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Table of contents
1. Introduction and research question...1
2. Development lines of feminism...1
2.1 The originators of feminism...2
2.2 Important achievements...3
2.3 Feminism nowadays...3
3. The current discourse on feminism...4
3.1 New wave of feminism...6
3.2 Facts and figures...6
4. Europe and feminism - a contradiction?...7
4.2 Feminism in language...9
5. Freedom, Equality, Sisterhood - Mission (Im)possible?...11
Table of abbreviations
EU European Union
1. Introduction and research question
The term "feminism" describes a movement advocating the requirements of women and
towards a change in society in favor of females.
Following back this movement one can
find that it is not a newly upcoming trend but an ever-existing wish for equality between
men and women. Today, many people talk about feminism as already given in our society
but the question is whether exactly this can be a danger for women due to the widespread
belief in equality which differs from reality. Another aspect to be considered is the fact
why feminism currently emerges that strongly. Taking a closer look at these ambiguities
it seems interesting to find out more about today's situation of feminism especially in
Europe. The leading question is if feminism is a lived reality nowadays in Europe and if
we should even change the motto to "Freedom, Equality, Brother- and Sisterhood" or if
all this is a massive exaggeration?
2. Development lines of feminism
Feminism is the belief in equality of men and women and the fight for the equalization of
the rights of both genders by a social movement.
Today's best-known feminist in Ger-
many is Alice Schwarzer, however, feminism does not only consist of one person but
forms itself of many individuals who identify with feminism in their values and their
attitude towards women's rights.
Looking at this movement's beginnings one can date them back to the 18
French revolutionist named Olympe de Gouges was the first one to stand up for women's
rights and equality. She contradicted the misogynic "declaration of the rights of man and
citizen" by setting up the "declaration of the rights of women and female citizen".
Olympe de Gouges was not the only one pointing out to the importance of women's
rights. Many more like Simone de Beauvoir or Soujouner Truth were to come.
Compare http://www.duden.de/node/656857/revisions/1225669/view ,accessed on 04/04/2017.
Compare Freedman, E., No turning back: The History of Feminism and the Future on Women, 2007, p.
Compare Lusticia, A., Women united shall never be defeated, 2015, p. 7.
Compare http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/imow-deGouges.pdf ,accessed on 04/04/2017.
2.1 The originators of feminism
One of the first logged women in history advocating feminism was Olympe de Gouges,
a French revolutionist answering an anti-women declaration with a corrected version in-
volving women's rights. This is how de Gouges first tried to sensitize society for femi-
nism. Also dark-skinned feminists like Soujouner Truth fought for women being able to
vote in the course of the anti-slavery movement.
Another feminist standing up for every
women's right to vote was Hedwig Dohm who claimed for unlimited educational access
for girls and women.
At the same time Louise Otto-Peters who symbolizes a famous German feminist founded
the first association for women in Germany called ADF (Allgemeiner Deutscher Frauen-
verein). She also underlined the importance of unlimited educational opportunities for
women and her association strived for educational institutions for women. Also, she pub-
lished several articles in magazines addressing women where she encouraged them to
stand up for their rights.
An important step in history is the release of the book "The Second Sex" by Simone de
Beauvoir who points out that being a woman is not just to be seen from a biological point
of view but it also happens through socialization.
This thesis is reused in many books
dealing with feminism later.
One of the most famous feminists of today is Alice Schwarzer from Germany. In her
magazine called "EMMA" Schwarzer describes political and social problems of women
in Europe which still build a big part of everyday life.
She also wrote a book called "Der
kleine Unterschied" dealing with female stereotypes and roles and speaking up for women
against incapacitation, degradation and depletion.
Taking a look at feminism and its history it seems as if it built up more and more due to
the fact that feminists reached great success since the topic came up first and especially
some achievements concerning women's rights are of a significant value.
Compare Painter, N., Soujouner Truth in Life and Memory, 1990, p. 12 et seqq.
Compare Janssen-Jurreit, M., Sexismus, 1978, p. 11.
Compare Fünderich, S., Darstellung feministischer Theoriebildung und die damit verbundene Umgestal-
tung der Gesellschaft anhand der Betrachtung von Leben und Werk zweier berühmter Kämpferinnen für
die Rechte von Frauen Simone de Beauvoir und Louise Otto-Peters, 2013, p. 55 et seqq.
Compare de Beauvoire, S., Le deuxième sexe, 1949, p. 40 et seqq.
Compare Hoffmann, T., Alice im Medien-Wunderland, 1996, p. 1.
Compare Schwarzer, A., Der kleine Unterschied, 1977, p. 7.
