Interview with German Family Minister: 'Women Need to Get Much More Self-Confident and Tough'

In a SPIEGEL interview, German Family Minister Kristina Schröder, 33, of the conservative Christian Democrats, discusses the shortcomings of feminism, how she plans to help disadvantaged schoolboys and why women don't want wimps as partners.

German Family Minister Kristina Schröder: "Early feminism overlooked the fact that partnership and children can provide happiness." Zoom
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German Family Minister Kristina Schröder: "Early feminism overlooked the fact that partnership and children can provide happiness."

SPIEGEL: Frau Schröder, we took a look at your high school newspaper.

Schröder: Oh God, here we go …

SPIEGEL: It contains a sentence in which you say you never want to become a feminist. What was so bad about them?

Schröder: Nothing, but I don't agree with a core statement by most feminists, the statement by Simone de Beauvoir: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one." Even as a schoolgirl I wasn't convinced by the claim that gender has nothing to do with biology and is only shaped by one's environment.

SPIEGEL: Did you have real feminists in your school?

Schröder: Of course. My best friend for example still believes in the thesis I mentioned, she teaches feminist theory at university and still votes for the Greens. But that of course doesn't change the fact that she is and will remain my best friend.

SPIEGEL: Were there other differences, for example regarding the clothes you wore?

Schröder: I never wanted to express my independence by dressing in a particularly masculine way or appear particularly boyish. For me emancipation will only be truly reached if a woman can wear makeup and skirts without having her abilities doubted as a result.

SPIEGEL: Did you wear miniskirts and high heels when you were a school girl?

Schröder: That's not my style but I have indeed always liked to dress in a feminine way.

SPIEGEL: And you were never worried that by doing so you were submitting to the clothing rules of a patriarchal society?

Schröder: To be honest: No!

SPIEGEL: What do you think about (prominent German feminist) Alice Schwarzer?

Schröder: I have read a lot of her work -- first "The Little Difference," later "The Big Difference" and "The Answer." I found all these book very well argued and worth reading. But I found that many of her theories went too far. For example that heterosexual intercourse was barely possible without the submission of the woman. I can only say to that: Sorry, that's wrong.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Schröder: It is absurd if something that is fundamental for humanity and for its survival should in itself be defined as submission. That would mean that society can't carry on without the submission of women.

SPIEGEL: Did you think feminists fundamentally oppose relationships between men and women?

Schröder: There was indeed a radical movement that argued in this way and saw being lesbian as a solution. I didn't find it very convincing that homosexuality should be the solution to the problem of women being disadvantaged.

SPIEGEL: What do you think: has feminism made women happier?

Schröder: Good question. I think that the early feminism at least overlooked the fact that partnership and children can provide happiness. It isn't the only way but for very many people it is the most important way.

SPIEGEL: Is there such a thing as conservative feminism?

Schröder: Such artificial terms don't mean much to me. For me conservatism means accepting reality. The Left wants to re-educate people. We acknowledge that there are differences, also between men and women.

SPIEGEL: One of your first acts in office was to set up a department for the victims of feminism.

Schröder: I'm sorry but there is no department with such a name in my ministry.

SPIEGEL: A department for boys. Who gave you this funny idea?

Schröder: What's funny about it? I always thought we have badly neglected issues concerning boys and men. It's a fact that it used to be Catholic working class girls from rural areas who had the biggest problems in school. Now it's boys from low-education backgrounds.

SPIEGEL: How would you like to help boys?

Schröder: I want to make sure for example that there are more male staff in nurseries and elementary schools. Boys brought up by single mothers often don't get to see a man, either in the nursery or elementary school, until they're 12 years old.

SPIEGEL: Is that so bad?

Schröder: Yes. If one assumes that men and women are different then there's a lot to suggest that children benefit from being with both genders. For example a friend of mine who is a single mother keeps telling me that her little daughter wants to spend a lot of time with people she knows, uncles and brothers. She simply lacks a father figure in her everyday life.

SPIEGEL: What other help can boys be given?

Schröder: We must review what is taught in nurseries and schools to assess if fit takes enough account of the needs of boys. To put it in an exaggerated way: do we give enough dictation with football stories? That interests boys. Or is always just about butterflies and ponies?

SPIEGEL: Apparently they often deal with butterflies.

Schröder: It's a fact that boys are worse at school than girls, more of them go to secondary modern schools (the lowest tier of high school in Germany), and they have to repeat the school year more often.

SPIEGEL: That's nice of you.

Schröder: That's just the way I am.

SPIEGEL: We had the impression that men get along quite well without your help. Of the 185 management board members of DAX-listed blue chip companies in Germany, 181 are men.

Schröder: But I think it would be really rotten to tell boys that schools won't cater for them properly because men have unquestionably been dominant for thousands of years. A feminism that deliberately neglects boys is immoral in my opinion.

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