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The Struggle for Equal Rights (October 7, 1968)

Film director Helke Sander, who co-founded the Action Council for the Liberation of Women in 1968, takes a critical look at the role of women in society and sharply attacks male members of the Socialist German Student League for their stance on equality.

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The SDS* – An Overblown, Counterrevolutionary Ball of Yeast Dough**

The women who took the stage were the sensation of the SDS conference of delegates in Frankfurt. When their arguments threatened to get buried in the general chaos of the conference, they used tomatoes to make themselves heard. konkret is printing an excerpt of the talk given by Helke Sander (Action Council for the Liberation of Women).

The separation between private life and societal life keeps hurling woman back into the conflict of her isolation, which she is forced to settle on her own. She is still raised for private life, for the family, which, in turn, is dependent upon the production conditions that we are fighting against. The role she is raised into, the acquired inferiority, the contradiction between her own expectations and the demands of society create a perpetually guilty conscience for not being able to meet the demands placed upon her or for having to decide between alternatives that mean neglecting vital needs in any case.

Therefore most women remain apolitical because politics up to now has always been defined one-sidedly, and women’s needs were never registered. Thus, women persisted in top-down appeals to authorities because they did not recognize that their demands represented a contradiction that might bust the system.

The groups most easily politicized are women with children. With them, the aggression level is the highest and the speechlessness the lowest. Women who can study at universities today owe that fact not so much to the bourgeois movement for liberation as to economic necessity. If these privileged women now have children, they will be thrown back into behavioral patterns they thought they had already overcome thanks to their emancipation. Their studies are abandoned or delayed; their intellectual development stagnates or at least slows because of the needs of husband and child. In addition, insecurity emerges because they could not manage to decide between being a bluestocking or a “woman for the house,” to either build up a career largely at the cost of their own happiness or to become a woman-cum-consumer. In other words, it is those privileged women who learned that the bourgeois route to emancipation was the wrong one. They have recognized that they could not use the means of competition to emancipate themselves; they have recognized that the general achievement principle has also become the determinant within relationships; they have recognized that the road to emancipation lies in the method through which it is sought.

* German Socialist Student Union [Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund]. The German SDS was not affiliated with the SDS in the United States [Students for a Democratic Society], though both were involved in student protests – trans.
** In the German original Hefeteig: yeast dough. Revolutionaries saw themselves as the catalyst that would change society. Helga Sander satirizes this notion by mentioning the “airy” quality of yeasted dough, suggesting that the revolutionaries were also exaggerating their claims – trans.

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