The project “Frawenzimmer” was created as part of the Hackathon Coding Gender. It takes up the current genre of women’s and gossip magazines and combines it with historical sources from the digitised collections of the Berlin State Library. A large part of the topics and discourses currently under discussion have a long tradition! The tone of voice is also crucial, because what often appears sober and emphatically factual in historical sources serves gender orders and power structures of the time. Thus, on a supposedly scientific basis, attempts are made to legitimise inequalities between the sexes.
Old discourses in current women’s magazines
One of the most important observations was that they are structurally not very different from current women’s and gossip magazines, and that these are still being updated today. Topics included: toys marketed in a gendered way, focus on clothing in sports performed by women, topos of the greater sex drive in men and related acts of sexualised violence, the myth of guilt in cancer, tips for sex, different expectations of mothers and fathers, the role of women as carers, gender pay gap, etc.
Title page of “Frawenzimmer” – click on the red, pulsating dots to call up the corresponding digitised images
By imitating the lurid tone and linguistic style of gossip magazines, the aim is to make the historical texts accessible to a broader target group and thus encourage to discuss them. This also reveals a further correspondence between the selected historical texts and the format of today’s women’s magazines: as texts written about or for women, they are often of a prescriptive nature: they are instructive, give (well-intentioned) advice, and explain what women should do and what they should not do. The project was intended to make these continuities visible and also to facilitate access to the historical texts by means of so-called teasers – as they are also used on the covers of gossip magazines.
The articles and illustrations in the “Frawenzimmer” are themselves excerpts from the historical sources, only the headlines and layout have been newly created and are based on the genre of women’s and gossip magazines. Each article contains the information with a direct link to the digitised objects of the Berlin State Library.