Didn't Indians celebrate a bra day?

Women's movement from 1968 - «Revolution, now, immediately!» - a woman at the megaphone

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The women of 1968 changed a lot for Switzerland: from voting rights to sex life. Andrée Valentin was right in the middle.

Author: Manuela Siegert and Andrea Pfalzgraf

It's been 50 years since Andrée Valentin opened his mouth. Again and again, loudly and without compromise. Her topic: equality for women. In 1968 they neither had a political voice nor were they allowed to work without their husband's permission.

In the Historical Museum in Bern, the 74-year-old goes on a journey through time in the exhibition “Switzerland 1968” and meets the young feminist and President of the Young Socialists Switzerland Tamara Funiciello.

Andrée Valentin: Great to see it all! This energy, this enthusiasm and this intensity - we believed in it!

Tamara Funiciello: What did you believe in?

Andrée Valentin: Well, to the revolution! We were convinced that we are starting the revolution now. And not tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but now!

The two of them enter a room that is furnished as it was in the 1960s: with an ocher-colored sofa, wall unit and an old black-and-white television. A poster on the topic of women's suffrage hangs on the wall. It shows that in the 1960s women were allowed to vote in almost every European country - almost.

Tamara Funiciello: You couldn't vote, right?

Andrée Valentin: No, I couldn't choose. That's why we did an action in the theater in 1968. The Association for Women's Suffrage celebrated its 75th anniversary there.

We found that the right to vote is a human right, but our demands have gone much further. We disrupted the anniversary celebration by going on stage and giving a speech, a fire speech that we had prepared the evening before. It was about women and what women actually want.

«Don't jubilate - protest!»: The first disruptive action

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In 1968 there has been a women's suffrage association in Zurich for 75 years. By then, he had not achieved his goal - that women should be allowed to vote.

When it celebrated its anniversary on November 10, 1968, a group of young women saw the opportunity to attract public attention. Andrée Valentin storms onto the stage in the Zurich Schauspielhaus and shouts, among other things: "We shouldn't celebrate, we should protest!" A previously unpublished sound document of this event can be found in the archives of the Schauspielhaus.

This disruptive action is considered the prelude to the new women's movement. While the traditional women's associations have been fighting for their right to vote by democratic means for decades, the new women use provocative words and means.

Thus, on the one hand, they differ in the forms of action; At the same time, more extensive content is important to them: They want to achieve more than women’s right to vote. Its goal is comprehensive gender equality.

Tamara Funiciello: And how did you react?

Andrée Valentin: That was an absolute scandal! You didn't even understand what was going on at first. Then the orchestra started and they interrupted me. My father was a Tonhalle musician, but thank God he wasn't on stage! Then the event continued. And at the end I went back on stage and we started discussing.

Andrée Valentin: Your origins, your desires, your life

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Andrée Valentin is the daughter of a Ticino woman and a French man and was born in Zurich in 1944. She studies economics, history and sociology. At the same time she becomes President of the Free Student Union Zurich (FSZ).

In this role she gives the speech at the Zurich Schauspielhaus, which ultimately leads to the foundation of the women's liberation movement FBB. In an interview, Andrée Valentin states that she wants to free women and "make them aware that they live in an oppressed position".

Her mother was the reason for her to become feminist. As a housewife, she was unable to live out her potential. Andrée Valentin didn't want to end like this.

Andrée Valentin left Switzerland in 1968 and spent the next few decades in Germany, France and India. Her son now lives in Berlin with his wife and toddler.

Andrée Valentin only returned to her mother's place of origin in 2017 and now lives in a shared house in Ticino.

The next exhibition room shows first of all an event that has shaken up young people around the world: the Vietnam War.

Andrée Valentin: Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh! I think that without what the Vietnam War triggered in our youth, we would not have had this movement. That was really an incredibly important moment.

Tamara Funiciello: Something like that is perhaps missing in our time. I mean, the Syrian war did not lead to that reaction.

Andrée Valentin: That's exactly what I wanted to ask you: What about the Syrian war? It's such a horrible war, when I see the pictures it breaks my heart and I feel totally helpless. I ask myself: why was there no mobilization at all?

Tamara Funiciello: the intrepid

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At the age of 28, Tamara Funiciello is President of the Young Socialists (Juso) and Vice President of SP Switzerland.

She grew up in a left household and spent most of her childhood in Sardinia.

With high-profile campaigns, she draws on the resources of the 68ers and polarizes strongly.

Tamara Funiciello: I don't think there was no mobilization. A lot of people acted, but very individually. So many stand up for refugees; they take their time and go to Greece at their own expense to provide assistance. But our problem is: Of course we go demonstrating, of course we do! But many have the feeling that it is simply no use anymore.

That's why I think it's so nice that we're here because you show that it has made a difference. It made a difference! We mustn't forget that, and we have to go back there.

One corner of the main hall is dedicated to the women's movement. Andrée Valentin discovers himself in a photo. As always at that time, she wears large owl glasses and can be seen at the microphone.

Andrée Valentin: I think I was standing there with the microphone for exactly the same reason as you do today - only under different conditions. I wanted women to have the same social opportunities as men, but not necessarily that they imitate men, but that they can really bring up their women-specific concerns and be heard!

We women had to organize ourselves and really think about what our needs are. Because: In this whole political movement, the emotional body did not come into play very much - except that the comrades may have liked the bodies of the comrades in bed.

