Angela Merkel “revealing” she was a feminist just before she left office, reminded me somewhat of Tony Blair admitting he had converted to Catholicism just after leaving Downing Street. For some reason, being Catholic in the UK is kind of disapproved of – and being openly feminist in Germany has been seen until very recently, in certain circles at least, as kinda icky.
“No!” My German friend Ute said, sternly, when I told her my theory: that Merkel has always been, secretly, a bit of a feminist, and now she’s giving up the Kanzleramt, she can freely admit it. “You’ve got that back to front! Merkel doesn’t give a shit about feminism! And she certainly doesn’t give a shit about women. She’s pretending to be a feminist right now, because it’s kind of in at the moment, and she wants to drum up a few votes. That woman is an opportunist through and through.”
The Merkel years certainly haven’t been kind to women. The changes in parental leave laws seem to me to be the only progress made – and she wasn’t exactly responsible for this progress, she just kind of let it happen. Meanwhile, the archaic law declaring abortion a crime is still in place – and things for single mothers, in particular, seem to have gotten a lot worse than they were 16 years ago. The welfare reforms – and the way in which Hartz-IV has been implemented over the years – have stigmatised and penalised women who raise their children alone. 43 percent of single-parent households live in poverty, but worse than this is the property market, which is now governed in such a way that it is almost impossible for women in abusive relationships to leave men without resorting to stays in women’s refuges or even homeless shelters. And the Merkel years have left women’s refuges fuller than ever.
For many years, Merkel’s fuckability – or lack thereof – was a huge issue for men in Germany.
Yet people, strangely, never seem to blame Merkel for the ways in which Germany fails its weakest and most vulnerable. Her cuddly koala personality – combined with her 2015 sudden burst of humanitarianism – are hard, sometimes, to reconcile with her policies. Also, you know: she is likeable. As a person, I quite like her. As a woman, I even respect her.
But the way she has been talked about by the media hasn’t always been respectful. In fact, there’s a word we can use to describe the way Merkel has been treated and it’s a pretty easy one: misogynist. The comments made in Pegida circles, comparing her to piglet (“das” Merkel)? Misogynist. Mussolini (allegedly) declaring her unfuckable? Misogynist. My friend Tobi, who told me earnestly, over beers in a cellar bar in Prenzlauer Berg, that he would rather cut his dick off than fuck her? Misogynist. The disgust at her breasts being on show when she went to the opera at Bayreuth? Misogynist.
For many years, Merkel’s fuckability – or lack thereof – was a huge issue for men in Germany. The idea was posited that there was something disgustingly monstrous and ugly and unfeminine about Merkel. She was, rather than just an ordinary middle-aged/older lady, somehow especially ugly and unattractive.
But, actually, I would argue, that the most misogynist of all, are the Mutti comments. I feel very much that if she weren’t childless, they wouldn’t be made – these comments serve as a subtle reminder to her that, even though she is/was/has been one of the most powerful people on Earth, she still failed, somehow, ultimately, as a woman.
Because the truth is, men can’t bear powerful women. They can’t bear women with power. In fact women in general, who have even the tiniest amount of power intimidate and disgust men in a very surprising way. Gwyneth Paltrow, Britney Spears, Daniel Katzenberger. Any woman with an Instagram account and an ounce – no, make that a gram – no, make it a milligram – of independent agency is ridiculed and condemned. Is it any surprise to realise that in order to cope with having a female leader – the ultimate lady boss – men had to pretend that Merkel was especially unfeminine.
The word is misogyny.
Angela Merkel might not be a feminist.
Her policies certainly aren’t.
But she has a vagina, and a lot of power, and that scared the shit out of men.