Who are some great living political speakers

Sound of the century

Claudia Schmölders

Claudia Schmölders, Dr., habil., Cultural scientist and writer, private lecturer at the cultural studies institute of the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Ascent of a sound figure

"Gentlemen and ladies", MP Marie Juchacz began her speech in April 1928 in front of the parliament in Weimar, with careful consideration of gender relations. She spoke of the consequences of voting rights that women have had in Germany since 1918. "By casting a vote, every citizen can participate politically," said Ms. Juchacz, using the double meaning of the word "vote" with this sentence. His "vote" means political participation, even if it is only about a silent cross on the ballot paper. Speakers in Parliament, on the other hand, raise their physical voices to do the same. Thinking about women's political registers has long suffered from this ambiguity. Because as early as the women received their voting rights and as naturally as they have used it since then, they were comparatively seldom in the public arena for a long time Listen. When researching historical sound forms, this ambiguity becomes fatal. After all, where is the woman's voice in the representations if it has neither been heard nor recorded?

For reading

Address by Marie Juchacz on the occasion of the Reichstag election on May 20, 1928

Gentlemen and ladies, when I speak to you as a woman, I do hope that quite a few men will pay attention to my words.

The woman is a full citizen. Think about what that means: there are many more women of voting age than men. By casting their vote on election day, every citizen can participate politically. The fact that women have the right to vote should force every friend of social democracy to campaign for women’s votes. For example, if for every 100 male votes cast for social democracy there were only 90 female votes, whereas for 90 German national male votes 110 female votes were cast, then the male social democratic voter would have to establish that his political will has been weakened by the will of a woman of his own class .

The right to vote for women is a consequence of the social situation of women, which has changed completely in the past. It was the social democrat August Bebel who demonstrated the social position of women under the rule of capital. In a masterly way, Bebel pointed out the importance of women’s work in the world economy and its social consequences.

Who today doubts that women play an important role in industry, in trade and transport, as civil servants and employees in the free artistic and scientific professions. A large number of non-commercial housewives, however, only make the labor of their husbands, working sons and daughters economically valuable through their caring work.

Who still doubts today that women as buyers have a strong influence on the manufacture and movement of goods. In America, for example, it has been found that 80 percent of all personal purchases, including items for everyday use, are made by women. Nothing can prove the economic function of women anymore.

But I don't need to prove the importance of women as mothers, as carriers of life. It cannot be said often enough that development makes great social demands on the modern state. But we are this state ourselves. The supply of the people with inexpensive food and consumer goods, social policy, population policy, the housing issue, state welfare policy are of extraordinary importance for the entire working population. Democracy is people's rule, isn't it also self-help? Unreservedly, and entirely in the interests of the working class, only the workers' party can work. That is social democracy.



"Voices of the 20th century" - the statement of the archive

The collection Voices of the 20th century of the German Broadcasting Archive in Frankfurt am Main marks the beginning of writing history using acoustic sources. It started in 1997 with 30 CDs, most of which are thematically oriented and have titles such as: Prussia in Weimar, The sound of the twenties, Surrender and Rebuild or Survival in post-war Germany. In the meantime more CDs have been added. Gender-specific thinking was probably not really relevant at the time. "Women's voices" were represented so minimally in this selection that the editors decided to release their own CD under this title, with 41 different speeches by women on the subject of emancipation. The legal idea of ​​the woman who has the right to vote has been merged with the physical voting, while the remaining female voices in the collection come predominantly from singers or actresses who are not performing their own but other people's works. Even the CD Survival in post-war Germany lets only two women have their say in 28 takes, only one of them from the world of "rubble women", to whom West German society owes its survival.

A historiography that is limited to acoustic media has fixed limits. On the one hand, it shortens its period of time in a highly pragmatic way, because it only began with the invention of storage technology, i.e. in the last third of the 19th century at the earliest. On the other hand, it is completely dependent on the quality and availability of recordings in general, such as in the field of the female voice. This presence alone determines the quality of the historical statement. The impression one gets in the German Broadcasting Archive, however, is confirmed by research in other archives and studies on this subject. Until the middle of the century, female voices were almost always underrepresented, measured against the role women played in art, culture and politics.

The socialist politician Rosa Luxemburg during her speech at the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart, August 1907. (& copy picture-alliance, akg-images)
Ever since a storage technology existed, ethnologists, folklorists and linguists have used this technology to archive language states and to store traditional narrative or song material. But one of the most famous archives for people's voices (in Freiburg) announced on request that the early phonographic recordings did not record whether the voices were female or male. The difference was apparently unimportant. Even in international collections, the female voice has hardly survived, albeit for different reasons. In its three sections "Voices of the Nations", "German Dialects" and "Voices of Famous People", the Berlin Sound Archive has almost exclusively collected male voices - understandable, because what is euphemistically called "Voices of the Nations" are actually recordings from prisoner-of-war camps of the First and Second World Wars. The "famous personalities", on the other hand, are exclusively politicians and scientists who have always been more likely to be heard in public than housewives or suffragettes. The sound archive of the Baden-Württemberg State Media Center also only stores men's speeches worldwide: de Gaulle, Kennedy, Weizsäcker, Obama. No Margaret Thatcher, no Golda Meir, no Benazir Bhutto, no Indira Ghandi. Even the in-house poetry website only knows male voices.

