INARTICULACY: LESBIANISM AND LANGUAGE IN POST-1945 GERMAN LITERATURE
'What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say?'
T he public history of lesbianism -- and of lesbians -- in Germany has, during this century at least, been peculiarly bound up with the question of women's emancipation. It is not by chance that it was precisely in those periods when women were most active in challenging the roles prescribed for them within a social order shaped by the interests of male power -- broadly speaking the 1920s and the 1970s -- that lesbians and the issue of lesbianism made the most significant inroads into the public sphere, nor that it was in the periods of greatest ideological prescription with regard to the social role of women -- in Nazi Germany, Adenauer's Federal Republic, and the GDR -- that they were most effectively banished from it.
To some extent, then, the taboo that surrounded (and partially still surrounds) the lesbian has its correlation in the taboo that surrounded (and partially still surrounds) the woman who does not fit in with historically defined cultural expectations of womanhood, who rebels against the structures of a male-oriented society, who is active and articulate in her own interest and ultimately uncontrollably unfeminine. Being an extreme case, the lesbian perhaps offers a particularly sensitive measure of the degree to which the emancipatory process has progressed. For the lesbian striving to attain the position of articulate subject as a lesbian is also confronted with the larger taboo that surrounds her sexuality in a society quick to condemn any aberration from its heterosexual norms.