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Alice Schwarzer, 2009

Alice Schwarzer (born December 3, 1942 in Wuppertal) is the most prominent contemporary German feminist. She is founder and publisher of the German feminist journal EMMA.


Biography and positions

As the daughter of a single mother she spent her childhood with her grandparents. In 1969 she started working as a journalist.

From 1970 to 1974 she worked as a freelancer for different media in Paris. At the same time she studied psychology and sociology, amongst others lectured by Michel Foucault. She was one of the founders of the Feminist Movement in Paris (Mouvement de Liberation des femmes, MLF) and also spread their ideas to Germany.

In 1971 she raised public attention for the first time with her project "Frauen gegen den § 218" (Women against Paragraph 218, which was the German statute that made abortion illegal). In autumn 1971 she released her first book of the same title. She contributed substantially to the abortion debate in Germany, resulting in legalization in 1974. (See Abortion in Germany.)

One of her best known books is Der kleine Unterschied und seine großen Folgen (The little difference and its huge consequences), which was released in 1975 and made her famous beyond the borders of Germany. It was translated into 11 languages. Since its release, Schwarzer is considered as Germany's best known, but also most controversial contemporary feminist. She is a second-wave feminist representing concepts of feminist equality, similar to Simone de Beauvoir.

One of her goals was the realization of economic self-sufficiency for women. She argued against the law which required married women to obtain permission from their husbands before beginning paid work outside the home. This provision was removed in 1976.

In January 1977 the first issue of her journal EMMA was published. The next years she concentrated on the work for her journal, serving as chief editor and publisher.

With her PorNo campaign, started in 1987, she advocated the banning of pornography in Germany, arguing that pornography violates the dignity of women, constitutes a form of medial violence against them, and contributes to misogyny and physical violence against women. The ongoing campaign has not met with much success.

From 1992 to 1993 she was host of the TV show Zeil um Zehn on German TV channel Hessischer Rundfunk. With her frequent appearances in German TV talk shows she has become an institution on German television.

When her journal EMMA changed to bimonthly release in 1993, she continued to write an increasing number of books, among them one about Petra Kelly and Gert Bastian, and biographies of Romy Schneider and Marion Dönhoff. In total she has released 16 books as a writer, and 15 as publisher.

She campaigned against the law of 2002 that improved the legal situation of prostitutes and fully legalized brothels. She views prostitution as violence against women and favors laws like those in Sweden, where the sale of sexual services is legal but their purchase is not. (See also: Prostitution in Germany.)

In recent years, she has been highly critical of political Islamism and the position of women in Islam; she favors prohibitions against women in schools or other public settings wearing the Islamic headscarf, which she considers a symbol of oppression. She warns of a creeping islamisation of Europe, leading to an erosion of human rights and especially women's rights.


  • In 1996, she received the German "Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande" (Cross of Merit on ribbon), and in 2005, the "Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse" (Cross of Merit, First class). The Cross of Merit is the only general state decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany.
  • In 2004 she received the "Danubius Prize" for "her passionate fight for the rights of women".
  • In December 2004 she was made Knight of the French Legion of Honor.
  • On January 15, 2005 she received the Staatspreis of the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
  • In 2007 she received the Else Mayer Foundation award.


  • Schwarzer, Alice (1984). After the Second Sex. Pantheon. ISBN 0-394-72430-5.  
  • Schwarzer, Alice (1984). Simone de Beauvoir today: Conversations, 1972–1982. Hogarth Press. ISBN 0-7011-2784-8.  

External links

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