Mary Grunwald

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1979


Last November the Berlin Feminist Women's Health Center (Feministisches Frauen Gesundheitszentrum: FFGZ) called a press conference to mark the first year in its own quarters, pleasantly converted former bakery premises in a quiet, residential part of town. Fifty invitations had been sent out to women journalists; four showed up. Three reacted enthusiastically; one was hostile. When all was said and done and people were on their way out, someone brought up the subject of contraception again.

Most FFGZ clients come for contraceptive advice; many are primarily interested in the diaphragm—invented in Germany in 1880 but virtually unknown in the country today. Gynecologists—85 percent of whom are male—favor IUDs and the pill. As word spread that FFGZ would fit diaphragms, complacent doctors started referring their diaphragm requests to the center. The whole business Qt diaphragms took on huge proportions and threatened to monopolize FFGZ resources. Thus, although they will still fit them, policy now is to inform women and encourage them to insist on getting diaphragms from their own doctors. "We don 't want to be a diaphragm-fitting institute. That's not the point of FFGZ. There are far too many other tasks," a spokeswoman stressed.

There was a little pause. Then the women's page reporter (about 35 years old) for a major Berlin daily spoke up. "What is a diaphragm?" she asked. Whereupon the national news agency's reporter (about 60 years old) chimed in, "Yeah, what is it anyway?" A diaphragm was produced for inspection and explained. The journalists were fascinated. Yet no word has appeared in the establishment press about this uncomplicated aid to emancipation.



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