Schwarzer, the 67-year-old leading feminist and founder of the women’s journal EMMA, blasted Schröder in an open letter as a “hopeless case” and “simply unqualified.”
Schröder, 33, is the youngest woman ever to sit in Germany’s cabinet. In an interview this week with Der Spiegel magazine, the conservative Christian Democrat took issue with some of Schwarzer’s assertions in the latter’s famous feminist book, Der kleine Unterschied und seine großen Folgen, or “The Small Difference and its Great Consequences.”
The minister questioned Schwarzer’s purported view that “heterosexual sex was hardly possible without the subjugation of the woman.”
“It is absurd when something that is essential to the survival of humanity is defined as subjugation. That would mean that without the subjugation of woman society could not continue.”
Schröder also said: “I don’t find it convincing that homosexuality should be the solution to the disadvantage of women.”
The radical feminist tendency to reject relationships between men and women was not a solution for inequality, she said.
“I believe that early feminism at least partially overlooked that partnership and children bring happiness,” she told the magazine.
The minister also rejected the idea of quotas to improve women’s standing in the workplace, calling it a “political capitulation.” She blamed some women’s own choices for the fact that they earned less than men.
“The truth is this: Many women prefer to study German philology and humanities, while men study electric engineering – and that has consequences when it comes to wages. We can’t forbid companies from paying electric engineers more than a philologist.”
Schröder told Der Spiegel that a new part of her policy would be providing more support to boys, who are falling behind girls in schools. Government policies have neglected boys and men, she said.
The Family Minister’s comments were not appreciated by feminist leader Schwarzer, who made a brutal retort in an open letter to Schröder, also published by Der Spiegel.
“I consider you to be a hopeless case. Simply unqualified,” Schwarzer wrote.
“Whatever the motive of the chancellor might have been in appointing you of all people – it cannot have been competence and empathy for women.”
Schwarzer accused Schröder of using “cheap clichés” about “the most momentous social movement of the 20th century,” which Schröder, among many other young women, could thank for their personal success in their careers.
She went on to blast Schröder for employing “populist wisdom” and “outrageous nonsense” about Schwarzer’s book.
She said she had waited for the past year for deeds and action from Schröder, but “in vain.”
“The only exciting news from your office was your change of name from Köhler to Schröder,” she said, referring to the minister’s name change after she got married in February.
Meanwhile Green party parliamentary group leader and candidate for Berlin mayor Renate Künast said she was “dumbfounded” by the Family Minister’s comments, calling them “crude and antiquated.”
Another opposition politician, Social Democrat deputy leader and Minister of Social Affairs and Health in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig, called the interview “nonsense.”
“Mrs. Schröder has absolutely no understanding of the historic meaning of feminism,” she told Der Spiegel, adding that she was also uninformed about the modern problems of women.
The deputy leader of the socialist Left party, Katja Kipping, weighed in on the debate with equal vigour, questioning Schröder’s knowledge of the movement, saying it had “never been about man-hating, but about fighting the patriarchy – that is, structures that discriminate against women.”