How do women juggle the demands of their relationships, caring for the family and being gainfully employed? In German society single mothers or fathers are equally as prevalent as patchwork families, queer, trans or polyamourous relationships. Women are still being forced into the classic role of nursing and nurturing. But what ways of living together fit in with today's world?
Man or woman – is that all there is? For those people who do not feel at home in either of these categories, there is nothing but confusion. Today’s feminism, in any case, is building on the diversity of human identities: Does, however, the difference between man and woman have to be so black and white? Isn’t this classification of gender oppressive?
“To have a child or not – that’s the choice we’ve got.” For a long time the sovereignty over a woman’s own body was one of the most important feminist demands. This is still, in fact, the case, but under different circumstances. In the meantime, people can have children who in the past would not have been able to reproduce. At the same time, it is possible these days to detect genetic abnormalities. Thus, the ethics of reproduction have been overrun by technological progress. Six people active on the cultural scene give their personal point of view.
Frl. Wunder AG: “Withstanding confusion and opening up new paths”Be it abortion, artificial insemination or cloning – the more medically and technically possible things become, the more difficult it becomes to take a clear stance on them – also from a feminist point of view. Both on the subjective level as well as on the macro-social level, these frequently emotionally charged debates raise complex ethical questions that go beyond such important demands as the right to self-determination over the female body. Via theatre and performance, we can create other approaches, bring normative structures to light and make them negotiable. They can be personal, touching, provoking and, at the same time, make people laugh. This creates a utopian space in which we develop something with the audience that goes beyond clear facts – something that can withstand confusion and open up new paths.
The Theatre and Performance Collective, Frl. Wunder AG, consists of seven people of different sex, has been through abortions as well as conflicts with infertility and today has seven children (not only biological ones) .
Ninia Binias: “Too small to have a child.”“Don’t worry, it will not be like you," says the prenatal diagnostician and gives me a cheerful smile. Not like me. Not so flawed. Not so small. Not so different.
“Is it going to stay small, too?! asks a man in the street, a man I don’t know. As small as I am. So small. Too small. It is going to have to grow first, if it is going to be that small. “How big is the father?” Does the child still have a chance? Could it possibly be normal? Will it be big? “Is that your child?” shouts a woman. “You're still a child yourself,” she continues. At 34 still a child – but one that is having a child. Too small to have a child. “No abnormalities,” says the human geneticist. No abnormalities. No cause to take action. A cause to feel reassured. Everything going to plan. Everything OK?!
Ninia Binias, stage name Nina LaGrande (born in 1983) is a poetry slammer who lives and works in Hanover. For 34 years, she has been experiencing the world from a different perspective and writing about it, so as to avoid banging her head against tables all the time.
Sookee: “I am working on creating a problem awareness.”Queer perspectives in the field of sexual and reproductive rights and the family are something I particularly care about. They also play an important role in my music. As a pan* -cis* woman, I am glad that the possibility of becoming pregnant and raising a family ran smoothly for me. ([Editor’s note: pan* denotes a person who is attracted to people regardless of their gender, cis* a person who lives in harmony with their ascribed sex]. It is absolutely untenable that non-binary people, homosexuals and transsexuals have to face so many obstacles if they want to start a family. I have addressed this topic with my song Queere Tiere (Queer Animals) and by adopting the seahorse as the symbol of (trans) masculine pregnancy and parenthood. I have also embraced it again and again beyond my music, for example, in interviews and it seems to work quite well – in many conversations I have often heard the penny drop, I have no pragmatic solutions on hand, but I am working on creating a problem awareness.
Sookee lives as a rapper and feminist in Berlin, and from there she radiates idealism and critical analyses on stages and podiums, not to mention into the lives of many people.
Milo Rau: “Weeded out during pregnancy, feted by the art scene”For The 120 Days of Sodom I worked with actors and actors of the HORA theatre group at the Zurich Schauspielhaus theatre. Almost all the actors live with trisomy 21 and this prompted me to find out a little more about prenatal diagnosis – the possibility of examining the condition of the foetus. In itself a good thing (like anything else that enhances the freedom of pregnant women or couples to make decisions). Unfortunately, however, in Switzerland it has led to nine out of ten foetuses with trisomy 21 being aborted. A paradoxical situation – the hard-won right to have an abortion has in practice turned into a rooting-out process. This paradox has been exacerbated by the fact that the HORA group has been awarded the most renowned prizes on the European theatre scene. Weeded out during pregnancy, feted by the art scene. It was this contradiction – or this dialectic of freedom – that we focused on in The 120 Days of Sodom.
Milo Rau is an author, film and theatre director and the artistic director of the IIPM - The International Institute of Political Murder.
Anne Zohra Berrached: “Many of those involved are ashamed and remain silent.”Late-term abortions, surrogate mothers, egg donation – there is hardly any medical branch that has developed so rapidly in recent years as reproductive medicine. It is now possible to “outsource” pregnancy and to have your own fertilised egg carried to term by another woman. Women can bear children with whom they are not biologically related. As is the case with late-term abortion, there is hardly any public discussion about these issues in Germany. Many of the people involved are ashamed and remain silent. What I want is for society to look at these topics without condemning them, but, instead, to ask what fears, worries, and desires are concealed behind them. In my own works, I try to make people and their stories tangible without any moralising undertone.
Anne Zohra Berrached is the director and screenwriter of the films 24 Wochen ( 24 Weeks) and Zwei Mütter (Two Mothers).
Moira Zoitl: “The view of the foetus has changed.”The title of my work Misplaced Concreteness refers to “concretion in the wrong place, in a weird place,” as the medical historian, Barbara Duden, put it, and is an allusion to Lennart Nilsson's photographs of the origins of life. The images of the foetus in the uterus appeared in Life magazine in 1965. It was not possible to depict the foetus using normal photographic means, and so he created an interpretative depiction of reality with the aid of montage. This led to the “portrait” of the foetus becoming a living creature worthy of protection even in the prenatal stage. This changing view of the foetus legitimised more and more state control of pregnancy. This in turn then led to the individual woman’s sense of responsibility and the way she perceived herself with respect to her bodily processes taking more and more of a back seat.
Moira Zoitl is a visual artist. In her video installations she deals with ritual objects, illustrations and representations of fertility. She then relates this to the way the human body is dealt with in the health care system.
Am I too fat, too old, not beautiful enough? Every day we are bombarded by images of idealised femininity, they unsettle us, and convey traditional roles that reduce women to their outward appearance. Feminist debates are combating these images with “empowering” strategies of self-assertion.
In these times when right-wing populist thinking is socially acceptable, feminism is campaigning more and more against racism and standing up for the integration of people of colour. Not only because women of color are affected in a different way by sexism than white, western women, but also, because the racist cliché of the “dangerous dark stranger” is being increasingly politically instrumentalised.