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Feminist Politics at the Local Level (1986)

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An initial answer to this question is that we are trying to look at every one of our tasks in parliament with a feminist gaze, a gaze that originates from women's living conditions and experiences, the personal and public life of women, a gaze that we first had to learn in the new women's movement. This means, especially, using a feminist cognitive interest* to unravel the traditional male fields of politics – e.g., fiscal policy or transportation policy – and find out more about what the particular measures or decisions precisely mean for women. We will describe this more precisely using the example of city planning for the projected removal of the streetcar from Frankfurt's downtown. In this context, the aim is always to get away from argumentation based on objective constraints and even to name those responsible as persons. In so doing, we get to know them and learn how to defend ourselves against them; no longer do we have to feel that we are only under compulsion from an overpowering, inscrutable "system," but instead we can see those responsible as men acting concretely. Here, the communal women's group is an important site for discussion and work on these topics, yet at the same time is also the central site for supporting us emotionally and politically. As a rule, what the group decides then becomes what we represent in public.

For us, feminist politics also means that we are always fighting against the patriarchal division of women. To use the example of a restricted zone ordinance under discussion for the city (the municipal regimentation of prostitution), this means that we have not joined the SPD and its slogan "No prostitution in residential neighborhoods," which means agreeing to the division between "good" wives and "bad" prostitutes, but that, instead, we have spoken out against any regimentation of prostitution and demanded improvements in working conditions and social security for women active as prostitutes.

Fighting within parliament against the patriarchal division between women, i.e., moving toward partial cooperation with women from other parliamentary parties, is something we have not yet succeeded in achieving. Moreover, our demands or contributions, as a rule, are distinguished from those of women in other parties by virtue of their radicalness. As an example, we may cite the old ASF** demand for municipal women's offices. We reacted to what we regarded as an unacceptable proposal by the SPD with a supplementary proposal that demanded an expansion of powers and personnel appointments. We were then able to agree with the SPD women on a compromise. The CDU women, by contrast, defended the establishment of a "one-woman-equal-status-position" extolled by the CDU as "ground-breaking" – but whose powers are limited to those of an ombudswoman from the municipal administration. In addition, admittedly, there has so far been no attempt on the part of women party members from the SPD or CDU to work out a compromise with us.

* Here, the German term is Erkenntnisinteresse – an academic or philosophical term meaning either: a) the reason somebody is interested in investigating a topic; or b) an epistemological concern, often related to the pragmatic or material motivations behind intellectual inquiry – trans.
** ASF: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Sozialdemokratischer Frauen [Working Group of Social Democratic Women] – eds.

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