Varieties of Feminism: German Gender Politics in Global Perspective

By Myra Marx Ferree | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
YOU CAN’T MAKE
A STATE WITHOUT
WOMEN
German Unification, 1990–1995

THE WOMAN I WAS INTERVIEWING sputtered with anger. An academic sociologist, Birgit had taught introductory courses at the University of Leipzig and done research on families, but her real passion for the past few years had been feminism. She helped develop an interdisciplinary study group at the university and a local women’s newspaper. She had been eager to see the GDR opened to criticism over its treatment of women and was not sorry to see the total collapse of the country after the Berlin Wall fell. Birgit had gone into the West as soon as she could to gather feminist materials and visit a mother’s center. She saw the possibility of teaching about gender and women’s movements in the Eastern part of newly unified Germany as the opportunity of a lifetime.

And it was not going to happen. The all-male committee of social scientists who came on behalf of the Federal Republic to review her credentials cleared her of the taint of Marxism attached to anyone teaching the required courses on Marxist-Leninist social theory. They applauded the quality of her research on families and youth. But they looked baffled at her request to teach women’s studies. “Can you believe it! They told me that this is not a recognized field of study in the West!” she exclaimed. Though she and I both knew this was

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