• Germany's news in English

The Fatherland's feminist Alice Schwarzer turns 70

The Local · 3 Dec 2012, 13:13

Published: 03 Dec 2012 13:13 GMT+01:00

Often reduced by critics to her sharp tongue and combative manner, Schwarzer has in recent years become a controversial figure even among feminists, many of whom say her approach has become outdated.

But in her autobiography published last year Schwarzer described herself as a knowledge-hungry woman who loves life, likes to celebrate and has many friends.

She started campaigning for women's rights in France in the early 1970s before returning to her native Germany. In 1975 she published her first book, The Small Difference, which propelled her to the front of the country's fledgling feminist movement.

Quotes such as this from that book: "The penis – in its flaccid condition, experts assure us, it's eight to nine centimetres; rigid it is six to eight centimetres more. And being a man is contained in this little tip?" were used by detractors to portray her as a man-hating feminist troublemaker.

Two years later she set up the magazine Emma, which led campaigns on subjects such as female genital mutilation and sexual abuse, as well as calling for gay marriage rights and paternity leave as early a the 1980s. It continues to be considered the leading German feminist magazine.

She often takes part in political talk shows, and has become a "media personality" in many respects. She was awarded the government's Order of Merit medal in 2005, cementing her position as one of Germany's leading societal figures.

Although her contribution is generally recognized as significant for women's rights in Germany, she is not universally liked or respected – and has attracted the ire of other feminists for what some criticize as her old-fashioned and inflexible attitudes.

Bascha Mika, former editor of the left-wing daily Die Tageszeitung has been publicly critical, while historian Miriam Gebhardt wrote a book about her called "Alice in No-mans-land", which described her as inflexible and a matriarch who was constantly promoting herself.

She was also accused of selling out last year for writing in the sensationalist Bild newspaper, which then still carried photos of topless women on its front page – something she had previously attacked for being misogynist. She wrote commentary on the rape trial of a famous weatherman for the paper, saying that she was writing on behalf of his victim – although he was acquitted for lack of evidence.

In interviews this week she said she would continue to fight against prostitution and pornography. She said she wanted to make it embarrassing for men, "to buy the body and soul of a woman for a few notes."

Regarding pornography, she said it was, "not about naked skin or eroticism, rather about the linking of sexual desire with the desire to humiliate, and violence."

Story continues below…

In a birthday blog entry, Schwarzer quoted from an interview she conducted in 1978 with Simone de Beauvoir, when the French intellectual and feminist said, "Women cannot fall so far [as men when they age] because they were never on top. But the men who consider themselves important, they believe they had power and responsibility – and often do have that. When they age it is terrible. That is a real break."

Schwarzer also said how she planned to celebrate her 70th birthday: "We will dance until at least two or three in the morning. Rock 'n' Roll, what else? Because as far as I am concerned, honestly – I feel ageless. But – how do I tell the others?"

The Local/DPA/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

16:48 December 3, 2012 by Kennneth Ingle
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
00:52 December 4, 2012 by marimay
Feminism gave way to the two income household being necessary to survive. Banks supported the women's movement because it meant more bank accounts for them. Thanks a lot lady, I can no longer do or expect to be able to do, womanly things without being looked down upon by unhappy career mongers wondering why they don't feel fulfilled despite all of your feminist "gains".

Unnatural is unnatural as is most aspects of life. Wake up.
11:38 December 4, 2012 by sourgrapes
Rather than just keep blaming men for victimising women, why not start looking at why modern parenting still produces misogynist boy children who objectify women. What kind of parenting or mothering produces men who hate women, or don't consider us proper human beings?
16:34 December 7, 2012 by Gretl
marimay - I do not feel unfilled working with my mind rather than staying at home and cleaning house. It takes a certain personality to be fulfilled being housecleaner, cook, and raising children. I cannot imagine anything less fulfilling. I have three girls but I would have done them a disservice staying home with them and resenting them for chaining me to the house and mindless babble. I hired people more patient than I, skilled in fingerpainting and early education so I could be happy to see them at the end of the day. Why is there a different standard for men than there is for women?
16:40 December 7, 2012 by funke
At Sourgrapes the fact is that Men are to be blamed if one is to take it along the lines of the bible and the fall in the Garden of Eden. Was not Adam responsible for Eve that came out of him? If he had been watching his post he would not have let satan deceive her into taking and eating the fruit. Anyway for Adam the consequences was that he had to slog hard to make a living true. before that he had everything handed unto him on a plate! and for Eve she was made subservient to Adam when she had been equal to him in everysense and also now she was dependent on his penis ( her desire would be over him!)

GOOD NEWS is though Jesus broke all of that Curse for both Adam and Eve, for Eve He abolished Genderism whether you take it to the extreem or you just allow women to walk as equa l to man HE did it.
04:07 December 8, 2012 by Johannantoinette
I agree with marimay! It is a lot harder to be female these days. My own mother looks down upon me for wearing skirts and making food from scratch to my husband and children! She doesn't understand how I can be filled being a german Hausfrau when she was always so unfilled being a finnish one. Yes, she had no choice but I have and why must I look down upon for that? Let you working women be fulfilled working but should society punish the rest of us for it by expecting us to do the same?

