Media Source for Berlin Images 1989-1990 (and Tangential Thoughts on Feminism’s Focus)

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The Deutsche Kinemathek Museum for Film and Television and the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Federal Agency for Civic Education) are collaborating on the “Internet Archive,” an on-line resource for film, television footage and photography from Germany in 1989 and 1990.

The Internet Archive contains films and photos taken in 1989 and 1990, during the time of the Fall of the Wall and the reunification. All of the material is from private collections, making the Archive a very personal collection of impressions and atmospheres, and affording the observer a different glimpse of historical events and their effects on daily life in both the East and the West.

For scholars interested in multi-media support for teaching about international law, 20th century legal history or law and visual advocacy, this looks like a promising resource.  

For one take on feminism in the early year’s after the wall came down, see Frank Vivano, “Feminism’s Iron Curtain: Women in Europe’s Eastern Bloc Nations Can Ill Afford the Luxury of Western Feminism,” S.F. Chron.,  Dec. 4, 1994 at S1.

Few of the divisions are sharper than the gender gap that yawns here — not simply between men and women, but between eastern women and their would-be sisters in the west.  Increasingly, these differences are prompting easterners to build their own women’s movement, from Berlin to the Russian Far East. Like Scheffel, many of its leaders are openly suspicious of western-style feminism, regarding it as a preoccupation of the affluent * * * Basically, the differences come down to attitudes toward family and work. Most eastern European women have extensive experience with both. * * *  Although western women are more conspicuous at the upper levels of German political life than easterners, they are rarely encountered in factories. The traditional hausfrau, raising children at home while her husband earns the bratwurst, is still the norm in lower-middle-class and blue-collar districts.  Feminism’s main goal, in the eastern view, is to make it possible for women to continue being mothers and hold jobs at the same time.

I understand the critique that feminism is a “preoccupation of the affluent,” insofar as having the luxury to think, talk and write about women’s issues only exists if one has access to leisure and some resources.  But is there a conflict between “western” (presumably western European and U.S.) feminism, as Mr. Vivano portrays it, and “eastern” (read: East German) feminism?  My first reaction was, “Not at all.  The focus on being a mother while holding a job is definitely a central concern of U.S. feminism.”  But as I think about it more carefully, maybe the distinction goes more toward the more singular focus of late-20th century eastern German feminism on work-motherhood issues.  Feminism, or at least U.S. feminist legal theory, is understood as a critical approach to a wide variety of issues — not just the right to vote, reproductive rights, or work-motherhood concerns.  To me, the follow-on question then is whether feminism as a political  commitment has lost traction because its lack of singular focus.  

-Bridget Crawford

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