Real women don’t wobble

by on October 10, 2010  •  In Uncategorized

From the NY Times:

When the Berlin Wall collapsed and Germany became one again, women in the former Communist East seemed to be the big losers.They lost their jobs and their maternity and child-care benefits. And they lost the form of equality that Communism had brought: Raised in a culture where women drove cranes and studied physics, they were reduced to clichés depicting them as oversexed.

The assumption was that as with everything else, East German women would become more “Western” — more domesticated and somehow more docile. But as Germany celebrates 20 years of reunification, it is Western women who, in many ways, strive to be more like their Eastern sisters.

Eastern women are more self-confident, better-educated and more mobile, recent studies show. They have children earlier and are more likely to work full time. More of them are happy with their looks and their sexuality, and fewer of them diet. If Western women earn 24 percent less than men, the pay gap in the East is a mere 6 percent (though overall levels of pay are lower)…

Jutta Allmendiger, a West German sociologist and author of “Women on the March,” a survey on young German women’s attitudes, said “women in the East are more holistic,” and “combine their children and their careers and their sexuality in a completely matter-or-fact way.”

“West German women wobble,” she said. “Eastern women have no fear.”

When the Cold War split Germany in two, the country became a living experiment in social engineering. East and West had the same history — a history in which women principally raised children and kept the home according to the mantra “kinder, küche, kirche,” or “children, kitchen, church.”

Four decades of radically different socialization led to two very different sets of attitudes, illustrating how politics can shape gender relations. In the East, a Communist state losing male labor to the West set up free day care centers and all-day schools so that women could work. Women had an extra vacation day per month, a year of paid maternity leave and shorter work hours after the second child. In the West, they could be divorced for being a “bad housewife” until the 1960s. They needed their husbands’ permission to work until 1977. Schools finished at lunchtime, and nurseries were scarce. Until reunification, single mothers were assigned a legal guardian.

When the Berlin Wall fell, female employment in the West was 55 percent, in the East 90 percent. Since then, much was done to bring Eastern conditions into line with Western ones. Yet East German women, like many women in the ex-Soviet bloc, tended to embrace change more readily than their menfolk. Whether because they needed to see their children fed, or because of an inbred independence, they would move or learn a new skill.

Hundreds of thousands have spread out across Western Germany in search of job opportunities, challenging stereotypes by doing as their mothers did: having children, working and competing with the guys for the top job.

“Eastern women have infected Western women,” said Anke Domscheit-Berg, 42, director of government relations at Microsoft Germany… “Most places I worked, I was the first mother in a full-time job, I was the bulldozer, I created the precedents,” Ms. Domscheit-Berg said. “There were always other women after me.

Eastern women may have been raised under Communism, but they seem more entrepreneurial than Westerners. To this day, in the East, women are more likely to reach top management levels than women in the West. In Chemnitz, formerly Karl-Marx-Stadt, Birgit Mayer runs a car parts supplier. All employees are men, but “they all grew up with working mothers, so there is no problem,” said Ms. Mayer, a 48-year-old engineer…


One Response to Real women don’t wobble

  1. red sole January 6, 2012 at 9:16 AM

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