The story of this technique began quite differently, namely "not with oracles or poets", wrote Friedrich Kittler in 1985, "but with children's songs" - more precisely with girls' voices, which Thomas Alva Edison brought to a drum as the first voice sample. But male voices soon followed. The Vienna Phonogram Archive at the Austrian Academy of Sciences - the oldest in German-speaking countries - has the earliest evidence of a female poet's voice, a recording by Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach from 1901. A recording by the writer Ricarda Huch from 1908 has also survived. But what the early studios really wanted were poets with distinctive characters, long before the invention of the radio.

Gertrud van Eyseren, the first female radio announcer in Berlin. Around 1932. (& copy picture-alliance, Imagno)
After 1924, poetry programs established themselves in the radio program of the Weimar Republic, e.g. B. The poet as the voice of time, Young storytellers, The hour of the living or Youngest poet. Although women like Else Lasker-Schüler, Marieluise Fleißer or Anna Seghers spoke more often on the radio at the time, they were apparently not invited to the studio again to record their speeches afterwards, which was technically necessary until 1929.

Even more recent and very recent collections of this kind, such as those published by Hajo Steinert in Munich's Hörverlag, are noticeably reluctant to use female authors and thus also the female speaking voice Poets voices with texts from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Or the nine-part series published in 2009 Lyric voices. Of the 122 authors, only 20 are female, i.e. less than 20 percent. In 2005, therefore, the magazine undertook Brigitte a counter-attempt. Under the title Strong voices If you only heard famous female speakers reading famous authors on twelve CDs, Corinna Harfouch read Christa Wolf, Iris Berben Françoise Sagan, Elke Heidenreich Dorothy Parker etc. and Split female voices - allegedly because the mostly female customers prefer to hear male voices. This could be explained by the fact that not only books, but also audio books are mostly consumed by women, so that an erotic criterion may decide here.

The woman's prose voice - should it be forgotten?

Historical websites, such as the Austrian phonogram archive with its website zu, are similarly sparing with female voices Voices of the 20th century. The first female speaking voice in chronological order comes from the politician Alma Motzko; one hears her incendiary speech on the economic crisis in front of the Austrian parliament in 1932. There are more female voices only ten years later - foreign and German-friendly like Lale Andersen and Zarah Leander, who both sing. Only one woman is allowed to speak, Antonia Bruha, a Nazi victim in Ravensbrück. For the next seven years, Austrian history again only knew male voices; Ilse Aichinger did not give a reading until 1947. Then there is another longer pause until you hear Ingeborg Bachmann speak in 1959 and - after a gap of eight years - Barbara Frischmuth. The first political female voice after Alma Motzko from 1932 is that of Hertha Firnberg, who spoke in 1976 as Federal Minister for Science and Research on the subject of "Partnership for Women".

The fading out of the female speaking voice in the so-called secondary orality of acoustic media could perhaps still be accepted as a bizarre special case of historiography if this were not also reflected in scientific research. In his 500-page book The story of the voice (1998) the author, Karl-Heinz Göttert, avoids the entire field of the sound arts in order to concentrate on the history of rhetoric. But rhetoric, as the art of public speech, has always been a male domain, because women in the church had to remain silent according to the words of St. Paul: "taceat mulier in ecclesia". Also at the Potsdam Symposium On the cultural and media history of the voice from 1999 there was no lecture title of its own on the voice of women or even on their speaking voice. The highly acclaimed study was published in 2003 His Master’s Voice of the Slovenian cultural theorist Mladen Dolar, who thought together Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud and the mechanic Wolfgang von Kempelen with his "Chess Turk", that is, an automatic voice, but who did not want to know anything about female voices and the possibly associated aesthetically problematic perspectives. After all, the two otherwise exemplary studies by Reinhart Meyer-Kalkus also know about Voice and speaking skills in the 20th century (2001) and Lothar Müller zur Lecturing art from Goethe to Kafka (2007) male voices only.

