Foreword and Addendum by Michael Schnitzenbaumer
Harmonia, the Greek goddess of harmony, is a symbol of understanding, tolerance and beauty. She embodies the balance of opposites.
Goddess Harmonia is fiction - just part of Greek mythology. - Is it really? Sometimes one would like to believe that the sagas of ancient times are surging into our modern, Enlightenment-influenced era, and their characters are coming to life. For the life of the harmonious goddess was an unhappy one. The gifts given to her on her wedding day brought discord and ruin.
But what does that have to do with the sober everyday insurance business of Harmonia e.K.?
We chose 'Harmonia' as an illustrative symbol for our philosophy, which is more than just a well-intentioned company motto. Harmony and understanding are also reflected in our attitude to life.
For nine years, our graphic symbolising the goddess graced our homepage home page without eliciting any apparent disapproval. But times are changing. In February 2020, within a short period of time, a number of complaints were received concerning the depiction of the Goddess. Or rather, the complaints were mainly about what we did not depict: Clothing.
Of course, constructive criticism must be allowed. There are people who queue up to admire Michelangelo's David, or Sandro Botticellis Birth of Venus.
Of course, we do not want to equate the content of our Harmonia with such masterpieces, but merely mention well-known examples, where hopefully no one will complain about their performance.
There are people who are not particularly pleased by the depiction of unclothed people, and that is perfectly fine. Unfortunately, because of this view, people like to misinterpret the work as a whole.
In addition, society has become more aware of advertising messages. In principle, this is to be welcomed! A woman is not a "tasty steak" that belongs on the grill, and a man is not a bumbling fool who completely fails in the role of father.
Advertising should not serve the purpose of demeaning certain groupings in order to elevate other groupings. We find this neither funny, nor satirical, nor original.
We have been accused of degrading women (sexism) by our critics. In our opinion, feelings have unfortunately been deeply hurt in these people. Therefore, it is important for us to provide clarification here by explaining the background of our graphic, our name and our motto in more detail. All in the spirit of the Goddess of Concord.
Because: Not every motif with unclothed people is automatically to be understood as discriminatory or sexist. In creating but also in judging these motifs, we all have the responsibility to apply realistic standards that correspond to the spirit of a free and tolerant society.
Manfred Kronstaller, owner of Harmonia, has written a statement on this, which we would like to publish here. This statement was sent directly to the protest and educational organisation against sexism and homophobia Pinkstinks:
We have received a complaint from you in each of the last 4 days because our portrayal of Harmonia is perceived as sexist.
I have also cc'd Pinkstinks in the above mentioned distribution list to express my/our open-mindedness towards this issue without any ifs and buts.
Our Harmonia graphics have now graced our website for 9 years and we have received a lot of encouragement. Actually, we have received only encouragement! Until now...
Now, suddenly, the first three messages reached us within only 70 minutes; therefore, they triggered in us (plural and gender-independent!) not only shrugs of the shoulders but also the strong impression of collusion, within a special interest community or community.
So now I take this opportunity to articulate my already adjusted and ever fine-tuned perception on the subject of sexism, equality, anima, animus and the roles of gender in cosmic balance. 1
Harmonia is the goddess of harmony in Greek mythology. As the daughter of Aphrodite and Ares, she is usually depicted naked and with snakes (as she would later turn into one due to a punishment). 2
In the imagination of the ancient Greeks, too, all the gods who dwelt on Mount Olympus were unclothed.
In their honour, the first Olympic Games were held in the nude, although at that time there were only women in the spectator stands.
In any case, I am talking about times and cultures where the balance between body and mind was balanced and the attitude towards sexuality was still a natural, healthy one.
Concord, the balancing of opposites, i.e. harmony (14 in Kabbalah) is a typically feminine quality (Moon, 18).
Just like empathy, intuition, empathy or fear. 3
Caution, we are not talking here about typical characteristics of men or women, but again only about poles of a whole, here in the example on the side of femininity.4
So of qualities.
Accordingly, Harmonia with her quality as a balancer can only be represented as clearly female. Esoterically and symbolically compelling. The ancient Greeks already knew this (the counterpart in ancient Rome was Concordia, also a girl).
What we wanted to express with our graphic was: homage, fusion, becoming one, sensuality, fulfilment, peace, harmony and devotion. Above all, devotion!
DThe eternal feminine is a cosmic law! Goethe merely formulated this fact in Lida. And Liszt set it to music...
It draws us up...!
The feminine is the link between the human and the divine. Represented by the moon.
But now back to earth:
Reproach: naked figure on the homepage = too little respect for our 'target group' ( male and female musicians )
Why would we want to address any target group at all in an instrument insurance?
