Varieties of Feminism: German Gender Politics in Global Perspective

By Myra Marx Ferree | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
WOMEN THEMSELVES
WILL DECIDE
Autonomous Feminist Mobilization,
1968–1978

IT BEGAN right after lunch on September 13, 1968. The national assembly of the German Socialist Student Association (Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund, SDS) reconvened and took up its next order of business without discussing the feminist critique Helke Sander had offered just before the break.1 Sigrid Damm-Rüger, one of the best-known women in SDS leadership, was more than a little annoyed that the meeting was moving on without responding to the points raised by Sander on behalf of the new Action Group for the Liberation of Women in Berlin. So she stood up and let fly—tossing tomatoes at the young man chairing the meeting. Ines Lehman, another leading woman SDS activist, jumped up to protect him, and the meeting erupted in chaos.2

What was it all about? One part was unmistakable. Just as tomatoes and eggs were flying regularly from the hands of SDS activists against public targets like buildings and politicians, this demonstration was meant to express collective disapproval. The leadership stood accused of silencing women in their supposedly democratic student politics. Activists and press understood immediately. Widespread coverage of the tomato incident made gender relations in the student movement a matter of public discussion.

Another part remains controversial. What kind of power and freedom did women need and want? Were women in SDS subordinated “brides of the rev-

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