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Object of the Month: Calendar “Women in the Martial Arts”

6. February 2020

1984 Women in the Martial Arts Calender

From the Gisela Wiehe collection Self-Defence for Women, on permanent loan to Schwules Museum

Martial arts and self-defence featured prominently in the women’s liberation movement during the nineteen seventies and eighties. Calling out every-day violence and harassment also entailed an exploration of possible resistance. Learning martial arts skills was seen not merely seen as a physical tool to fight back, but also as a means to emotionally and psycho-socially explore the experience of violence and socially acquired female passivity.

This calendar of portraits of WOMEN IN THE MARTIAL ARTS was published in New York in 1984. Each month is illustrated with a photograph taken at the previous year’s Special Training four-day martial arts camp for women, which had taken place in Lawrenceville/New Jersey. The portraits are accompanied by brief statements from the women on what the sport  means to them personally. 325 women had attended the camp to train together and catch up on the sport.

The calendar forms part of Gisela Wiehe’s collection on self-defence for women, which has been generously deposited on permanent loan with Schwules Museum. Wiehe, a former Karate trainer with the Berlin-based, not-for-profit Women’s Self-Defence Club (Selbstverteidung für Frauen), said, when asked what women gained from taking part in a self-defence course: “Growing self-confidence. That’s so essential. Maybe you don’t immediately realise during the first few months; but then you get this boost, and you’re well on your way to feeling more secure, more at ease, more alert, to getting better at appraising situations, not worrying constantly, being less afraid. It doesn’t seem much, but it’s quintessential. It changes how you navigate this world.”  (Taz, 12 September 1996) 

The object of the month is on display at the museum’s café all through February.