2.2 Important achievements
Taking a closer look at nowadays situation it is visible that women gained more rights,
social equality and participation. With the first wave of feminism in the 19
Europe, the USA and Australia the demand came to equalize women. At the end of the
century for women in many countries the allowance to participate in studies at uni-
This has been a big step towards equality of education.
Another achievement came in 1954 where the old §1356 was abated which implied that
men have the last word concerning decisions in marriage. However, this paragraph was
just loosened but not allowing wives to be completely independent yet. Whereas the Ger-
man "Reichsgesetzbuch" (nowadays "Strafgesetzbuch") in 1871 in §218 stated that abor-
tion is illegal and will be prosecuted with five years of penitentiary or a fee. But all this
changed in the 20
century and developed to being seen as medical surgery which is
Another development to be considered in Europe in the 20
century is the introduction of
the right to vote for women. Finland was the first to allow women to vote in 1906. Ger-
many followed in 1918 after the 1
World War. One of the last countries to allow women
to vote was Switzerland in 1971. Nowadays women in 20 countries of Europe are allowed
to vote and participate in politics.
In a nutshell, one can say that equality in Europe and the USA increased significantly
within the last centuries by introducing the right to vote, political participation for women
and unlimited educational access as well as by the turn away from traditional role expec-
tations. Nevertheless, these objective criteria seem to differ from women's satisfaction in
reality. Feminism still seems to be a topic of high interest.
2.3 Feminism nowadays
Even though the feminism movement has tightened the gender gap there are many aspects
illustrating inequality can still be discovered.
Not every problem and flaw is solved yet
but we can find concrete agreements and determinations showing that feminism - at least
Compare Mazón, P., Das akademische Bürgerrecht und die Zulassung von Frauen zu den deutschen
Universitäten 1865-1914, 2001, p. 3.
Compare http://www.donumvitae-bw.de/download/chronik_p218-donum_vitae.pdf ,accessed 10/04/17.
rung/246998 ,accessed 11/04/2017.
Compare Schulz, U., Zur Einführung, 2003, p. 9.
in Europe - is underlined by law issues. Article 3, paragraph 1 of the German "Grundge-
setz" guarantees non-discrimination to ensure justice for everyone - male or female. Also,
most of the other constitutions in Europe as well as the catalogues of human rights include
equality rights for everyone. Especially article 3, paragraph 3 of the German "Grundge-
setz" expresses the prohibition of discrimination due to gender, descent, race, language,
belief, religion, political attitude or disability.
These values are shared by many basic
laws in Europe and by human rights in general.
Especially when taking a look at the gender gap, employment quotas and equality politics
one can find Scandinavian countries as being the leaders of equality in Europe. Also,
maternity leave is designed generously which facilitates the combination of family and
job and erases disadvantages of women as much as possible due to taking the role of
mother and worker in parallel.
In other countries of Europe this stage is still far from
possible and discrimination is still an everyday topic. Evaluating these aspects, it is visible
that there is an awareness for equality and justice for both genders and that all countries
in the EU are on different positions in how far they are in turning this awareness into
3. The current discourse on feminism
In a world of change feminism still exists as a topic to be treated intensively. Starting
with Trump making misogynist representations throughout his election period and being
elected in the last resort a new movement of equality demands was set off. One of Presi-
dent Trumps first decrees was to bring payments for organisations for women abroad to
a stop. To understand this problem, it is important to know that these organisations also
pay abortions and medicine for women in need.
This action combined with many more
occasions and expressions made by America's current President - shows us Donald
Trump's attitude towards women and women's rights in general. Self-evident rights for
women seem to be more vulnerable than one would expect in the 21
century. The whole
public debate about anti-women statements leads to huge demonstrations. The best-
known protest is called the Women's March which took place in Washington but also in
Compare Baer, S., Grundbegriffe der Geschlechterpolitik, 2003, p. 23.
Compare Kauppinen, K., Die Praxis der Gleichberechtigung in Finnland, 2010, p. 4 et seqq.
wesentliche-konzentrieren/19485730.html ,accessed on 14/04/2017.
Berlin and many other places around the world. This fact shows that all these feminist
quotes on big signs walking through the streets have not only reached America but the
wave swapped over to Europe. Women recognize that as long as there is sexism, femi-
nism will always be a great topic and that even in the 21
century equality is not yet
A non-sexist world seems to be utopia.
Due to the fact that all women all around the world face discrimination due to their sex
and many more aspects a weak point was hit by Trump.
