Monday, November 9, 2009

All Fall Down

Twenty years ago today, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Just listening to some of the personal accounts of people who were there, who were directly affected - the people of East Germany in particular - and it strikes me how there are some interesting parallels to be drawn between the fall of this wall in the Eastern bloc and the rise of women's rights in the West.

Oddly enough, the fall of the Iron Curtain, this physical symbol of socio-political oppression, didn't necessarily have the immediate and unanimously euphoric effect on the repressed population locked behind it that we might imagine... 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that not everyone readily embraced the resulting shift away  from a highly ordered world where social roles were strictly prescribed and personal ambitions admittedly curtailed but where the writing was very much on "the wall" and everyone was at least reading the same thing. If nothing else, it was a place where everyone knew what was expected of them and what to expect from each other. 

Once the wall fell though, East Germans suddenly found themselves with comparatively boundless possibilities, endless choices, infinite freedoms. Without the navigational tools some of us take for granted, many of them floundered in the vast sea of possibility, while still others remained paralyzed in the sudden absence of social dictates that served as moorings, benchmarks. Many others embraced their newfound rights and liberties of course, but even today Germans from the East will tell you there is still a submerged stigma attached to their origins - that the perception of them as second class citizens by their West German counterparts is still something to be overcome... 

So, the physical, visible barrier separating East and West has long since come down, but the psychological barrier will doubtless take generations to dismantle. 

Sound familiar? I know this phenomenon can, of course, apply to any number of historically oppressed groups who finally achieve "equality" in their given society. I just find it very interesting - especially in light of my film's being set during the rise of feminism and my characters' struggles within that context - that politically endowed "freedom" can feel as limiting to some as "subjugation" to others. And that even when social equality has been politically declared and publicly embraced, it will probably take a long time before it truly resonates in the hearts and minds of the dominant culture.