Germany

Introduction to the Germany Site
of the Global Feminisms Project

By Sławomira Walczewska

Since 2015, I have been able to stay in Germany for several weeks thanks to subsidies from the EU Erasmus Plus program, which supports organizations operating in the field of education and culture. During these stays, I worked in friendly feminist organizations, but I also had a lot of time for myself. I knew very well that the German women’s movement was not only about Alice Schwarzer, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the feminist magazine “Emma,” one of the world’s longest-running feminist magazines. Feminism in Germany has been co-created by thousands of women, committed, and determined, to change the world into a women-friendly one. I wanted to meet these women, hear their stories, and (since I had a camera with me) document them. I had worked as a founding member of the Global Feminisms Project, documenting Polish feminism nearly 20 years ago. For that reason, I was very pleased when Professor Abigail Stewart responded positively to my question as to whether narrative interviews with German feminists could be included in the Global Feminisms project. I am glad that by working together on the interviews, we have managed to extend this unique Global Feminisms project to another country.

Resources


This timeline has been prepared by Macy Afsari and Hanna Smith for the Global Feminisms Project during the summer of 2020.



Overview of the Germany Site and Interviews

The first interviewee was sociologist Sigrid Metz-Goeckel, professor emerita of higher education, at the University of Dortmund. Throughout her life, she has been committed to increasing women’s participation in university decision-making bodies, increasing the visibility of women and creating women’s support networks. Her best-known activities include co-creating and conducting a feminist summer university for women from all over the world during the Expo 2000 exhibition and establishing and running the “Rebellious Women” Foundation.

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Tamara Multhaupt is an ethnologist who left the university in order to create the cultural program of the thriving feminist organization BEGINE in Berlin. The BEGINE Women’s Center is an important place for Berlin and German feminism. Its origins date back to the time when the Berlin Wall still existed, and the old tenement houses in which nobody wanted to live were destroyed. A group of women took over one of these tenement houses, renovated and arranged flats in it, and on the ground floor created a women’s center with a spacious bar area and two large workshop rooms. Despite many difficult moments, thanks to the involvement of many women, BEGINE still exists today and two more of the interviewees are associated with it. First, Barbara Hoyer, a Germanist interested in “the other side of the wall,” runs the institution BEGINE with a strong hand as its director. Manu Giese is at BEGINE almost every day. She was a trade union activist, a spokeswoman for women’s affairs, and was on the front line when the idea of taking over the tenement house and creating a women’s center appeared. She cleaned the basement of debris, removing old plaster, and taking away mountains of rubbish.

When the women’s movement was relatively well-established in Germany, lesbians took the initiative. Dagmar Schoenfisch was the one who first, together with two other people, and then alone, created the first lesbian pub in Berlin. The oldest lesbians still smile as they talk about an energetic girl with red hair riding her bicycle to open the les-bar. Eva Maria did not organize the place, but the people. For over twenty years on the same day of the week, at the same time, one could sit at the lesbians’ table, where Eva Maria was always sitting.

Gudrun Koch became involved in fostering contacts and building mutual understanding between feminists from Western Europe and Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Wall. She belonged to a minority which, unlike the “besserwessi” (those who think West Germans know best), tried to understand the women’s movement east of the “iron curtain.” Heidi Meinzolt-Depner co-founded the Green Party in conservative Munich, was active in it, and eventually broke up with it, engaging only in the women’s movement. For years, she has been running the German section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), one of the oldest feminist and pacifist organizations established in the early 20th century. Katharina Oguntoye is African-German and is committed to women and lesbians of color. She is the author of the most famous and influential book about the situation of Afro-German women. Marion Schmidt made a revolution in the field of dance. In her youth, dance schools were heteronormative. Marion turned to dance theory and founded Germany’s first female-only dance school.

Procedures for Producing Final Interview Videos and Transcripts

All of the interviews are presented in transcript and video form complete and unedited. The videos are available in the original German and in subtitled English .