In the following a viral trend
was kicked off showing feminist quotes, facts and figures expressing inequality and also
shirts for women and men who show that they united fighting for equality and against
sexism. The striking thing is that even some men tend to wear shirts like these. Also big
fashion labels like Chanel or Saint Laurent underline feminism as a topic in the 21
tury by presenting the so called "Pussy Hats" on catwalks in France, Italy, Germany and
England as a symbol of feminism. Also, hijabs can be found on the runway for the first
time in history to mirror equality and end discrimination. This is how not only on a Eu-
ropean level but also on a worldwide basis women are shown as equal due to the fact that
hijabs have their decent in Arabic countries.
In connection to the current movement well-known models and the designers themselves
took part in 2017's Women's March in Washington to set a sign. These fashion labels
reflect important political and social movements and trends in their collections which
shows how important this topic got.
Another occasion showing the unity of feminists is
that the International Women's Day was celebrated outstandingly intense on March 8
which especially raised awareness for a new feminism movement being assisted by social
media platforms and the freedom of speech.
It is obvious nowadays that social media is
a big engine for movements. In particular, for this current movement of a new kind of
feminism being spread all over the internet by open opinion spreading in comments, fem-
inism photo posts and misogynist videos being reposted to raise awareness of this topic
in the 21
Compare Janssen-Jurreit, M., Sexismus, 1978, p. 429.
Compare Terry, G., Women's Rights, 2007, p. 4.
priesterin.html ,accessed on 24/04/2017.
wesentliche-konzentrieren/19485730.html ,accessed on 14/04/2017.
3.1 New wave of feminism
Can we assume a new wave of feminism after three waves we know from our history
books? New discussions are brought up, feminism is going viral and people raise their
voice against inequality louder than ever. Equality and respect still seem to be not fully
developed in the 21
century and the awareness of that fact is shown by huge demonstra-
tions, social media movements and also prominent persons like Keira Knightley and Be-
yoncé Knowles starting to give statements concerning equality, sexism and feminism.
Beyoncé Knowles the most popular singer of our generation - held a speech about mod-
ern feminism at the Grammy's. Also, her music which reaches a whole generation ex-
presses feminism in a modern way.
In one of her new songs called "Flawless" she inte-
grated a spoken passage in which a Nigerian feminist talks about the fact that everybody
should be a feminist. The song went viral but not only in America. Europe's young
women and girls also listen to her songs and are influenced and empowered by prominent
persons like her. Beyoncé Knowles's message went around the world.
The current focus lays on social influencers as this trend is going viral especially since
Trump raised his voice against women. These influencers can be prominent persons as
well as bloggers reaching a wide audience of followers, too. By spreading feminist posts
and the internet allowing us a free opinion formation within seconds the awareness for
feminist topics increased again and caught a sensitive topic in various countries.
could even talk of a new wave of a new kind of feminism to deal with inequality and
women's problems. Today's topics can be understood better by considering some facts
and figures concerning women's rights and positions in family, job and many more roles.
3.2 Facts and figures
More and more women graduate from university and form, meanwhile, half of the work-
In general women do the same work as men and bring up the same
Compare https://www.welt.de/icon/article127383125/Der-neue-Feminismus-sieht-besser-aus.html ,ac-
Compare Haist, L., Der neue Feminismus sieht besser aus, 2014, no page.
Compare http://time.com/1851/flawless-5-lessons-in-modern-feminism-from-beyonce/ ,accessed on
get-their-message-out ,accessed on 22/05/2017.
Compare https://www.welt.de/icon/article127383125/Der-neue-Feminismus-sieht-besser-aus.html ,ac-
cessed on 10/04/2017.
effort, too. Still, they do not earn as much as men as the gender pay gap in the European
Union is 16,4% in average.
Another important fact to be considered is that not even half
of the executive positions in Europe are occupied by women. Taking a look at Germany
only 22,6% of executive management vacancies are filled by women. Northern European
countries show better quotes with 36,7% in Norway and 34,6% in Sweden. Also, France
as another European economic powerhouse is ahead of Germany with 34,4%. Taking a
look at Switzerland only 16,1% of all executive management positions are occupied by
Switzerland was one of the last countries giving the permission for women to
vote in Europe in 1971. It is striking that none of the quotas reaches the 50% threshold
even though one would expect equality at work in the 21
century. Additionally, women
do not only face inequalities but they also have to take care of children which causes a
gap in their CV and lowers their chances to fill an executive position later. Furthermore,
women in executive positions - especially mothers - have to balance job and family. This
pressure is hard to describe and generally undervalued which illustrates an unrepelled
structure of disadvantage.
Studies show that women's free time often consists of do-
mestic work adding itself to the working hours for their main job.
