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The Fatherland's feminist Alice Schwarzer turns 70
Photo: DPA

The Fatherland's feminist Alice Schwarzer turns 70

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

In a new series profiling German newsmakers, The Local looks as the achievements of prominent feminist Alice Schwarzer. The woman often described as Germany's Gloria Steinem turns 70 on Monday.

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has in recent years become a controversial figure even among feminists, many of whom say her approach has become outdated.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."

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)

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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
YING-YANG SOUNDLESS WAR STILL ON

" 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 !
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