Feminism Beyond Purple Dungarees

Screenshot of „Mädchenmannschaft“
Screenshot of „Mädchenmannschaft“ | Photo (detail): © Mädchenmannschaft

Fashion trends, celebrity gossip and make-up tips? These are not the sort of things you find in “Mädchenmannschaft”! Its authors write about women in Wikipedia and in traditionally male professions, beauty mania, family policy and female pop culture. The blog sees itself as “a forum and playground for everyone wishing for a better society”.

Mädchenmannschaft (i.e. Girls’ Team) is written specifically for feminists from all walks of life and anyone interested in joining their ranks. “We want to drag the term ‘feminism’ out of its stigmatized corner”, says Helga Hansen. A 27-year-old freelance journalist who studied cell biology and biotechnology process engineering, Hansen is one of eleven full-time bloggers who currently work on the team.

One of them is a “token man”. In his column, Silviu Mihai critically examines the conventional role of men, writing for example about the activities of Eastern European feminists, gay and lesbian issues, minimum wages and sexist advertising.

Outstanding “opinion leader”

In 2008, Mädchenmannschaft received the Deutsche Welle Blog Award for best German-language blog. The jury found that the blog “discussed questions of gender equality and also gender stereotypes in a way that is rarely encountered elsewhere in the media”. In 2009, Mädchenmannschaft was nominated for the Grimme Online Award in the category “Information” and for the Alternative Media Award. German daily newspaper taz describes the best-known and largest German feminist blog as an “opinion leader” in the field of women’s policy and feminism.

Mädchenmannschaft was founded in November 2007 by Meredith Haaf, Susanne Klingner and Barbara Streidl, the three authors of a book entitled Wir Alphamädchen. Warum Feminismus das Leben schöner macht (i.e. We Alpha Girls. Why Feminism Makes Life Better). The objective of the blog was to provide a permanent forum for discussing interesting themes from a feminist perspective. One of the reasons for choosing the blog format was that “it reaches more and indeed other people than a book does”, explains Helga Hansen.

The name “Mädchenmannschaft” sparked a heated debate at the time, and continues to do so today. Hansen herself sees it merely as an interesting play on words, while others describe it as inappropriate belittling.

“Expressing exactly what women are feeling”

On average, the blog receives 100,000 hits per month. There is no specific target group. “It is above all 18- to 35-year-olds who read the blog”, says Hansen. The most frequently read entries are those with provocative headlines and posts “which express exactly what women are feeling”.

Which political or social issues are raised by Mädchenmannschaft depends on topical events, and on which volunteer authors are writing for the blog and how much time they have. Family policy is one of the predominant topics, pop culture another. The latter regularly features female musicians and bands. Major series which are regularly updated include “Genderissimi: Die Blogschau”, “Kurz notiert” and “WWW Girls”.

Contributing to networking

Helga Hansen is in charge of “WWW Girls”. Every ten days, she features a short profile of a blogger and her blog. The contents can vary hugely: self-drawn comics, a collection of recipes from around the world, the diary of a woman suffering from breast cancer or the darker sides of fashion.

“The series aims to reflect the diversity of issues which women write about on the Internet”, explains Hansen. Another goal is to help women network – to this end there is a long column to the right containing a list of links to other sites.

Mädchenmannschaft e.V.

In 2010, the Mädchenmannschaft e.V. society was established on the basis of the blog with a view to providing legal and non-material support for the work on the blog and the political activities of its authors. Furthermore, it was important for the blog operators to put the blog’s financing on a legally sound footing. “The society also allows us to present ourselves to the outside world as a point of contact, for example in cooperative ventures”, says Helga Hansen.

Mädchenmannschaft e.V. works online and offline. The bloggers are regular guests at events, workshops and panel discussions, for instance at the blogging conference re:publica, where “Mädchenmannschaft” was one of the few women-run blogs which attract significant attention on the Internet. So far, the blog charts are still very much male dominated.

Further reading

Barbara Streidl, Susanne Klingner and Meredith Haaf: Wir Alphamädchen. Warum Feminismus das Leben schöner macht. (i.e. We Alpha Girls. Why Feminism Makes Life Better). Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, Hamburg 2008, 220 pages, ISBN 978-3455500752, 19.95 euros. Paperback edition 2009.