Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

"Frauen Fur Den Frieden-Oppositional Group or Bored Troublemakers?"

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

"Frauen Fur Den Frieden-Oppositional Group or Bored Troublemakers?"

Article excerpt

Introduction

Da sie an der Welt nicht zweifeln konnte, blieb ihr nur der Zweifel an sich. (Because she couldn't doubt the world, she could only doubt herself.)

Christa Wolf

During the late 1970s and early 1980s the stagnant economy and repressive society of East Germany led to growing discontent of the people with the political system and saw the emergence of several oppositional movements. Some of these groups assembled under the protection of the Protestant Church even though most of them were not necessarily Christians. While the Church enabled them to remain partly hidden from the state's security service, it also created greater vulnerability for infiltration by the state's security's informal employees (IM, Informelle Mitarbeiter). The Church leadership understood the Church as an institution of the socialist system, an integral part of socialist society, yet the Church remained a considerable danger to the state (Grabner 35). Emancipation, liberation, and self-determination of women were difficult tasks for the Protestant Church. Due to its history of hostility towards women, the Church was rather conservative regarding women, but still more open-minded than the government led by the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands [Socialist Unity Party of Germany]). It remained partly opposed to the political practices of the dictatorial regime, even though the Church never openly questioned the system. According to Samirah Kenawi, the paradox was that the feminist discussion was carried from within the Church into the society and not from the society into the Church (16). The conservative, old-fashioned opinion about women and the emerging women's groups offered reasons for feminist-inspired discussions within the Church. State and society did not support these discussions since feminism was perceived as a Western concept, which neither served the government nor the women of the GDR. "Discrimination was more visible in the Church than in the secular GDR society which postulated the equality of the genders and which concealed the inequality of women through women's committees, women's promotion plans and social-political measures" (Kenawi 16).

The Church was admonished by the state not to get involved in state affairs (Grabner 85). On March 6, 1978, a discussion regarding state and Church occurred in which the SED wanted to establish freedom and set boundaries for the Church and its power. The dialogue established a self-determined legal and financial status for the Church and granted more ideological freedom to the Church. These concessions made by the state were contradictory. The GDR was clearly an atheist state; 20 percent of the population was Protestant and only 3 percent was Catholic (Schenk and Schindler 133). The SED successfully suppressed religious movements, and the Stasi always had an eye on Christians because of the perceived threat of their interference with the system. The government wanted to prevent opposition groups from using the Church as a carrier for their ideas and from establishing networks; hence, any meeting or gathering had to be of purely religious character. Political leaders wanted to prevent the Church from becoming a mouthpiece of the opposition. On the other hand a dialogue occurred to achieve better control over potential illegal oppositional groups. If the Church attained greater freedom, these groups would leave their limiting private spaces and approach the Church for logistical support and meeting rooms. Kenawi states that between 1978 and 1983 the Stasi uncovered several opposition groups within the Church (16). Once the small opposition of the early 1980s blossomed into a larger visible movement in the later 1980s, and the mass demonstrations in 1989, the role of the Church withered rather quickly and the unusual dialogue between Church and opposition ceased to exist, further facilitated by the fact that the events of 1989/1990 took a life of their own far beyond the control of the oppositional movement, the Church and the state. …

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