Taking a look at the 21
century typical stereotypes and role models like the woman
having the working man's back by cleaning the house and taking care of their children
seem to be loosened but still not fully abandoned.
4. Europe and feminism a contradiction?
Gender topics are a fixed part in European politics covering an important and continu-
ously growing part of the EU citizen's interests. Even though the intensity of concentra-
tion on these issues differs from state to state it concerns every EU member and especially
women can relate to gender discourses. Equality politics are treated as soft topics and are
mainly supervised by the European Parliament and the European Commission ensuring a
consideration of gender topics and standards on equality in every EU state.
Compare https://www.statista.com/chart/4159/the-eus-gender-pay-gap-visualised/ ,accessed on
ausgewaehlten-laendern/ ,accessed on 27/04/2017.
Compare Brück, B. et al., Feministische Soziologie, 1992, p. 125.
ibid. p. 128.
Compare Janssen-Jurreit, M., Sexismus, 1978, p. 380.
Compare Berger, T. & Dorsch, P., Zusammenfassende Auswertung der Länderstudien, 2011, no page.
Primarily, the EU emphasizes topics like the compatibility of family and job or the em-
ployment of women. But taking a look at the Baltic states and southern EU states one can
find a focus on domestic violence, too. Thus, these countries' governments set up cam-
paigns over and over again to advertise elucidation. Due to the fact that politics in these
states especially in Baltic countries do not show a participation in extensive gender
politics actively many non-governmental organisations need to exist striving for the fight
against strict gender stereotyping.
Another region to consider is Western and Northern Europe. These regions' gender poli-
tics underline aspects like maternity protection and parental leave as well as anti-discrim-
ination and equality issues. Upcoming problems are built through conservative and na-
tionalistic governments coming to power who cause a stagnation of gender politics and
focus on their topics. Moreover, problematic situations like economic crises in e.g. Greece
and Portugal lead to dislocations of so called soft topics. One can even find a general
stagnation in equality politics by contemplating a decreasing focus on job quota for
women in political parties and governments.
Summing up the named aspects one can state a general awareness of gender troubles and
challenges in the EU even though it is visible that treating them as a soft topic may even
lead to a decrease of concern in governmental actions. This is why the EU Parliament and
the EU Commission are important in their role as supervisors. However, not only the EU
but also non-governmental organisations are of high importance to increase the awareness
of the necessity for a movement towards full equality of sexes. Exactly this is needed to
keep Europe and women working as a team and not as opponents. But also men should
not be out of sight when it comes to inequality issues.
4.1 Gender Mainstreaming
The term "Gender Mainstreaming" defines an international and political organisational
strategy to avoid disadvantages for both sexes. Different from feminism this strategy does
not focus on one sex but on both. Also, both sexes take responsibility for mutual equality
and justice. The strategy basically is to directly consider consequences for men and
women while making political decisions with the aim that disadvantages do not even
To support a concept like this, targeted promotions for both sexes are
necessary. An example could be the "Girls' Day" and the "Boys' Day" in North Rhine
Westphalia. The Girls' Day also seen as a day promoting a girl's future professional plans
is applied to help girls or young women to raise their employment chances in jobs where
girls are underrepresented like in science and technical working environments. This con-
cept also works with boys but the other way around. Boys get the chance to experience
social, educational, medical and health care jobs usually occupied by women.
cept promotes career chances for girls and boys who want to fill in a job which does not
mirror the stereotypical work space for the specific gender. This concept is growing and
applied in more and more regions especially in Germany.
Considering Europe as a whole - especially the European Union - one can find a stress on
the need to strengthen mainstreaming and equal opportunities for both sexes. This is un-
derlined by a recommended employment policy. But the way how to implement this pol-
icy differs from member state to member state.
Some unions seem to be too weak or
even not interested which is shown by a limited government involvement in change to-
wards gender equality. Still policies on equal opportunities have increased in the EU due
to being kicked off by a European employment strategy. Comparing some countries one
can find examples for actions leading towards some change:
Countries like Germany, Finland, Ireland, Denmark and many more have implied Gender
Monitoring in 2001 which is a way of monitoring or reporting all policies in a gender
perspective showing the policies impacts and how they affect the lives of both sexes. This
is how governments can make sure that inequality is slowly abandoned.
4.2 Feminism in language
Another strategy trying to abandon inequality is feminism in language. The aim is to
equalize words and expressions to end discrimination of women in language. Luise F.
Compare Zentrum für Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung der Universität Leipzig, Gender
Mainstreaming im Freistaat Sachsen, 2003, no page.
