How can family and career be reconciled? What does it mean when a woman qualifies as a master craftswoman? Even more successful than her husband? Such questions are discussed by working women from the VEB Textilkombinat Treffmodelle in (East) Berlin in the early 1970s in a conversation with the gynecologist and specialist in social hygiene Gisela Otto. It is about topics that at that time at least offered points of friction in families as well as in GDR society - although women had long since been equal to men by law. How much friction they caused cannot be guessed at in Gitta Nickel's film. For that, one has to consult Helke Misselwitz's documentary "Winter Adé" from 1988 (also available on filmfriend).
At the time of the filming of "Sie," the "Wunschkindpille," as it was called in the GDR, had only been on the market for a few years, and abortion was still as strictly forbidden as it was in West Germany. By no means all of the women who have their say in the film enthusiastically welcome the pill. On the other hand, there is almost unanimous agreement on the statement: "The man wants to be superior"; one discussant even speaks of the man who still wants to be "mothered" by his wife, who works just as he does, as if he were "the third or fourth child. Of course, as the film makes clear later on, these are teething troubles of socialism that would soon be overcome, not least thanks to the training provided by the state party.
In the film, women of different ages and qualifications have their say in the context of their professional activities. Female workers are included as well as female textile engineers. Women - dare to do something, is the credo that runs through the film. Moderated by their doctor, the women discuss openly and controversially with each other. Their discussion, moderated by social hygienist Gisela Otto, comes across as authentic, spontaneous and unposed - this alone makes the film a special document of GDR film heritage.
The narrative that the film unravels in the further course of the film does not evade state-desired whitewashing: "She" contrasts an older woman professionally restricted by gender conflicts with young, well-educated women who quite naturally also lay claim to leadership positions. The promise is that one day, in a textile industry dominated by female employees, women plant managers will be in charge as a matter of course. At the middle level, this was already within reach. This did not happen. It was and remained the norm in the GDR for women to stay in the workforce even after starting a family. But it was predominantly the "mommies" who did the family work in addition to their jobs. This limited professional heights. Higher management positions in the state, the party and the socialist economy remained predominantly in male hands in the GDR until the end.
The example of the head of the company trade union, a resolute lady in her 50s, is exemplary throughout the film. She reports that as a young woman she still shined her husband's shoes without complaining - but later she demanded of him: "Now we both have to do it. Illustratingly, the film shows the husband promptly polishing, making the beds and doing the laundry - always with a smile on his face. Whether this equitable division of housework corresponded to reality or was at least exaggerated for the film is not known.