The Small Town-Feminist Chronicles pt. I: Introduction

After finishing her BA in English with Film at King’s, Lea decided to stay for another year to pursue a Master‘s in Shakespeare Studies and the Principal‘s Global Leadership Award. She loves the Victorian age, black coffee, and hot sauce; and her goal is to establish a programme that establishes access to higher education for working class kids.

[Featured Image: An illustration of a woman speaking into a loudspeaker, with her fist raised. Source.]

As a millennial woman living in the 21st Century, the topic of feminism is my constant companion. I encounter it in my studies, conversations with friends, and on seemingly every street corner here in London. To me, feminism is everywhere. The world is ready to move on from its patriarchal foundations, driven by a society of strong, educated women and men. Equality is not only tantalising but appears to be possible in this community which celebrates female success and provides inspiring role models we can look up to whenever the reality of the ubiquitous gender pay-gap and harassment dim our hope. Feminism and equality are more than concepts here, they are reality – a growing part of everyday life thanks to a multitude of advocates fighting for it day by day. However, this reality is not the global status quo, but a city-centric phenomenon that has yet to reach local communities of small towns and villages like my hometown.

Before I moved to London several years ago, feminism as a topic was never on my agenda. Despite being so fortunate to grow up in matriarchal family structures with a female to male ratio of 8:2 – not considering my neutered cat – feminism was not about empowerment and liberation, but a collective of frustrated women who wanted to install a global matriarchy. This idea of an angry, men-condemning movement was of course shaped by the media of early 2000s Germany but simultaneously sustained and fuelled by the rural community of the small town I grew up in. When I moved abroad, my mental framework moved on as well and I quickly began to realise who those “men-hating” women were and why they were so angry. I knew I had to change, to become involved, and to some extent became exactly the type of women I had never thought I’d be: a strong, outspoken women fighting the patriarchy for equality’s sake.

Sadly, my hometown did not develop in a similar fashion to me. Actually, it did not develop at all. Whenever I return, men still catcall the hell out of me and when I wore a short flower dress and red lipstick to the supermarket this summer, I almost caused a village-wide outrage. After that pivotal experience, I began to ask myself whether other women living there experienced the same patriarchal rut and everyday-misogyny and how, or rather, if, they see a potentially feminist-coded future for the small town more akin to my experience in the city. 

I had the pleasure to talk to three young women with ample experience of existing within said town culture who shared their stories and opinions with me. All three are political and fight for equality in their own ways, whether that is via social media or in an educational setting. Anja is in her mid-thirties, an outspoken woman who shares her opinions on gender equality, lessons from historical memories, and the German political landscape openly on social media and partly also with her students at the local school where she teaches history and German. Sophie is in her mid-twenties who moved from the small town to Berlin after she graduated where she is currently pursuing an MA in International Relations. She is the co-founder of NeitherBLUEnorPINK*, an organisation fighting for equality in education, works with the Young German Council on Foreign Relations, and listens to podcasts of empowering women in her free time. Laura is a very vocal social media provocateur and feminist advocate. Despite still living in the village where we attended school together, her outspokenness about injustices and equality have a sharp, yet encouraging connotation that feels very personal and metropolitan – a refreshing and unexpected take on the subject in a community of patriarchal traditionalists. 

The short interviews turned into three long and very interesting talks which felt long overdue and helped us to understand our toxic roots and how this may fuel our desire for equality. Whilst we all express our political stances differently, the feeling that there is an alternative to the “men-haters” within the local community that made Sophie and I flee its grasp is very reassuring. Once again, feminism helped establish connections and set up a very small, yet hopefully soon rather expansive, network of women who support each other and actively try to challenge to status quo. The following three articles will first establish the status quo of the current situation for feminists in the village, drawing on past experiences to analyse the shortcomings and potential within the local community. Since one of the place’s biggest cultural and communal assets is its reputation as hub of education within the rather rural area, the second article looks at the upcoming generation of potential future feminists, the project NeitherBLUEnorPINK* and other attempts to raise children who value equality as the crucial prerequisite it is, and the changes that have to happen in order to make this happen. Finally, we talked about their individual positions on the feminist spectrum, the future of feminism in general and for Fröndenberg – the small town in question.

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