"Women can't speak the news"

The field of "secondary orality of the second order" extends between the living voice of real actors, their recording and the research into this recording; The first is real-time communication via radio or telephone. What about the woman's voice here? Unsurprisingly, only men spoke on the radio at first; the history of radio news testifies to it dramatically and internationally. The Arab world did not allow women to speak in the media until 1959 and even the BBC did not allow a woman to speak three blocks of news until 1960, and only on a trial basis. The defense of the program director and apparently also the listener remained overwhelming, stronger than even in Germany. Before 1933 there were almost exclusively male news anchors here, women were reduced to mere announcements or women's and children's radio. In 1925 the proportion of women in the press was just 2.5 percent; In 1930 there were only four announcers working on the radio; all other women worked as secretaries.

As a consequence of the radio reform by Propaganda Minister Goebbels, Hitler's voice was unprecedented in all households with popular receivers. During the war, when the men were drafted into the army, the women in Germany and in England suddenly had to speak the news, no matter how violently this idea had previously been opposed. Women, it was said, had too high a pitch, they could not relate facts objectively, especially not serious ones, and so on. But it went - until the war was over and the men got their jobs back.

It was not until television after 1945 that it became clear that women may be missing from acoustic historiography, but that they are all the more likely to be remembered visually. Gerhard Paul has with his book The century of images - a visual counterpart to the 20th century sound - the crucial difference made visible: If you had spectators instead of listeners, then the female half of humanity could no longer be denied. And yet in Germany - unlike in Italy or the Soviet Union - it took several decades for a news anchor to appear for the first time. At the beginning of the 1950s there were already several announcers in the Federal Republic, among them such popular ones as Irene Koss and Petra Krause from the North West German and North German Broadcasting. But an announcer is not a news anchor. She only came to die in 1971 with Wibke Bruhns todayBroadcast of the ZDF, while the ARD their daily News only left in 1976 to a woman - Dagmar Berghoff. Ultimately, the visual attractiveness of the speakers, along with their voices, is likely to have made the difference. In any case, Federal President Carstens went so far as to remark that he would rather get bad news from a charming woman, but that would soften the whole thing down a bit.

Women - the better operators?

The efforts of the ascent of audible women in the media age do not only have to do with a traditional Pauline image of women. They must also be measured against the background of a completely different, expressly technical rejection of this voice, which is of course experienced today as an advantage. What one could call the synaptic function of the female voice, her dialogical competence, which has nothing to do with singing or stage technology, has been repeatedly discarded and at the same time exploited. Long before it was used on the radio, the female speaking voice was associated with the invention of the telephone, that is, with an unprecedentedly invisible and serving, but at the same time abysmal synaptic function.

As so-called telephone operators, English: operator, women have accompanied this technical communication in the hour of its birth, if not actually brought it into the world. The training instructions on how to speak as a telephone operator are amusing to read today: ideally ladylike, ladylike, neatly articulated, bright and clear to avoid misunderstandings. Initially, the profession still allowed whole sentences: "Which number would you like to have?" "Unfortunately nobody answers." or "Unfortunately it is busy." It was little conversations like this that brought out the woman's everyday speaking voice. If she was pleasant or even erotic, the customer could possibly come into closer contact with her - which probably happened.

Legends about successful marriage initiation via telephone exchanges made their way into Hollywood scripts until the 1940s. The more technical and faster the processes became, the less freedom the women had until they were finally only allowed to say automatically: "The number please?", "No connection under this number" or "Busy" - in short: not a good starting point for a flirt. It is obvious that the whole branch of the profession was not really abolished in the end, but could be rededicated in a profitable way. Sex girls took over the business. Their voices are indispensable for good income in this trade, especially in times of AIDS. For the year 2000, 30,000 calls per day were assumed in this branch. So the jump went from the technical to the erotic synapse, the possibly older version anyway.

The most expressive memorial to this seduction by a female speaking voice was erected by all authors of the poet Thomas Mann in the early radio days. In his Egypt novel Joseph and his brothers (1933 - 1943) he reproduces the conversation between Joseph and the wife of Potiphar, Mut. The beautiful courage fell madly in love with Joseph, but only dares to admit this in a conversation after she half bit off her tongue. Her speaking voice becomes a bloodily lisping, childlike one - while the motif of the forked tongue imposes the snake on the reader from the story of creation. But courage not only lisps: in moments of surge, it sings loudly - also because it hurts less. The woman's voice between children's lisps, singing and powerful seduction: this bourgeois male fantasy is likely to have hindered the rise and archiving of the public and political prose voices of women who could have been considered legal subjects until the middle of the 20th century.

This can be traced back to the most recent theory. The primal scene of suggestive immediacy between speaker and listener was probably first recognized in Germany by Peter Sloterdijk and referred to as the "sonosphere" in conversations between mother and child, initially intrauterine, as an evolutionary aid in the development of hearing, then as the primary interaction with facial expressions and gestures , Skin feeling, in short: intensely lively presence.

