CHAPTER I: SUSANN ATWELL
Susann Atwell is a German television presenter. She became famous with her own TV show SAM and presented the German film award and the Oscars alongside other boulevard shows. Currently, she is presenting the show "Maintower“ at the Hessian Broadcast (Hessischer Rundfunk) and is co-founder of the PR agancy Atwell Geyer PR.
Susann’s fascinating personality mesmerizes from the first second on. Despite her mental strength she radiates warmth and kindness. This unique mix of strength and fragility seems very feminine. Susann is a special woman and her magical appearance is very inspiring.
We visit Susann in her new office and talk about femininity, the image of modern women and her experience as a mother.
Do you like being a woman?
Yes, I really like being a woman. But I have to say, the older I get, the more I love being a woman. I wonder about it – What does it mean to be a woman?
What does femininity mean to you? Could you please describe “femininity” in three words?
Oh! That’s a challenge. I would say softness, but as something positive. Warmth and intuition. Those are three words that come to my mind spontaneously.
Nowadays femininity is experienced as something negative. Why do women always have to prove that we are strong? What does the term “strong woman” mean to you?
If a woman, or generally a human being, for which reasons whatsoever, is weak, he quickly becomes a victim. And obviously, we don’t want to be that. A woman’s life has become very demanding. Because we not only have to master the typical women’s tasks but often also the tasks that used to be attributed to men. And thus, our lives have become more exciting for sure, but also more complex. To cope with all that society thinks you have to be a strong woman.
The woman has imposed many roles, or rather duties, on herself. On one hand, she is e.g. a career woman, thereby she has to keep up with a man. On the other hand, she still has her feminine duties of which no one can free her. As for instance, being a mother. Do you think, a woman can fulfill all those tasks and still be happy?
Women are mentally much stronger than men, and mental strength is a blessing and a curse at the same time. On one hand, it enables us to do many things. On the other hand, it simply is a burden as well. Because technically we could do everything that men can do. But to do everything also becomes exhausting after a while.
Does a man need such a strong woman on his side?
We all keep developing further, man is still subject to evolution. Of course, nature tries to make the best out of all of us and we all have to evolve. Women become better and better, and also the men have to develop. They have suppressed women for thousands of years and made up all kinds of things to keep women small. And now it is not working anymore.
There are enough men in the younger generation for whom the topic “gender equality” isn’t even a topic anymore and who also want a strong woman.
Motherhood is part of femininity, women change very much by it. How was your experience? How did you perceive this?
My whole life changed because of it. It is a big intervention in the own perception and the own personality. In the moment I became a mother I stopped wondering about the meaning of life. It was clear to me that I fulfilled my destiny. It may sound a bit dull, but this is how I really experience it. And what most impacted and fascinated me were those overwhelming and strong emotions that were suddenly there. How one can suddenly love a totally unfamiliar person you have never seen before so unconditionally. And the big responsibility you suddenly feel so strongly. You certainly know before that you have responsibility for the child, but you only understand it when you hold the child in your arms. The wish to protect your child becomes very strong all of a sudden. I could not imagine that before. It is something totally archaic and very intense. And that total reshaped me as a woman. I think that the role as a mother is the most important role to me, that I want to fulfill well without losing myself in it. I feel that a woman can only be a good mother if she is at peace with herself as a person. That’s why it is not right to give yourself up in the role as a mother. Although it is tempting because you are needed so much.
You are the mother of two daughters, what do you pay attention to in the upbringing of your daughters? They are future women, future mothers, what is especially important for you?
For me, it is important that they become confident and self-determined women. I, myself, grew up in a classical family with the clear division of roles. Sometimes I was told what a girl may not do, or what a woman can do better than a man, for example, vacuum cleaning. I always fought against that. It is important to me that my daughters won’t let themselves be intimidated. Children learn a lot from their parents. And since I am a very autarchic and confident woman, I am not concerned that it won’t work. Living self-determined is very important to me. We only live once. And it is very important for me to live responsibly on one hand. But on the other hand, we should ask ourselves: What do I actually want? What is important for me?
The term “Gender Mainstreaming” – How do you understand it?
I never thought much about this term before, but it seems to be a complex and exciting topic.
Gender researchers want to tell us that the genders are stereotypes that the children are taught. According to the theory, there is no polarity between the genders anymore: Man and Woman are the same and the biological difference is completely irrelevant. How do you see that?
I find gender equality good as a fundament of our society. That you would deny the biological differences is total nonsense to me. There simply is men and women. My approach would be to rather work on the equality of them. I think there are so many roadworks in our society, where they are not yet. And I find it important that the tolerance for people who don’t yet know which gender they have, grows.
How does the “woman of today” look like in your mind?
To be a woman today means total freedom, I would say. But that can maybe result in losing the orientation. I find it difficult. I sometimes wish to be a woman thirty years ago. I have a few broken relationships behind me. And sometimes I notice if I had adapted more, if the role distribution was clearer, maybe the relationship would have lasted longer. I find it difficult to be a woman nowadays. But I think that it is also not much easier to be a man nowadays.
What do you think of the clothing style of women nowadays?
Inside Europe it is very different from culture to culture. The average German woman doesn’t dress up. She has always been natural, down-to-earth and diligent. Unlike the Italian woman, for example, or the French woman. The German woman has never been the seducer. Also a bit sad, I think.
Women more and more wear unisex clothing today. How do you like the genderless fashion? Don’t you think our individuality is lost by that?
I don’t feel threatened by that. The goal of the emancipation is that everything is possible. And the woman who doesn’t want to dress feminine is as much woman as the one that loves to wear dresses and skirts. And we women have to learn to tolerate and accept each other as we are. My mother taught me that femininity has nothing to do with skirt length.
Which media person is the embodiment of femininity for you? Are there women you look up to?
As I grew up I loved all the Hollywood stars of the 50s and 60s. Like Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. For some reason I didn’t like Marilyn Monroe. Maybe she was too sexy and artificial for me. Her fate is very tragic, though. Although I find the pictures of her when she was still Norma Jean with dark hair quite cute. For me a certain classiness and naturality were always the main aspect. That is very important to me.
Whom I really like is Jane Fonda. I really admire her. The woman indeed fits in all the stereotypes, has a few failed relationships behind herself, still fights with her eating disorder, but openly admits her weaknesses and, for example, admits that she was a bad mother. For her age she makes brave decisions. I find that incredibly impressive. Since I read her biography, there actually have been moments in my life where I thought “Gosh, if Jane can do this, you can, too!”.
Text: Jana Rat
Bild: Maren Schabhüser