Revenge of the domestic
The book Revenge of the Domestic aims atevaluating the 19th century issues of gender relations between 1945 and 1970 in East Germany between the government and women. The focus of Donna Harsch, the author is the Communist Party, relationships of women as well as the state that the Communists created in Germany through German Democratic Republic – GDR. The style used in the book entails weaving a variety of personal tales based on statistical material, interviews as well as evidence that is derived from the archival research. This information facilitates the reconstruction of the intricate interplay between the policy of the government regarding women as well as family life on the one hand, and the reactions of the women to the policy of the state. Donna Harsch points out the resistance of women to the decisions of the government in their capacity as mothers, wageworkers, consumers, wives as well as ordinary citizens. All their efforts are manifested as maneuvers of overcoming the official neglect that the family encounters.
Donna Harsch bases the book on the reliance of the government on women as a source of workforce. The author also demonstrates the response of the government to women insistence that matters of the family are worth more attention by the government. The focus of the book is the confrontational relationship that was evident between the East German women and GDR during the post war era. The policy of the government was rooted in consumerism as well as family-oriented direction leading to a partial ambivalent domestication of societal life. This development led to ambiguous debatably aggressive implications on the private arrangement of gender as well as attitudes in the country. The social as well as economic implications of the domestication had an effect of cumulative power that progressively undermined the basis of German Democratic Republic.
Donna Harsch presents a compelling work in this book that contributes to the history of women in the 19th century Germany with a rich illustration of the incessant intersections between the family, work, household as well as consumption. It is also an indication of gender study to reveal women as well as reverberations at the government level in making decisions. The author also demonstrates the ironies that were associated with processes with the ignorance of the government to the family unit in the society despite the later development where the family gained particular importance later to the lives of the ordinary people in East Germany. These issues were evident as a source of renewal as well as rest as enjoyed by the people in the industrialized nations through the activities that were based on the promotion of consumption. The end game in the family arena was to spawn desires as well as needs that were unfulfilled by the socialist economy (Harsch, 5). This was the basis of the title of the book ‘revenge of the domestic’. Harsch considers an important question in the epilogue if the East German government concession was beneficial to the women. The policies of the government failed in the promotion of women gender roles that were extremely conventional despite the availability of the generous subsidies that were given to mothers in the last term of the GDR. These played a significant role in the enhancement of emergent gender role among the women who were not married (Harsch, 313).
There is a conspicuous contradiction between the work of Harsch and the feminist scholars who gave preference to the top-down style of policies of government as well as the assumption of passivity among the women. This development could be attributed to the ignorance of the scholars in addressing the actual strong defense by the women regarding the conventional roles in the family. The main intention of Harsch is demonstrating the source of the government policies in contrast to the effects that they have in the society. Harsch also focuses on the material concerns associated with the productivist policies like suitable provisioning to the preferred worker’ (Harsch 178) on, for instance, the single mothers. The whole idea in the project of the novel can be attributed to the classic feminist insight that addresses the significance of using unpaid reproductive work to propel the formal economy. The author also demonstrates the contribution of male sexism in frustrating the productivist objectives of the government in women. This is through the insistence of men in East German for their freedom from the supervision of the women from the demeaning household chores (Harsch, 197). The author also finds that women made great efforts to evade the paid work as well as the paid work that corresponded with their levels of education in East German. Women were also against any form of higher education as well as occupational training. The book can therefore be perceived as an illustration of women’s movement as well as feminism diversity on a global context. The book is therefore an excellent empirical illustration of the reason that women in East German fought for freedom of not working and freedom to engage in private spaces like the family unit.
Donna Harsch. Revenge of the Domestic: Women, the Family, and Communism in the German Democratic Republic, Princeton University Press, 2018.