Primary vocal scenes have gender and individual connotations. So with the rise of secondary orality, an entirely new paradigm is emerging. Because the voices in the telephone, on the record or the tape allow male, female and childish overtones to be recognized, but have broken away from the physical speakers. You have become anonymous, "acousmatic" (Michel Chion); the association with a certain author arises only afterwards through assembly. This is how it comes to the countless human voices of non-human actors, for example in today's animated films. And today, too, the modern navigation devices in the car allow almost any type of voice assembly from all social fields of that "psychoacoustic institution" (Sloterdijk), to which our society has developed in the meantime.

Montage also allows the naturalistic assignment of female actors to the voice, in the sound film. It was only in this technoid scene that the female speaking voice could be publicly audible and permanently stored, because it was only with the rise of the sound film that the speaking woman could no longer be made invisible, even if the assignment of the speaking act to moving images of subjects remains precarious, one thinks only to the entire area of ​​synchronization.

... but ultimately also as a voter

And yet it was not the prose speaking, but the partly screaming, partly singing woman who made a career in film at first, also in the Soviet Union, by the way. In the early 1930s, Stalin's favorite genre, the musical, comes into its own here. The so-called kolkhoz operettas made the high technicality of the cinema forgotten and instead showed swaying wheat fields and singing women at the harvest. With the appeal to a largely illiterate rural population, this audiovisual revolution was the order of the day; the woman was presented to the people as a mother.

Quite different in the USA and in Hollywood, where with Hitchcocks Psycho (1960) put the screaming woman at the center - paradigmatic and determining the style of the gender wars for decades, which Edward Albee in his play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1962) completed. The German spokeswoman for Elizabeth Taylor in the 1966 film was called Hannelore Schroth, while Margot Leonhard initially conveyed completely different messages from Hollywood with the figure of Marilyn Monroe (Some like it hot, 1959).

While the singing or screeching or lasciviously whispering voice in the cinema, the siren, the megara and the whore, portrayed the figure that is associated in politics with the idea of ​​voting rights, the theater in the 20th century provided a splendid counterpart. Pygmalion was the name of the play by George Bernard Shaw from 1913, in which the arrogant linguist Professor Higgins wants to teach a flower girl the language of the nobility and make her a duchess. The social fraud succeeds, but the audience reluctantly listens to the strong dialect speech and does not get a happy ending from the author. Nonetheless, the play was made into a film in 1938, performed as a musical in 1956 and filmed again in 1964. The figure of the public speak The learning, socially upwardly mobile woman who renounced love has therefore accompanied the emancipation of the "voter" for half a century, if not threatened.

In 1963, Betty Friedan's martial arts script came into being The madness of femininity as a million-fold bestseller worldwide alongside Simone de Beauvoirs The opposite sex (1949): Feminism began its triumphal march. But in Germany the structures initially remained unchanged, and they were turned back. When the votes of Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin penetrated the public consciousness, the proportion of women in the Bundestag was 8.3 percent in 1963 and fell to 5.8 percent by 1976, despite a first female president in the Bundestag named Annemarie Renger (1972 ), only to rise steadily to 32 percent today, with Petra Kelly, for example. It was not until the turn of the 1990s that more and more women took on the media-effective speaking roles for news and talk shows: Sabine Christiansen (1987 to 2007); Sandra Maischberger (since 1991), Maybrit Illner (since 1992), Anne Will (since 1999). The long-term continuity of these positions should not least correspond to the expectations of the audience, who would like to have the constantly changing flood of news conveyed at least by familiar, if not loved faces, voices and bodies, in the manner of all television series.

Today, the proportion of female journalists in the lower and middle classes in the press is more than 60 percent, while women as a news topic do not exceed 20 percent and their presence in management positions is far below that. Nevertheless, there is a continuous rise of women to the highest political ranks internationally, including women's voices. In Germany, Angela Merkel's rather colorless, sober voice models the political agenda, alongside Renate Künast, Claudia Roth, Hannelore Kraft and again and again Sahra Wagenknecht. Of course, they are all drowned out by the daily appearances of attractive media women; a competition that needs to be considered in the age of media attention.


Judith Baxter (Ed.): Speaking Out: The Female Voice in Public Contexts, New York 2006

The strong gender, http://mediarevealed.wordpress.com/2006/08/26/das-starke-geschlecht/

Christa Heilmann (Ed.): Women speaking - Men speaking. Gender-specific speaking behavior, Munich / Basel 1995

Inge Marszolek / Adelheid von Saldern (eds.): Listening and being heard I. Radio in National Socialism. Between steering and distraction, Tübingen 1998

Voices of the 20th Century, www.dra.de/publikationen/cds/publika_liste.php?reihe=stim

Senta Trömel-Plötz (Ed.): Violence through language. The rape of women in talks, Vienna 2004

Susanne Ziegler: The acoustic collections - historical sound documents in the phonogram archive and in the sound archive, in: Horst Bredekamp et al. (Ed.): Theater of Nature and Art, Leipzig 2000