But the whole issue of corporeality, inwardness, and emotions has been resolved in a very "heady" way: you can no longer be jealous, everyone sleeps with everyone, there is no longer any property. But the psyche has not been taken into account. You cannot simply say by decree: Now we are no longer jealous, now there is no longer any property, and then it works.

Tamara Funiciello: You could see that it didn't work.

Andrée Valentin: There has been a lot of suffering during this time of free sexuality. And women have also felt abused very often.

Tamara Funiciello: It's an exciting debate. At the moment we are leading it again with this new feminist movement, with these stories about Harvey Weinstein, with the hashtag “metoo” and all the women who say: I have been abused. I have been a victim of sexual harassment.

The two step into a corner where the first contraceptive pill can be seen. Andrée Valentin felt it was a liberation. Then she points to the speculum, the examination device used by gynecologists.

Andrée Valentin: The speculum, very important! We examined each other, we looked ourselves into the vagina. We wanted to explore our body and really get to know it.

That was a very important process. I finally went from my head to my body and started to respect it better and also to take better care of my body. The Indians also say: my body is my temple.

What about your sexuality anyway?

Tamara Funiciello: Well, our generation is the first internet porn generation.

Andrée Valentin: Oh my God.

Tamara Funiciello: Yeah, it's not just funny. It's crazy what you are given and what ideas prevail. And I think it's very important to talk about it.

Andrée Valentin: Do you think your generation is sexually freer than ours?

Tamara Funiciello: No. We grow up with a picture that clearly shows how sex should work: mega violent, mega penis-oriented and mega violent.

Andrée Valentin: And what about the feelings?

Tamara Funiciello: Maybe I can give you an answer to that in 50 years. Today there are apps that you can use to meet up for sex. You write 'there in 20 minutes', then you go there and have sex. What worries me are the images of sexuality and love that are implanted in one. You have the feeling that you have to do something without knowing whether you would like to.

Last year we took off our clothes with five Juso women based on your movement and burned a bra. We are told: You are all free to do what you want in our super individualized world.

We did this to show what happened afterwards. The result was: This photo of five women in Switzerland burning a cursed bra, and the comments on it were in the media every day for two months!

Andrée Valentin laughs loudly.

We thought: It's the year 2017 - folks, can you pull yourself together? They couldn't, they were absolutely nuts! We have received rape threats and death threats. The newspapers were full of questions like: Can you do that? Should one do that? Has that harmed the woman's cause? Incredible. And that for an action that lasted 15 minutes.

Andrée Valentin: Yes, the balance of power is still the same. That means we have to keep going. I see that in my son. Men have a different understanding, there is simply this natural right to exist. We women, on the other hand, adapt. We are not taken for granted on this planet.

Tamara Funiciello: Never before has a ruling power voluntarily surrendered its power. That will never happen either. Ex-National Councilor Gret Haller once said to me: 'Feminism means always going one step too far'. And I think we still have to do that in order to question what is taken for granted.

Andrée Valentin: Men are also victims of all this pressure and their role behavior and everything that has been forced on them. You suffer from it too.

Tamara Funiciello: Absolutely.

Andrée Valentin: Man and woman should question things. It's about a change in awareness. Without awareness of something, nothing can change.

The two enter the last hall of the exhibition. Here contemporary witnesses and experts have their say and draw a conclusion about the achievements of the 68ers.

Tamara Funiciello: What would you, who was active in the feminist movement 50 years ago, give us today?

Andrée Valentin: Never give up. Fight. Fight! If you are really feeling something as a woman, then go in that direction, despite the obstacles, despite the difficulties. Do not get discouraged. And try to find other women who think the same way you do. That forms a force that will move us forward.

"1968 women didn't have much to lose"

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Interview with Christina Späti, Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Friborg

Why did a new women's movement emerge in Switzerland at the end of the 1960s?

Within the 1968 movement, women realized very quickly that not much was changing in relation to themselves. They found that the role that the '68 men were supposed to do is still the same: doing paperwork, doing secretarial jobs. They rebelled against this and said: For us, the class struggle and the change in society are also important, but what we want first and foremost is a better position for women.

How important are the women of 68 for today's young women?

You accelerated a process that was in the air. It might have taken another two or three years until women's suffrage was introduced, but it was just around the corner that it cannot be traced back to the women of 68 alone. By radically questioning traditional beliefs, however, they have opened up new possibilities or ways of thinking.

Were such disruptive actions also a risk for the women?

Yes and no. On the one hand, they could draw attention to themselves. The disruptive actions have been very important in getting the public to notice them. On the other hand, they certainly risked being shocked and not only rejecting the form of action, but also the demand behind it. But in the end they didn't have much to lose when you see the position of women in society and politics.

How big is the difference to today?

It's huge. It is almost impossible to imagine how compliant society was in the fifties and sixties, as was the intended life of the individual. As a middle-class woman you went to school, not exactly high school, maybe did a short training, but then got married, stopped working and had children. It was all very precisely predetermined.

Is there also a downside?

The more options you have, the more difficult it is to make a decision, and the more disorientation can arise. Individualization has taken place, perhaps also a certain loneliness, which previously could not exist to this extent because it was intended that the family should be the ideal way of life. But I think it's basically more positive when you have more freedom to make decisions.

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