"Uber-hausfrau" movement sweeps Germany?

// 18 March 2007

hausfrauAn uber-hausfrau movement is sweeping Germany, according to a report in Spiegel International.

Das Eva Prinzip, sub-titled Towards a New Femininity, by Eva Herman, is apparently behind the “movement”, and Spiegel describes it as “full of anti-feminist anger”.

Based on Herman’s own experience, that motherhood and apple pies beat working as a newsreeder and talk-show host, the argument seems to be predictably confused and contradictory.

“Dragging myself from job to job, I used to feel so useless. I wanted to be special but didn’t know how — I was neither fish nor flesh.” For this angst-ridden career woman, salvation finally came in the full-bellied shape of motherhood. “With my husband and daughter at my side, I’m so happy and free now,” she proclaims.

Except, in common with a number of US authors who have spewed out similar books in recent years, Herman is not content to be a mother and wife. Here she is, after all, writing books and no doubt in the throws of a successful career as pundit.

Herman feels that nothing less than the survival of the country is at stake — Germans will “die out” if women don’t change their behavior, she says. She sees herself as courageously breaking a “taboo” by criticizing women’s liberation.

What really gets me is not that this individual woman didn’t like her career, and prefers to stay at home with the kids and get dinner on the table (although, as stated, this isn’t even the case). It’s the need to expand this into a philosophy and attempt to guilt trip others. And does this stuff about German’s dying out not seem a bit ridiculous and racist to anyone?

“Let’s just say it loud,” Herman writes. “We women have overburdened ourselves — we allowed ourselves to be too easily seduced by career opportunities.” She recommends women exchange the cold sphere of work for the “colorful world of children” and discover their “destiny of nurturing the home environment.”

But not everything is going so badly in Germany. Minister for family affairs Ursula von der Leyen is pushing to triple the number of childcare places available in the country, in a bid to provide more support for working mothers. Unfortunately, this proposal is facing tough opposition, Spiegel says, on grounds that are predictably illogical and misogynistic:

“Von der Leyen’s proposal is destructive for children and families”, Catholic bishop Walter Mixa said two weeks ago. Women, too should be worried, he feels: “Those who entice women to give their children into state care shortly after birth degrade them to baby machines.”

Because it’s feminists who want women to be able to work and have careers that see women as “baby machines”, not bishops who oppose providing childcare so mothers aren’t shackled to their children.

It appears that opposition to childcare is also wound up in Germany’s particular history.

Opponents compare Leyen’s proposal to the ideology of the former East Germany. The Communist state offered comprehensive childcare provision with the result that almost 92 percent of women worked. But, say critics, the intervention of the state into the sacred sphere of the family is harmful.

Karin Deckenbach, a political scientist, comes to the rescue with some sensible words:

“Only the Germans think that public care equals child abuse”, says Karin Deckenbach, a Washington-based political scientist and author of “What Happened, Eva?” which she wrote in response to “The Eva Principle.” Elsewhere in Europe or in the USA, women — and men — are used to leaving their young children in care so that the mothers can return to work, she argues.

“The Eva Principle is not the solution but the problem”, she says. “German women already have the choice to stay at home and look after their children if they want to.” They are not, however, given the choice of combining children with a career.

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