Monday, 9 May 2016

Schwarzer, Alice "Lebenslauf" [My life] - 2011

Schwarzer, Alice "Lebenslauf" [German: My life] - 2011

After reading "My Life on the Road" by Gloria Steinem, THE American feminist, I really had to read the memoir by THE German feminist, Alice Schwarzer. Her "Lebenslauf" with which we describe our "curriculum vitae" in German has the quite appropriate English title "My life".

Alice Schwarzer tells us about her life, from her early years as the daughter of a single mother living with her grandparents to her first working years in Germany and Paris, her studies, her start in the feminist movement. She is the founder of the most important German feminist magazine "Emma". I discovered many similarities between the two women. Quite interesting.

She is known for tireless campaigns and her name is always mentioned as soon as the word feminism comes up in Germany. As a fighter for women's rights, she has a lot of enemies. She has never come across as an easy person but I always admired her for how she stood up for what she believed in and how she often took the blame for something she tried to achieve for all women.

However, she has received many prizes and honours for her work, including the German Cross of Merit and the knighthood in the French Legion of Honour. So, I guess, I'm not the only one admiring her.

In her book, she writes about all the subjects she has fought for and thereby also gives us a good overview over the feminist movement in Germany during the decades - but she also tells us about her personal life. I especially liked her account of meeting Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir with whom she became very good friends.

A good biography by a great journalist. I should probably read her most famous book "The little difference and its huge consequences".

While looking for the back cover in English, (which I didn't find), I found this very interesting article: Who is Alice Schwarzer, and Why Should You Care? It looks like we should care a lot.

This books gives us a good insight. Even if you're against feminism (and I don't understand who still would be), it's an interesting book about Germany after the Second World War.

From the back cover:

"How did Alice Schwarzer become who she is? And above all: who is she anyway?"

From the Goethe Institut:
"'I don’t think much of ‘feminizing society’' – An Interview with Alice Schwarzer

Alice Schwarzer has been the face of feminism in Germany for decades. In 2011 she brought out her autobiography to a surprisingly benevolent reception by critics. interviewed her.

Ms. Schwarzer, in 1949 Simone de Beauvoir noted that the struggle had been won. Twenty years later, you thought women had still achieved almost nothing. Surely that has changed since the 1970s. Do you look upon the struggle of the women’s movement as won or lost today? There’s a difference of course between feminism, the women’s movement, and the de facto social development, that is, the active participation of women in working life, in public life and in politics. What role does feminism play today?

The women’s movement of the 1970s is undoubtedly the most momentous social movement of the second half of the twentieth century. In the past forty years we feminists have stirred up a real cultural revolution! Today the world is open to women, at least theoretically. Women have access to all sectors of society, and the first women are penetrating male-dominated domains; Germany even has a woman chancellor. And more and more fathers know or at least suspect that it’s no longer enough to take their son to the football field on Sunday or to buy their daughter an ice-cream once in a while. We women have made progress by leaps and bounds.

At the same time, this progress isn’t guaranteed; it has to be defended anew every day. As, for example, the right to abortion. There are still some of the old problems, plus new ones. Women have conquered the professional world, but men still don’t shoulder their half of the housework. And above all there still exists the problem of familial and sexual violence. This humiliates both children and women and makes their lives unsafe. Today such sexual violence is openly played down or even propagated – by the approving of prostitution and the ubiquity of pornography. By pornography I mean the linking of sexual desire with the lust for humiliation and violence. That destroys not only women and children; it also destroys men’s desire, in short, their pleasure. So there still remains much to do for feminists and their sympathizers.
'My life story is both typical and untypical.'

Read more here.


  1. Never heard of here, we're so insular here in the States. If it isn't happening here it's not important.
    I'm next in line at my library for the Gloria Steinem biography that you reviewed.

    1. I think that's because you are such a large country and few people ever tet to go abroad whereas here, especially in the area I live in, I can be in three countries within half an hour and in five withing two to three hours, so we are surrounded by internationalism.

      But I think the internet has given us all a much wider area to roam and it's good for you that you take that opportunity. Looking forward to hearing what you think about Gloria Steinem's book.

      Happy Reading,

  2. It looks like this has not been translated into English. Is that right? If or when it is, I would like to read it. I have read almost everything by Simone de Beauvoir, the most well known feminist of Europe. Of course Alice Schwarzer would have had to know her!

    1. When I started reading it, I thought it had because I found the English title almost everywhere. But I could not find the book when I looked for the cover and in the meantime I think it might not have been translated. I usually check and I must have seen it somewhere. Maybe it's in preparation.

      Anyway, on her Wikipedia page they mention a translation of her book about Simone de Beauvoir. I do want to read that one, as well.

      Have a great day,

    2. Thanks for that link. I will be checking it out.

    3. No problem, Judy. Hope you will find something new.