Mothers in socialist states/ Life in socialist states

Feminist ideology and the effect it has had upon society
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Mothers in socialist states/ Life in socialist states

Postby Yessica » 27 Jun 2013, 12:11

The case of the GDR has been mentioned in another thread started by me, which I am going to answer another day because my answer will be lengthy.

As someone, who was born in the GDR, I think there are many facts about it outsiders might find surprising.

One is that the GDR was a pronatalist state. Childlessness was seen as flaw of character and people were supposed to have their children young. The pressure was strongest for college students. If have been told that they were approached by their professors and asked when they were going to have a child.
The family with four children was seen as in ideal and depicted in murals.

As a result women had their children young and very few women remained childless.

At the same time women were not supposed to be homemakers (you will find this less surprising), but to give their children into daycare-centers. Nannies did not exist (as far as I know).

I do not remember life in the GDR. I am to young, but if you are interested I could tell you a few things which I heard about that life.
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Re: Mothers in socialist states/ Life in socialist states

Postby Elliott » 27 Jun 2013, 15:21

That sounds awful, Yessica, but not terribly surprising. It sounds like a fairly typical authoritarian state (telling its women to produce many children, new workers for tomorrow) and a very typical Communist state (having the children raised by state facilities rather than their parents).
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Re: Mothers in socialist states/ Life in socialist states

Postby Nathan » 27 Jun 2013, 15:57

I never got to visit that part of the world until long after it had ceased to be East Germany, but I've long had an interest in it. From my personal experience all I know is the modern Germany, so it is hard to really get my head around the fact that as recently as within the first six years of my own lifetime it was divided in two and the whole society in part of it worked by completely alien rules.

I think you've mentioned before that you are from a fairly privileged background: somebody I met once also from a very professional family who grew up in Jena in the 1970s said that at school in East Germany every child had the letter A (Arbeiterklasse, or working class) or I (Intellektuelle, or professional class) by their name in the register, and the As were given preferential treatment at every opportunity - does this sound similar to your family's experience?
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Re: Mothers in socialist states/ Life in socialist states

Postby Yessica » 27 Jun 2013, 17:03

Nathan, yes as far as I know this is true.

However working class did not mean what it means today. Some of the most privileged people in the GDR were considered "socialist working class" by the systems standards.
It is true that children whose parents were considered from a privileged class were not allowed to attend upper school (EOS). On the other hand very few of the children enrolled in those school were children of "real" workers, working with their hands. There are statistics about this. Most were children of "working class" (<--- note the quotationmarks).

Both my parents families had been dispossesed, which means the state took away their lands. This officially placed them right at the bottom of society and they were not allowed to attend EOS. Not a great loss by the way, because one did not learn anything useful there.
The idea behind this was that they wanted to do away with the power of the gentry and the old families.

There was the official social order and the inofficial social order and what I heard from my parents is that the working class people (the real ones without quotations marks) treated them well and with solidarity.
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Re: Mothers in socialist states/ Life in socialist states

Postby Connor » 28 Jun 2013, 05:28

I've heard quite a few strange things about East Germany in my day.

Here's one that pertains to your topic: Is it true that there was group toilet-training for babies in the DDR? I heard that, in those very same daycare centers that you mentioned, East German babies were all corralled into a room lined with toilets. Then, the daycare workers taught them...well, how to use the toilets.

That's socialist collectivization for you - it's not just the economy!

Anyway, Yessica, I'd like to hear from you about that: is that, in fact, how things were done? Do you think there were any strange social effects afterwards?
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Re: Mothers in socialist states/ Life in socialist states

Postby Yessica » 28 Jun 2013, 10:09

Connor, yes, that is how things were done.
They were lined up. The day care workers however did not show them how to use the potty. They just explained and let them watch what the other children were doing. At least that is what I heard.
There were several reasons for this. Disposable diapers did not exist in the DDR and many families did not have washing mashines, but had to cook the diapers on the oven.
As a result diapering a child was more work and mothers wanted their children out of diapers soon. It was thought that children learn better if other children were doing the same thing. So this was seen as the most effective way to get them out of diapers soon.

Another reason is that they did everything together in the day care centers. This was of course the ideology, but it is also our culture. You are american, right? We are less individualistic.

Psychological consequences? I am not sure, but I don't think so. They would be hard to detect because everybody of a certain age would suffer them and we would just think of them as normal. The maineffect it had: Children were potty-trained earlier.
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Re: Mothers in socialist states/ Life in socialist states

Postby Nathan » 28 Jun 2013, 10:22

How realistic was the "My first banana" satire when East Germany collapsed? What kinds of everyday things did people experience for the first time, and how strange did it feel?

Image
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Re: Mothers in socialist states/ Life in socialist states

Postby Connor » 29 Jun 2013, 00:28

Yessica - thank you for the response.

They were lined up. The day care workers however did not show them how to use the potty. They just explained and let them watch what the other children were doing. At least that is what I heard.


Yes, that's what I meant. I didn't think the daycare workers actually did demonstrations for the children! Sorry if that's what it sounded like.

Another reason is that they did everything together in the day care centers. This was of course the ideology, but it is also our culture. You are american, right? We are less individualistic.


That's a good point: Communist ideology may have influenced the decision, but a common culture is probably what made the practice possible. Maybe the idea of group toilet-training didn't sound so absurd to a relatively small and homogenous population with a common heritage. I get the impression, though, that this is no longer normal behavior in modern-day Germany, nor would it be recommended by anyone. Am I correct?

I am indeed American, so that might be a factor in why I find such a practice hard to imagine. Where I live, even the adults avoid public restrooms. The thought of any kind of forced communal experience has always been somewhat terrifying to me.

Psychological consequences? I am not sure, but I don't think so. They would be hard to detect because everybody of a certain age would suffer them and we would just think of them as normal.


That may have been a little too dramatic when I asked about "psychological consequences." I was thinking more about the way such an upbringing shaped East Germans as opposed to West Germans.

There are some studies that indicate a "socialized" upbringing leads to a different personality amongst the people who are the products of it. For an interesting parallel, I would point to the adults who grew up in kibbutz communities in Israel. The link to that section of the Wikipedia article gives a sample of what psychological effects can occur after enforced socialization. I was curious if there were similar findings for people who were raised in the DDR.
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Re: Mothers in socialist states/ Life in socialist states

Postby Yessica » 29 Jun 2013, 08:40

So sorry, wrote an lenghty posting, but I was locked out and had forgotten to safe it.

To make it short.

Things that did not exist/were rare in the GDR:

* exotic fruit, like bananas, pineapples, oranges. People always carried nets, so they could buy them if they were for sale
*disposable stuff (like disposable nappies, disposable babywipes and so on)
*nylons, instead stocking were made of Dederon. There were places were you could bring your stockings if they had a run and they mended them for you
*red corduroys (for political reaons)
*few people had tumble driers
*few people had dishwashers
*people heated with coal
*people drank substitue coffee made from grains

As for diapering:

* today mothers potty train their children
* I attend a baby-sports-group with my son. When it is over one of the mothers diapers all the children, who line themselves in/are brought by their mothers when they are son young to do so. It is more effective that way and I never tought of this as strange. I do not know how common that is. I never gave it a thought if everbody does this or it is only us.

There are a number of studies about psychologogical differecnes between Eastern and Western Germans, but I cannot go on about this for lack of time. I'll give you a summary later.

My next answer will take longer for lack of time, but I enjoy talking to you greatly.
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