There is a different standard for men because they have different standards. They work and bring home their catch and be adored by their children and wives. That is really what most men desire. What the remaining men desire is their business but what is natural is what is society's business. What majority desires is the most important order of the day. That's how it goes and why is that bad?

Most men are lost and unfulfilled today as they do not know how to build a home and use tools or hunt like their forefathers did. And this is not teached as it would be unfair for the female students?
02:32 December 9, 2012 by www.emungus.net

" The penis ... rigid it is six to eight centimeters more. And being a man is contained in this little tip? " Ma'm is straightforward -- and she's right by the way. However, with such rhetoric we¦#39;re definitely raising more conflicts between men and women than solving some...That soundless and noiseless, almost undercover-war between women and men seems to be endless. We can carry on sing love and harmony instead. Why not being comfortable in our respective nature? Well… anyway, only a woman can make me happy !
Today's headlines
The Local List
5 ways German schools trump the US and UK
Students in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

5 ways German schools trump the US and UK

10 hours ago

A new report reveals how Germany's education system stacks up against the United States and the UK - with good news for kids in the Federal Republic.

Woman sleeps with scorpion for 3 months
Photo: Polizei Herford

Woman sleeps with scorpion for 3 months

11 hours ago

A woman in western Germany was horrified on Sunday after finding a scorpion in her bed that had stowed away during her sunshine holiday this summer.

North Germans are the happiest, survey finds
Schleswig-Holstein is official Germany's happiest state, according to this year's poll. Photo: DPA

North Germans are the happiest, survey finds

12 hours ago

Want to find your happy place in Germany? You might want to move to Schleswig-Holstein, according to the latest "Happiness Atlas" produced by Deutsche Post.

German Mali troops to free France for Isis fight
The Bundeswehr on operation in Mali. Photo: DPA

German Mali troops to free France for Isis fight

15 hours ago

Germany will send up to 650 soldiers to Mali, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday, to provide some relief to France in its global fight against Isis jihadists.

German teacher fined for painting over swastikas
Swastikas are often daubed on mosques and Jewish grave stones, among other things. File photo: DPA

German teacher fined for painting over swastikas

16 hours ago

A teacher from central Germany has been ordered to pay a €1,000 fine after he painted over swastikas which had been sprayed on public property.

Refugee crisis
Merkel tries to hit tough-but-fair note on refugees
Angela Merkel addressing the Bundestag on Wednesday morning. Photo: DPA

Merkel tries to hit tough-but-fair note on refugees

16 hours ago

Angela Merkel continued her balancing act between her party and her principles in a speech to MPs on Wednesday as she attempted to reassure parliament that she had the refugee crisis under control.

Lufthansa air crews call off strike
Lufthansa. Photo: DPA

Lufthansa air crews call off strike

17 hours ago

Air crew union UFO announced on Wednesday that it has decided to call off a planned strike against Lufthansa, after the airline made significant concessions.

Refugee crisis
German asylum law is 'magnet for refugees'
Günter Oettinger. Photo: DPA

German asylum law is 'magnet for refugees'

18 hours ago

Germany's asylum law is responsible for luring so many refugees to Europe and needs changing, said the country’s EU commissioner Günther Oettinger on Wednesday.

Peruvian farmer sues German energy giant
An RWE brown coal mine. Photo: DPA

Peruvian farmer sues German energy giant

19 hours ago

A Peruvian farmer has filed a landmark lawsuit against German energy giant RWE, saying that the company's fossil fuel emissions endanger his family, livelihood and hometown, a German NGO said Tuesday.

Bishop buys €300k altar as refugee home rots
Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg. Photo: DPA

Bishop buys €300k altar as refugee home rots

1 day ago

The Bishop of Augsburg has announced plans to build a €300,000 altar in the city cathedral, just days after complaining that the city was underfunding refugees.

Sponsored Article
How to figure out healthcare abroad
German ISS astronaut tells kids to follow their dreams
Sponsored Article
Why family companies need free trade and TTIP
90 percent of Germans want tougher security
Sponsored Article
'Innovative companies like Hövding benefit most from TTIP'
Are you living in Germany's most expensive city?
Sponsored Article
The cheapest and fastest way to transfer money
Should singer accused of homophobia represent Germany at Eurovision?
70 years since the Nuremberg Trials
The German connection in the Paris attacks
Snow expected on 'first weekend of winter'
10 years of Angela Merkel in Berlin
Could soldiers soon be patrolling German streets?
Second German Paris victim was teacher and journalist
'We can't beat Isis with military means'
How will Germany help France fight Isis?
One German confirmed dead in Paris attacks
'Don't take Paris out on refugees': German defence minister
Germany's minute of silence for Paris victims
Nightclub bans refugees for harassing women
OPINION: Refugees must learn to respect German values
The ancient German community at the heart of Texas
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd