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Margarete Stokowski

Margarete Stokowski
Margarete Stokowski

Margarete Stokowski’s life story begins in much the same way as that of many other German migrants. Born in Zabrze in 1986, she has just turned two when her parents decide to move to Germany where she grows up in Neukölln, Berlin’s most multicultural suburb. This is where she first begins to observe public life. She soon discovers, although unconsciously as a child, that there are gender patterns which you have to follow or systematically reject. “The categories of “girl” or “boy” are there from the start. There isn’t that one moment in which you are sent out onto the stage in the big theatre of gender roles.”[1]

Stokowski has always been fascinated by strong women. Reading the biography of Maria Skłodowska-Curie reinforces her intention to study physics for which, incidentally, she has the best qualifications. But ultimately, she decides to study philosophy and social sciences at the Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2014 she completes her academic education with a work about the French author, philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir. In one of her interviews, Stokowski admits that it was the need to forge a path in the male-dominated science discipline that put her off studying physics. “You either have to be strong enough to simply ignore the clichés and the opposition, or you have to actively fight against them – both options take up a lot of energy.” [2]

Margarete Stokowski has had a presence in the media as an author of feminist columns and essays since 2009, for instance in the “taz”, in “Missy Magazine”, on “Zeit Online” and since 2015 as a permanent employee on the “Spiegel Online” editorial team. However, her intrinsic popularity and the critical interest in her work are all thanks to her début novel “Untenrum frei” [“Naked down below”], which was published as a hardback in the Rowohlt Verlag in 2016 and in whose foreword the author asserts that this book is not a manifesto even though it contains many opinions that could sound like it. Stokowski clearly defines what she understands under the term feminism writing: “For me, feminism means that all people irrespective of their gender, their sexuality and their body should have the same rights and freedoms.”[3] By putting her feminist demands in words, the author signals a difficult and painful fight for equality. At the same time, she admits that she has difficulty describing herself as a feminist: “In the vast majority of cases, it gives me the creeps to associate myself with a group and if I did have to design an ideal society, it would, above all, be one in which I have peace.“[4] However, the author believes that it can be an advantage if a lot of people perceive feminism as a judgemental label: “Labelling distracts. We’ve got better things to do. Feminism is not something that better PR will turn into a more attractive product that is then simply casually swallowed by everyone in passing. It is a fight for fundamental justice.“[5]

In her books, Margarete Stokowski addresses classic topics such as power, sex, equality and gender-appropriate language that should be associated with feminism. She points out the deficits in sex education and the feelings of shame that accompany not just adolescent girls. She describes the fear of the lack of acceptance and the attempts to find oneself again at any cost in the common mainstream ideals of beauty and in predefined social roles. Stokowski lays open the mechanisms that block us as a society and she shows that they can be overcome although their existence often has to be established first. Stokowski recognises the real danger in the fight for equality as being in our habituation to existing situations and in accepting roles and differences that have supposedly been there forever so therefore can’t be changed. At the same time, however, she admits that the predefined social roles can simplify a lot of things. In the author’s opinion, renouncing traditional patterns presents an opportunity that opens up an experiment, the implications of which are not yet clear.

 

[1]  M. Stokowski, Untenrum frei [Naked down below], Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2018, page 26f.

[2]  Interview: Niemand würde Powermann sagen [No one would say power man]. In: Zeit Online, dated 25 October 2016, https://www.zeit.de/karriere/2016-10/margarete-stokowski-gleichberechti…

[3]  Untenrum frei, page 13.

[4]  Ibid, page 13f.

[5]  Ibid, page 14f.