Compare http://www.bafza.de/aufgaben/girlsday-und-boysday.html ,accessed on 29/04/2017.
Compare Rubery, J., Gender mainstreaming and gender equality in the EU, 2002, p. 502 et seqq.
Compare Development Assistance Committee, DAC Source Book on Concepts and Approaches Linked
to Gender Equality, 1998, p. 35.
Pusch was one of the first persons in Germany to pay regard to feminism in language.
She is one of the authors of the book "Linguistik und Frauensprache".
To understand feminist language better this chapter will concentrate on German words
and expressions. However, every language includes words disregarding women at first
Due to semantic structures, many expressions and words cause a so called "male bias"
addressing men more obviously than women and make it easier for men to identify with
language. The fear is that women could be forgotten, ignored or even invisible because
it's not common to mention the female form too even though it exists. Feminists state that
it seems as if men reign the linguistic world and women are made invisible by not using
the female form. This is why feminists postulate to not only say e.g. "Studenten" but also
"Studentinnen" when holding a speech in front of university students. Another problem
faced is that language influences the way people think and feminists state that women
seem inferior to men by disregarding them in language.
Also, stereotypes are intensified by using female endings for e.g. jobs which are more
likely to be done by women like nurse jobs, kindergarten teachers, midwifes and male
endings for jobs filled in by a majority of male workers like building workers and police-
Reflecting the language debate about feminism one might see this language issue as an
exaggeration and as a concept reaching out too far. The problem is that this concept could
even be counter-productive by splitting up meanings of the same topics.
Another fact is
that it does not really change the meaning because everyone knows that both sexes are
meant. The "male bias" may be a striking argument to feminists but in real life it is way
more complicated to mention both male and female expressions. But this kind of
genderlect can also be seen as underlining the difference between men and women which
does not support the wish for equality.
Compare Pusch, L., Frauen Entpatrifizieren die Sprache Feminisierungstendenzen im Heutigen
Deutsch, 1985, p. 23 et seqq.
Compare Lepschy, G., Women and Italy Language and Sexism, 1991,p. 117 et seqq.
Compare Harding, S., Feministische Wissenschaftstheorie, 1990, p. 52.
Compare Stiekling, U., Genderlect, 2000, p. 10.
This is exactly what should not be done women should not play the role of the weaker
gender who is in need of change but they should make change their mission. By arguing
for feminism in language women put themselves in the position of a victim who feels
invisible instead of making oneself visible.
It seems as if feminists have gone too far
until feminism suddenly seems like an exaggeration.
The whole topic could be led into the wrong direction by not focusing on the essence like
rights for women, equality in workspace and respect in society. It has to be seen that
social and political topics cannot be solved by simply changing the thesaurus.
5. Freedom, Equality, Sisterhood Mission (Im-)possible?
Taking a look at the intermediate results of this work it is important to express that these
findings show that feminism has to concentrate on its key essence again instead of over-
topping the banks by finding misogynist issues in nearly every category of daily life.
For sure quotas, facts and figures have to be seen critically and also the awareness for
feminist topics is of high importance but do we really need e.g. a new dictionary which
has been adapted to feminist language?
Looking back at the opening question whether feminism is a lived reality in Europe and
if we should even change the Motto "Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood" - which originally
derives from the French revolution - to "Freedom, Equality, Sisterhood" one can find the
answer very quickly.
Considering facts and figures and the problem of feminism being treated as a soft topic
with different emphasis from state to state in Europe it gets clear that we have not fully
reached equality in Europe in the 21
century. But we should not only underline inequal-
ity as an issue affecting women but also as an issue affecting both genders. The new wave
of feminism should rather focus on a thing called "gender mainstreaming". And if the
motto should be changed it should be changed to "Freedom, Equality, Brother- and Sis-
terhood" to show real equality in every category and to be the slogan for a new movement
towards universal equality in all directions in Europe.
Compare Kaaber, N., World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, 2009, p. 17 et seqq.
Compare https://www.welt.de/kultur/article139269797/Warum-mich-der-Feminismus-anekelt.html ,ac-
cessed on 29/04/2017.
This is how equality in Europe turns from mission impossible alias the mission which
will always be brought up again to mission possible by simply considering every political
step for both genders from now on.
For sure many more aspects due to inequality still have to be solved yet but feminists are
not doing themselves a favor by exaggerating e.g. by implementing feminism in language.
Focusing on the essence of feminism the solution could be to see equality looking like a
pair of scales equality for both sides called humanism.
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- Quote paper
- Gianna Di Lorenzo (Author), 2017, Freedom, Equality, Sisterhood. Feminism in Europe, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/388725