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"The Woman, the Miracle"

Sure, opinionated, humorous, that's how Antje Sievers not only comes across on her Facebook page when she actively opposes prostitution, but also in a conversation with Style PASS online, where she talks about her current novel, "Die Judenmadonna". It is an ambitious novel project, for which she has done a lot of research and taken herself back into past times. The novel deals with the ugly sides of religion, not a love monkey, but something for romantics who not only want to be entertained, but who are also interested in a serious look at history.

Style PASS online: Dear Antje Sievers, you are a publicist and are involved in the field of "women's rights". Currently you are causing a stir with an ambitious historical novel, "The Jewish Madonna". What was the starting point to put yourself in the year 1473?

Antje Sievers: The starting point was travels to Alsace, in the old, beautiful villages around Strasbourg, history leaps out at you. In the Dominican church in Colmar I saw the painting of the "Madonna in the Hag of Roses", at some point I had the idea: "How would it be if a Jewish woman had posed for this painting and the painter knew nothing about it? I drew the inspiration from the landscape and the Jewish history, which can be traced in the villages. I felt more like a historian doing research, because an author *laughs*.

Style PASS online: A love against the background of confessional differences - a Colmar painter falls in love with a Jewish woman, socially frowned upon at the time. Already in your previous work religion, Islam, plays a role. Is this a topic that is always on your mind?

Sievers: Religion in and of itself does not interest me that much. I'm more interested in history, what was everyday life like? What effects did the separation between Jews and Christians have? But the more I research, the more I ask myself why in all three monotheistic religions women play a secondary role? In many religions, women are forced into the role of the producer, many people do not know that in Judaism the following applies: the more children a woman has, the more believers she is considered to be.

Style PASS online: Even today, the following still applies among orthodox Jews: If a woman wants to separate from her husband, the husband must agree!

Sievers: Yes, this is so, this is true among orthodox Jews and this is archaic how they love. For many Jews in larger cities, however, this is as foreign as you and I.

Style PASS online: We want to call a spade a spade: In many religions, women are suppressed directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously. Where does the motivation come from to use a religion to force women into a role?

Sievers: This has developed in parallel: First there was Judaism, then Christianity and then Islam. Each religion emerged from the other and slightly modified it. Before that, there were matriarchal cultures. The monotheistic religions with a male deity all developed with the demise of matriarchal cultures. At some point it was understood that there is a connection between sex and reproduction. Then it became important to control the sexuality of women. In Egypt there were goddesses, the male deities did not have such a great role, the women who could have children were the miracle beings.

Style PASS online: Many rules that also exist in Judaism are not moral rules, but rather have a practical origin.

Sievers: Which child belongs to which father became important. Rigorous control of sexuality then existed in all three monotheistic religions. The Old Testament says that an adulteress must be stoned to death, but the Jews do not practice this. Unfortunately, this still exists among Muslims.

Style PASS online: Back to the novel!

Sievers: The novel is a novel. I am not making any political statements. I am describing the life of a very young Jewish woman in the 15th century, which is very restrictive: she has to do what her father says, she is raped and has to cope with it alone. Some women in Iran still feel that way. Because she has brought shame on her family.

Style PASS online: In your book the printing press is just coming out, parallel to this women are persecuted as witches.

Sievers: She is persecuted as a Jewish witch. The background is that the Inquisitor desires her very much, he wants to possess her! Behind this there is a trauma of the character's own. But for that you have to read the book.

Style PASS online: You go deep into psychology?

Sievers: I studied that once *laughs*

Style PASS online: Today there is a wide access to education through the internet, Wikipedia and our school system. Shouldn't we in Germany now be immune to myths, discrimination, exclusion and hysteria through knowledge?

Sievers: I have the feeling that people are unfortunately becoming increasingly stupid. I stand by that statement and there are studies that prove it. Although I come from a working class family, I was dismissed from school as a highly educated person who could speak several languages. That was nothing special back then. That educational culture no longer exists. You can get easier access to education, but the value of education is not in focus. We have also learned to argue that this ability is no longer there either. On the Internet, people may express their own opinions briefly, but there is no real discussion. The threshold for insulting complete strangers has dropped.

Style PASS online: You criticise a certain inability of people to discuss, a certain media incompetence?

Sievers: Yes, definitely! Furthermore: a certain plurality of opinions is not in demand.

Style PASS online: Small change of topic: You stand up for women's rights and criticise prostitution in particular. What are your points of criticism here? Some people interpret prostitution as an expression of female self-determination!

Sievers: The majority in Germany thinks prostitution is good. However, the conditions of prostitution are well known and I have been talking my head off as a feminist for decades. I think sexuality is important and beautiful, and I see prostitution as a perversion of sex. Sex should be a beautiful, voluntary, equal thing. I find this idea that "I can only bear sex if I get money for it" terrible. We have become used to prostitution and we think that this is a normal state of affairs. I don't think it's normal, because prostitution has grown out of slavery. Over 99 percent of sex buyers are men: men buy women's bodies! That is

just as "self-determined" as wearing a headscarf. We need a different social approach to sexuality.

Style PASS online: Doesn't the ability to relate decrease when men have the image of the always available woman through prostitution in their minds?

Sievers: That too. You can assume that most clients think that prostitutes enjoy having sex with them.

Style PASS online: Simple point of view!

Sievers: This is also related to pornography, it didn't exist like that in my youth. That destroys a lot of things. A consumerist attitude towards women. In internet forums you see: What is expected in bed today from a 14-year-old by a 15-year-old is something we didn't even know back then. The boy has seen something in a porn movie and the girl thinks she has to go through it.

Style PASS online: You would call yourself a feminist?

Sievers: Yes! But the term feminism has undergone a change. In the 70s there was Alice Schwarzer and women had a clear line. The fact that a feminist would have stood up and said: "Headscarf and prostitution are an expression of self-determination!“ The other women would have said: "What is she saying, she's not ticking away very clearly!“

Style PASS online: Sometimes I have the feeling that women currently have a problem to be self-confident, to formulate their own points of view and limits and also to define offensively a relationship model, which they find good. Instead, they take refuge in a strange, comical image of women, where they make themselves a bit small and expect other women to do the same, and call women who don't do so "feminists". There are many stereotypes. What is your image of youth?

Sievers: I can't identify with the image young girls have of women. Everything is pink, the toys and make-up boxes, the stupid barbierosa and all the fairy stuff. Girls are pushed into this mistress scheme much more than in my time!

Style PASS online: The next book project - is it already growing, in your head or on paper or in the computer?

Sievers: I have some ideas in my head and one or the other manuscript, which is not quite finished yet. And of course: Often it is still about the topic "women"!

Many thanks for the interview

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