Gaby Zipfel at Eurozine:
With contemporary historians like Gerd Krumeich assessing the World War from 1914 to 1918 as “one of the formative experiences of the century, perhaps even the decisive factor in shaping it”, an event that each generation examines anew “in the light of old insights and new experiences, and the theoretical approaches gleaned from their own lifeworld”, it would seem high time to ask about the extent to which this war a century ago influenced the gender hierarchy of the western world. Wolfgang Mommsen goes much further, identifying the First World War as, “in a certain sense, the fatal crisis of old bourgeois Europe”, as a result of which “major parts of pre-war orders and institutions were destroyed, but above all the social structures were changed substantially.” This raises the question of the extent to which these changes affected the way gender characters were shaped, how the sexes related to each other and their options for action. Three aspects are always elementary in determining the subject status of the sexes in a given social system: firstly, the question of economic independence, that is, the possibility of supporting oneself financially; secondly, the question of citizenship rights and possibilities for participating in the public sphere, and thirdly, the question of sexual self-determination, that is, of control over one's own body and reproductive capacity. Accordingly, it must be asked to what extent the First World War influenced, changed or reorganized and fortified the gender hierarchy based on complementary public and private spheres.