The tomato that launched a women’s revolution

A RECENT PRESS REPORT about a tomato that was inexpertly tossed in the direction of former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin in the Mall of America recalls a similar incident that occurred in Frankfurt forty-one years ago. That time the thrower not only had a better aim, but her historic toss also helped launch a revolution in the way women and men would see one another in Central Europe for the next four decades and beyond.

A whiff of revolution

Temperatures were rising on West German campuses in the late 1960s. Disgusted at what they perceived as a repressive conservative society wrapped around a loathsome Nazi past, a new generation of university students took to the streets, demanding a revolution in social relations. The movement they created has gone down in history as the “Extraparliamentary Opposition.”

But society fought back. In 1967 a West Berlin policeman shot student Benno Ohnesorg dead during a demonstration against a state visit by the “fascist” Shah of Iran. The following spring, a young neonazi put a bullet through the skull of the young Marxist revolutionary Rudi Dutschke. Fidel Castro and Chairman Mao had by this time supplanted John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King as progressive role models. A range of new organisations sprang up, ranging from gentle pacifist groups dedicated to “free love” all the way to the blooththirsty, bomb-throwing Red Army Faction. Those groups hovering in between, collectively known as Spontis (from the word “spontaneous”), skillfully captured headlines by occupying university buildings and publicly humiliating authority figures from the bourgeois “Establishment” – preferably by lobbing rotten fruit and vegetables at them. But despite their diversity, there is one thing all of these organisations shared in common: they were dominated by men…



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