am going to wear 1975 (approx.) Nina Ricci sunglasse to fake the insect eyes, but I still need to get a a hair ring with two golden globes on a wire. I know exactly what I want, which is why it will be difficult to get ­čśë

Wieverfasteleer It would be perfect with wings, but I don’t really want to buy any, so I might go without. In that case, I might just attach a memo on the back of my costume, saying “Genetically Modified Queen Bee. No Sting, no Wings. International Patent”, which would also be good to add at least a slight political note to my costume. Also in honour of Bakhtin’s notion of Carnival, which is supposed to defy the regular social order – it’s the only time that subversion is de rigeur (and hence not a subversion, as we know).

This costume shall also keep me warm on the 15th of February, Weiberfastnacht, my favourite day in Carnival, where the celebrations begins at 11.11. in the morning. Weiberfastnacht means Women’s Carnival (rather: hag’s carnival), and the women take charge of the city of Cologne at that hour. Who ever wears a tie is going to lose it – it’s tradition to cut off the tie of anybody who dares to wear one that day (the mayor is more or less obliged to wear one, in order not to spoil the fun). Symbolic castration – Bakhtin would have liked that. [Image Source]

K├Âlner Dreigestirn 2005This is the “K├Âlner Dreigestirn” (Triple Star of Cologne) of 2005: Jungfrau, Prinz, Bauer (Virgin, Prince, Farmer) [Image Source]. There is also a Kinderdreigestirn (Children’s Triple Star) where the Virgin is not impersonated by a boy, but by a girl. Either one thought of such effemination as being too traumatic for a boy (or possibly harmful for his sexual orientation) or they didn’t dare to exclude girls from the honorary offices that are available – a practice that grown-up women are already used to. With the exception of Weiberfastnacht, carnival, and particularly what’s happening in the carnival clubs (Karnevalsgesellschaften) is a strictly male business.

There are only males on the board of each club – interesting fact on the side: The booard of a carnival club is called “Elferrat”, “Board of Eleven”, and during a session, you’ll mostly find 11 men on the stage (see picture below, source). But the origin of ELF is the French Egalit├ę, Libert├ę, Fraternit├ę – a slogan which the Western German countries under Napoleon, in spite of the occupation, had come to appreciate.

Elferrat

There is only one all-female club, Colombina Colonia, founded in 1999, which – according to my own, unauthoritative perception – did partake in the big parade on Monday (Rosenmontagszug) for the first time in 2006. Oh, and of course there is also a gay carnival club, the Rosa Funken (Pink Sparks – Funke being a typical name of uniform-wearing carnival clubs), Cologne being the gay capital of Germany.

Last year I had a mild form of pood poisoning that sort of spoiled the fun. Hope I’ll last longer this year!

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