Germany: the torment of European gender equality

Or how the “three K” weigh on the emancipation of the German woman

, by Katharina Cheimanoff , Translated by Pauline Gessant

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English] [français]

Germany: the torment of European gender equality
German flag Credit © European Union, 2011

While the EU has the wind in its sails to improve the parity between men and women, Germany, Europe’s largest economy, lags behind. Viviane Reding, the current Vice-President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, the German situation is “unacceptable.” How explaining European disgrace hanging over Germany because of its position in the rear of the pack in the struggle for gender equality?

The model of the “three K” is certainly no stranger to this situation

Alliteration means “Kinder, Kirche, Küche” (ie children, church, kitchen) and corresponds to what can be defined as representing traditional values assigned to women. “The three K” are rooted in the nineteenth century to the time of Emperor Wilhelm II.

Very strong before and during the Second World War (Hitler had the “battlefield” unique to women), this model loses its strength, especially in East Germany that promotes the equal representation of men and women. The quota of working women increased after the war due to lack of manpower, but for a limited time. Soon, the woman is returned to the kitchen, pursued by the “three Ks” and it’s still today. In fact, despite slogans of the DDR, the domestic sphere remains women’s affair, whatever they do outside.

In 1980-1990, the model of “three K” returns to the front of the stage but positively. The model of some women managed to combine the “three K” with a career: the “three K” are replaced with “four K”: "Kinder, Küche, Kirche und Karriere”. Then a new model of woman is created, the one of a super-woman who happens to manage everything. Is the German woman yet to envy?

Gender inequality still marked

The German government is pinned in recent years because of disparities between men and women. Despite this, it seems that the Rhine system also hampers the four irons to implement gender equality in the professional field.

Currently, Germany is one of the European countries where the wage gap between men and women are the most important (23.2% in 2008 against 18% on average in the European Union). Women are less likely to work (despite a steady increase, the share of working women is 45.8%) and more importantly, they are much less represented in higher levels (in 2009, there were only 25.1 % women in the category of managers and entrepreneurs).

Apart from wage differentials, what explains the low number of working women?

One explanation is that they do not need it, or at least less necessary than in other EU countries, because men earn enough. Women do not then perhaps need to have a job at any price. In addition, institutions are unsuited to women’s work: the school ends early and the structures hosting the early childhood are inadequate and mostly insufficient.

Halftime jobs really interesting for women are too few or on the contrary, too many for menial jobs rarely fitting with the training of women.

Besides, the mentality and tradition play a very important role in our German neighbors. The Church has long given the role superior to men for whom it is normal that the woman takes care of the home. And God knows that the Church has a very important role in Germany: it is rich and very influential.

The government’s position on the parity

Other reasons, certainly the most blinding, are due to the Government : why does the German government not put it in place measures to improve the situation of women? At the economic level, there are fears of a rise in unemployment following the promotion of women’s work. Moreover, the structures covering maternity are expensive.

If Angela Merkel refuses the constraint, yet used by other countries to impose parity, what solutions are possible? Workplace discrimination are sanctioned since 2006 but the proof is difficult and the problem of wages are impossible to fight in this way.

The fatal consequence of this is that women are forced by society to remain inactive. Often, it is not worth because of the salary, the jobs they get, which are often of lesser value, the money they receive as mothers, etc.. Those who do not yield to this social pressure will continue to work, but their desire for children will become secondary. The low representation of women in upper echelons of society does not help the situation.

This “Teufelskreis” in German is dramatic: the birth rate decreases, which causes particular problems in terms of retirement and demographics.

Women in the era of “three K” were able to take their game: they were more socially active, either through their family or the church (they attended more than men), while that now it seems that their situation is becoming more burdensome to carry and difficult to change.

Political work must be undertaken and attitudes must change to restore Germany’s golden letters of economic power, especially in a European context eager to advance gender equality. As already showed by the European Council’s Resolution of 29 June 2000: “The principle of equality between men and women requires to offset the disadvantage of women as regards the conditions for access and participation in the world of work and male disadvantage in terms of conditions for participation in family life.”

Your comments
  • On 23 September 2013 at 03:48, by dylan terreri, i Replying to: Germany: the torment of European gender equality

    letter to the editor:

    it’s MADNESS, i tell you! MADNESS!!

    as stated on, every woman is subjugating herself by accepting a spouse or a significant other who is a man and who is superior to her in height. everywhere i look, it’s tall man/short vagina. i don’t understand how vaginas everywhere could not be ashamed of themselves, proclaiming gender-equality while adding insult to inferiority by publicly proclaiming their lesser states-of-being with each and every date-night that they partake in.


    heck, do it for the memory of all “strong women” who were murdered not by a weapon but by a strong(er) man.

    first came gender-based sporting events to keep the vaginas from competing with men (and from being a detriment to the team). then came gender-based requirements for acceptance into both the military and the police-force (making these forces look more like farces, where masculine competency is sacrificed for the politically-correct inclusion of members of the shorter/smaller/weaker gender whose physical competency pales in comparison to that of men). for crying out loud, coney island went and added a “womens’ division” to their frankfurter-eating competition so that there could be such a thing as a female champion. AND, on top of everything else, there’s the “do it HERself” workshop at the home depot (which, like “curves fitness,” serves as a “mister rogers” type of “land of make believe” and caters to vaginas who are either too intimidated or too pious to function around a superior gender...ahem, make that “unjustifiably pious,” just because there is no reason for feminists to feel that their gender can trump anything but a defenseless baby’s head).

    as a way to battle the meek public-image of women that the aforementioned physical competitions contribute to, please IMPLORE all women to STOP LOOKING UP TO THEIR DATES. society must STOP seeing a man with a vagina on his arm if the man is taller than the vagina. women must be the tall ones in the relationship - if society got used to the concept of “short man/tall woman,” then the concept of “the lesser gender” would not necessarily signify the female gender. granted, mens’ broad shoulders would still point to a the existence of a stronger gender (as would their superior biceps, v-shaped backs, ripped chests and thick legs), but if every vagina would only date men who are shorter...well, i truly believe that the whole “masculine superiority” thing would slowly fade away.

    mr. dylan terreri, i dr. sheldon cooper, ii miss abingdon blazavich

    “When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I feel like saying something, I say it.” - Madonna

  • On 16 August 2014 at 11:51, by Jordan Replying to: Germany: the torment of European gender equality

    The article begins declaring Germany’s top position economically and the article doesn’t acknowledge the contribution women make to this economy. Has anyone considered that the aptitude of women and their abilities at home with children by raising them well and the influence of church as contributing factors to economic prosperity? It has and we might do well to worry less about who has which role and focus more so on fulfilling our roles to the best of our abilities for both men and women no matter where they are.

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