I like Kristina Schröder. I don’t “like” like her obviously. And I don’t actually “like” her either. But she makes me feel clever, and that’s something that I’d be a fool to underestimate. In fact, she makes me feel like an adult dealing with an annoying child. You know the way six-year-olds develop the art of sarcasm by saying the opposite of what you just said? “I like cake,” “Well, I HATE cake!” Smug smile. “We’re going swimming today.” “We’re NOT going swimming today!” They look at you to see if you got it, desperately fighting back their tears of laughter. That weary indulgence is exactly how I feel when I hear Schröder say things like, “Some German schoolchildren get called Deutsche Kartoffel,” or “Women get pushed into stereotypical roles by feminists too.” Whenever she makes a statement along these lines she can’t help but let her face slip into a knowing well-I-bet-you-never-thought-of-that expression. There are few government ministers whose thoughts are quite so transparent, and for that we should be grateful, I suppose.
In case you didn’t know, Schröder is the German Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. That’s a lot of different interests to hold together under one remit, but, being the child-like contrarian that she is, this week she thought of one group of people her purview mystifyingly fails to encompass – MEN! She introduced a men’s rights conference in Berlin, during which she declared that, not only was she the minister for “middle-aged men”, but that “boys with their own individual needs have to be recognized too.” The ministry officials listening to her grinned sheepishly at those around them as if to say, “Sorry, that’s just one of those things she says.” She also announced a new scheme is to help all those disadvantaged men get into childcare professions. That’s ironic, considering that she awakens precisely the patience and forebearance one needs to deal with the young.