We are a small group of musicians who, initially for our own needs, have put a lot of effort into offering a good product. Of course, it is available to anyone who needs it:
- Musician (male/female/diverse)
- Instrument Maker (male/female/diverse)
- Ensembles or bands (male/female/miscellaneous members)
- Orchestra (with men/women/miscellaneous)
- Music schools (with boys/girls and those who may want to change this in the future)
- Traders (male/female/diverse) 5
Reproach: The wording 'by musiCians for musiCians' implies that musicians are not part of the target group.
I personally consider an artificial word creation like "der* die Musiker* in" to be a blight on the beautiful German language, which is why I personally do not want to express myself in this way.
In my private life, I prefer to surround myself with open-minded people and 'human beings' (pun intended) who, because of their common sense, also think outside the box and have a sense of humour, beauty, truth and the essentials6
The idea that one gender could be inherently superior to the other is completely alien and abhorrent to me. However, this may absolutely apply to single individuals, albeit irrespective of gender.
Reproach: The photo with a naked, photoshopped (starved) blonde is unserious, cheap and sexist
The graphic of our Harmonia does not express discrimination. At most through wilful misinterpretation or principle riding.
By the way, this is not a photo. Nor was it ever a woman that could have been put through Photoshop. The image is rendered from scratch. 100% fictitious. Maybe you can imagine how much work that is? Many, many days. Surely only detail-loving idealists like us do that.
That is why this presentation is not a question of a target group, but one of authenticity. Our authenticity.
We identify ourselves exactly with what this representation of Harmonia symbolically expresses (see above). Those who condemn us for this are welcome to avoid us.
Do all works of art in which a nipple or penis may be seen express disrespect towards someone? What then about the Venus of Orbino (Tizian). Who is disrespected by this painting? Or by that of the naked Maja (Francisco Goya). Is The Origin of the World (Gustave Courbet) sexist or is it art? (The most "explicit" painting I know, by the way).
We would also like to refer to 2 interesting articles on the origin of the world:
If I were to google now, the list could probably be continued endlessly.
In one of my rooms hang the two photographs They are coming (Helmut Newton). With sufficient malice, one could read sexism into this, because on one side you see top models. Expensively dressed. Spic and span. Proud, self-confident and above all: unattainable.
On the other hand, the Newton comes along and says: Hey, then just imagine her naked... And yet, photographed in 1994, it was recognised art then as it is now.
Admittedly, sexual censorship is nothing really new. In the so-called great castration in the mid-16th century, Pope Pius V had all the penises of sculptures, some of them more than a thousand years old, chiselled off. Later they were still covered with fig leaves added later. Even then, chisels and cement inflicted irreversible damage on historical works of art, causing art lovers to despair even today. In the Vatican, if rumours are to be believed, there is a large chest with chopped-off marble dwarfs...
Pius, however, was a professional sexual pessimist by profession - I would not have canonised him, nor does he have my absolution for the rest of his actions in his era.
But why step into such boots today?
Here and now, I despise sexism and certainly appreciate the ideals of PinkStinks. But I am just as vigorously opposed to modern, self-appointed, overzealous moral judges.
The same applies to each and every one of my staff (m/f). 7
I will neither justify myself nor discuss further than it goes beyond this already extensive thought exercise.
However, anyone who would like to talk to me about this is welcome to call me.
I sincerely wish you and all of you all the love, wisdom and grace of the gods and goddesses. And, alternatively, as much satisfaction in your struggle as you deem necessary. 8
I would like to close with a quote that was already 100 years old at the time of Pius the Fifth:
Honi soit qui mal y pense
Your Manfred from Harmonia e.K.
Addendum: Until today, Pinkstinkshas only replied to Mr Kronstaller's statement that his email was probably blocked by their spam filter. What a pity! Mr Kronstaller would have liked to explain his points again personally in a constructive dialogue instead of being put into a grammatically incorrectly defined pigeonhole by the Pinkstinks website werbemelder.in:
Sexist - Category 4. Suggestion of sexual availability. Correct should be: 'Suggestion of...' or 'Suggesting of...'.
1. Spiritually, male/female are initially only qualities that form the poles (not opposites!) of a whole. One would not exist without the other. What is meant is not the biological but the cosmic sense. Just as there would be no shadow without light. Or no front without a back. No Jing without Yang
3. Typically "masculine" qualities (sun or the 19 in the Kabbalah) would be liveliness, radiance, vitality or also megalomania and fighting spirit.
4. Of course, all human beings combine both female and male characteristics. A man's feminine qualities are called anima - correspondingly, animus is understood to be the sum of a woman's masculine qualities.
5. The order in the brackets may be reversed as desired.
6. Would it not make more sense, for example, to campaign for the rescue or reintroduction of the "ß" in Swiss spelling?
7. The most sarcastic remarks came internally from the female part of our employees, of all people.
8. Ironically, belligerence is an animus in women, so actually, spiritually, it's a typically masculine quality that you're living out there 😊
Image sources: © Michael Schnitzenbaumer 2022