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Delighted, Not Desperate, Housewives

DW staff (tt)
September 6, 2006

What do women really want? Definitely not a career, says a former German TV news presenter. Her controversial new book -- "The Eva Principle" -- encourages women to stay where she thinks they really belong: by the stove.

Eva Herman's days at Tagesschau are over, for the time being at leastImage: picture-alliance/dpa

"I believe, we women should shut up more often," German TV news presenter Eva Herman said in a recent interview. "Why do we always have to have a say in everything?"

If anybody wishes they could turn back the hands of time, it is Herman. Forget about free will. Forget about emancipation. Forget about equal rights. If she would get a chance to start all over again, she knows what she would do.

"I would look for a man and let him work while I would take care of our five children," she said.

The ironic twist in the whole story is that Herman -- who was, according to a 2003 poll, Germany's favorite news presenter -- won't get a chance to live her anti-feminist dream. At the age of 47, she has one son, is married for the fourth time and has a distinguished television career behind her.

Furthermore, she has written two novels and two non-fiction books -- one about the advantages of breastfeeding and one on the importance of sleeping well at night. In 2003, she even came out with her first CD of swing classics, which she sang together with her moderator colleague Bettina Tietjen, singer Max Raabe and entertainer Hape Kerkeling. Herman has spent most of her life outside the treasured realm of Freudian suppression known as domestic bliss.

The joy of cooking

Hausfrau mit Schürze
Home, sweet homeImage: BilderBox

Despite the fact or, perhaps, because of the fact that she never became a full-time mom, Herman is nowadays Germany's most vocal proponent of a pre-feminist fantasy world in which women bake cookies, fold the laundry and water the plants as the ultimate form of self-fulfillment.

Her new book entitled "The Eva Principle -- For a New Femininity" will be published on Sept. 8. Even though the book can be only pre-ordered at this point, it is already No. 13 on the list of bestsellers at the German site of the online bookseller Amazon.

Herman's new book is expected to cause at least as much commotion as the article entitled "Emancipation -- an Error?" which she wrote for the May issue of the political magazine Cicero. In it, she blamed feminism for making women frustrated and for eating away family values in Germany.

It should come as no surprise that Herman is not very popular in feminist circles.

Alice Schwarzer, German feminist and editor of women's magazine Emma, described Herman's article on emancipation as "gibberish between a stone age bat and Mother's Cross" -- referring to a Nazi-era medal of honor for German women who bore more than three children.

Reality check

Alice Schwarzer 3. Dezember 2002 60. Geburtstag
German feminist author Alice Schwarzer is not amused by Eva HermanImage: AP

Even inside the conservative Christian Democratic party (CDU), a traditional harbinger of family values on the German political scene, Herman's views have been met with puzzlement.

"This image of women is unacceptable in a modern society and it doesn't correspond any longer to reality," said Marita Meyer-Kainer, a CDU parliamentarian in Hamburg.

Herman, however, thinks she knows what's wrong with this world. And she knows that the solution is a simple one. If women would only stop trying to be like men, pursuing their careers and trying to juggle their jobs and their kids, and become again what they were always meant to be -- mothers and wives -- things would get back to normal.

But why did she have a career of her own?

Tupperware Party Anno 1958
Will tupperware parties become all the rage again?Image: AP

Herman was born in 1958 into a family of a hotel manager. Her father died when she was six years old. Initially, she went into the hotel business herself, but eventually trained at Bavarian public radio in Munich to become a radio and later TV announcer.

She became a news presenter of Tagesschau -- Germany's most important news program -- in 1989.

In anticipation of the forthcoming publication and the debate it would provoke, Hermann quit the Tageschau news program in August in order to devote more time to her work as an author.

"In view of the neutrality of the Tagesschau, (Herman) wants to take a break from her work here," said Kai Gniffke, an editor at German public broadcaster ARD, at the time. "It's a decision that deserves great respect."

After 17 years of presenting news professionally and objectively, Herman's vocabulary is changing. She is trading "bilateral relations" and "political negotiations" for "warm nests" and "havens" in this "ever more ruthless world."

It is a bizarre change of rhetoric. But Germany could have seen it coming, judging from the conclusion of her first novel, "Then Came You."

"A great, warm feeling of happiness for being a woman at last ran through me," she wrote.