Violent Women in Print

Violent Women in Print

Representations in the West German Print Media of the 1960s and 1970s

Clare Bielby


Camden House



First book to explore print-media representations of 1970s German terrorism from an explicitly gendered perspective, while also examining media coverage of other violent women.
As the controversy surrounding the release of Uli Edel and Bernd Eichinger's 2008 feature film The Baader Meinhof Complex demonstrates, West Germany's terrorist period, which reached its height in the "German autumn" of 1977, is still a fascinating -- and troubling -- subject. One of the most provocative aspects, still today, is the high proportion of women involved in terrorism, most notoriously Ulrike Meinhof. That the film concentrates on the trajectory of Meinhof's life and mobilizes established and hence reassuring paradigms of femininity in its representation of her (as "mother" and "hysterical woman") suggests that the combination of women and violence is still threatening and that there is still mileage to be had from feminizing the discourse. The present study returns to the West German print media of the 1960s and 1970s and raises questions about the continuing preoccupation with this period. Looking at publications from the right-wing Bild to the liberal Der Spiegel, it explores how violent women -- not only terrorists but also others such as the convicted murderer and media femme fatale Vera Brühne -- were represented in text and image. This is the first book to explore print-media representations of German terrorism from an explicitly gendered perspective, and one of very few books in English to address the period in Germany at all, despite steadily increasing interest in the UK and the US.

Clare Bielby is Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Hull.

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November 2012
35 black and white illustrations
236 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571135308
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC SOC028000, SOC051000, SOC052000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Women, Violence, Representation, and West Germany
The Violent Woman, Motherhood, and the Nation
Hysteria and the Feminization of the Violent Woman
"Die Waffen der Frau" (the Weapons of Women): The Violent Woman as Phallic
Filth: Abjecting the Violent Female Body
Conclusion: Remembering the Violent Woman


By looking at continuities and ruptures in the representation of violent women in postwar West Germany, Bielby takes an important step toward recontextualizing the portrayal of women terrorists in the media. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

Bielby convincingly demonstrates that the mix of written and visual language in the national -- and influential -- news publications she considers creates an image of violent women that serves as political and moral tool to chasten women in the Federal Republic in an era hallmarked by acute apprehension concerning gender roles, gender identities, and gender relations. This knowledgeable, profusely illustrated, and convincing contribution to both cultural history and gender studies is highly recommended for anyone interested in these debates. MONATSHEFTE

Bielby . . . demonstrates that the violent woman remains a construct of the popular media. Throughout her study, she gives the reader a solid foundation of postwar German history, its various theoretical discourses, and links them to nineteenth-century iconography. . . . [Bielby's] thoroughness . . . makes [this] a suitable volume for a graduate seminar on postwar Germany's representations of unruly women. For scholars interested in challenging oversimplified victim-perpetrator dichotomies, Bielby's study is a crucial first step in giving the violent woman a voice that goes beyond sensationalized media constructions. GERMAN QUARTERLY

[A] book which impresses both by its scholarship and commitment. JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN STUDIES

[E]xcellent. . . . [M]ake[s] a powerful point: that representing and consuming images of the violent woman both palliated and contained the threat that she presented to the gender order. . . . Bielby's [is a] fine-grained and creative study. GERMAN HISTORY

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