Gender Equality in Post-Unification Germany

Domestic Diffusion and EU-Level Pressures

Article appearing in German Politics Volume 26, No. 4

  • Author:
  • Sabine Lang
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Date: November 29, 2017
German Politics

East German writer Christa Wolf’s provocative question ‘what remains?’ following the demise of the GDR held particular relevance for unifying differently gendered societies. The GDR had championed its female workforce, comprehensive childcare and liberal abortion rights, in stark contrast to the Federal Republic. West German feminists, who had historically mistrusted the state, had only just begun to scale up their engagement in and with political institutions when the Berlin Wall fell. Unification provided the context for renegotiating gender politics, in particular, women’s economic independence and the state’s role in actively securing gender equality and women’s political participation. At the same time, European Union actors increased pressure on national policy-makers, particularly regarding gender equality in the workplace. This article unpacks GDR legacies and EU-level pressures in regard to several policies that formed the core of post-unification gender politics: (1) constitutional equality; (2) gender quotas; and (3) childcare. While EU frames and policies are widely recognised as having played a significant role in shaping the equality agenda, I argue that in all three cases, the legacies of East German gender politics have impacted on post-unification reforms more than previously acknowledged.