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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

What We Are Fighting For - 13 of 17

What We Are Fighting For - England: Where each one can work out his and her own life
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From Picture Post Magazine, July 13, 1940, pp 24-25
After the last war, the Baltic States, and even the backward Balkans, broke up their large, old feudal estates and came into line with the modern world. Germany, under the influence of her Junker landlords and generals, turned her agricultural culture into an armament industry. To do so, she kept the old feudal system alive, as did Spain, Italy and Hungary, all countries most favourable to Fascist dictatorship.

So far we have been dealing with the Man-in-the-street, with Herr Schmidt. What about his wife? What is Frau Schimdt's position in the National Socialist Reich?

It is certain that women did much to put Hitler into office. It seems hard to believe that the Führer, as you and I know him, should have been put across as a sex-appeal figure. But this was done, and done brilliantly. Provincial stationers' shops still bristle with touched-up, coloured postcards representing the Führer in the most heartbreaking, sentimental surroundings: the lonely ascetic of the mountain tops, patting a little girl on the head in a field of cornflowers; the wifeless knight in shining armour -- yes, in armour, if you please -- with the wind blowing his charger's mane, his swastika pennant, his romantic lock of hair. No wonder that in the early days of the regime, the Nazi press reported that shawls, pullovers, mittens and gloves, knitted by adoring women for Hitler's birthday, came in their hundreds of thousands. And what had the Führer to offer these women?

First of all, he promised them a husband and children -- a powerful bait, since there was a surplus of over two million women in Germany. He promised home life, or, if women had to work, he promised work that was womanly in nature. The presence of millions of smartly uniformed men in the S.A. and S.S. added to the rosy picture.

"Give back to the women the sphere that is their right." "The woman's place is in the home." These were the two great Nazi slogans to hide the fact that women were being ruthlessly robbed of political, economic and social equality. No woman can any longer sit in the Reichstag. Nor on County or Borough Councils, nor may she hold a Government post. Even in the Nazi women's organisations, almost all the leaders are men.

And what happened to the bright promises to protect women from the hurly-burly of business life, to provide them with husband, hearth and home? This. Under pressure of the drive for war and finding themselves short of labour, the Nazis began to force women back into industry as hard as they could go. In 1933, German female employment amounted to 4.5 millions. In January, 1939, according to insurance statistics, 7.3 million women were employed in Germany. In the Frankfurter Zeitung (Feb. 26, 1939), Dr. Syrup, chief of the Nazi Labour Exchange, wrote: "Since I can see no further possibility of intensifying male labour, we have no choice but to exploit and rationalise female labour to the very limit."

It must be remembered that these women -- many of the employed in the heavy industries, and even in the mines -- are working at a wage scales far below even the poor wages of male workers in the Reich. In the Rhineland metal factories it is reckoned that an adult woman's average wage is 43 pfennigs an hour -- just over 24s. for a seven-day week, less the heavy deductions which all German workers must pay. One wonders how long the sex appeal of Sir Galahad Hitler of the postcards can stand up to these hard facts, which do but skim the surface of the position of German women, and do not even take into account the obvious strain which the housewife has sustained for years, the strain of making both ends meet on an impossible budget, of scheming to dish up interesting meals out of ersatz food, potatoes and turnips, and of the constant interference of authorities in domestic life.

(continued on WWAFF post 16 -- yes, post 16.)

Jay's thoughts:  Sexism. In the 1940s. I'm wont to go there, if I'm honest. Because I know that there have always been women that wanted to work in whatever industry or business, and women who wanted to be housewives and take care of families. Neither is wrong; both are correct.  It's an entirely different issue when one thing is promised to you by a government, and you expect a fulfilment of that promise.

But if I had to make a point -- and I do -- then it would be that those in tobacco control and public health (and even some MPs) believe that women are weak, are somehow inferior and more susceptible to dangerous logos and trade marks on products than, say, men.  This is of course complete bollocks, but it plays up to the old chivalrous attitudes of yore, a time when people believed that women were incapable of even considering the issues of the day, else those hapless women would develop cranial ridges due to the expansion of their brains.

The truth is that women are equal in intelligence to men (I would lean towards more intelligent than men most days). Women are not more likely to be tempted by a trade mark than a man is. When people suggest such things, I bristle at that the thought of it.  Yet tobacco controllers hate the idea that women smoke -- and they believe, falsely, that the only reason women do smoke is because tobacco companies exist. This is asinine reasoning, of course. Women smoke for the same reasons that men smoke -- because they like smoking, because they get pleasure from smoking, because they enjoy smoking. To suggest otherwise is to say that somehow women are an inferior species, less able than men to determine for themselves the risks they take on for themselves.  Tobacco control and public health nutjobs believe that women (and your children) are stupid, incapable of choosing whether to smoke based on nothing more than a fancy cigarette packet design.

And isn't that precisely the attitude of the Nazis in 1930s Germany?  Women were chattel. Unthinking, breeding machines.  And that's how public health and tobacco control views women today. The evidence is in everything they write and tweet about how a packet is "targeting women."   So what if it a packet is?  Are women so stupid and gullible that they cannot see a trade mark and logo for what they are?

I think not. But then I don't work in tobacco control.