Kitchen Debates: The Family Meal and Female Labor in East and West Germany

TitleKitchen Debates: The Family Meal and Female Labor in East and West Germany
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsWeinreb, Alice
Book TitleModern Hungers: Food and Power in Twentieth-Century Germany
PublisherOxford University Press
CityNew York

This chapter compares East German and West German attitudes toward women working outside of the home during the 1960s and 1970s. The two German states had radically different attitudes toward female employment. West Germany discouraged it, believing that women should remain out of the workforce to care for their families, especially their children. East Germany encouraged female labor as essential for meeting the country’s economic needs; women’s employment was seen as necessary for their self-fulfillment and as having a positive impact on their children’s health. Despite these differences, both countries perceived home cooking as women’s sole responsibility, as well as a vital necessity. This belief, among other things, determined the countries’ quite different school lunch policies. Ultimately, the normalization of home cooking and a “family meal” shaped women’s relationship to wage labor by demanding that their time and energy be dedicated to daily food work.

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