In many ways Germany is not an unprogressive state. People are free to elect, choose and live whatever they want. We have a female chancellor and a gay minister for foreign affairs. People were even supportive of me wearing a skirt to support my skirt-loving son.
But lately some things got pretty complicated. In the past few days, every channel on TV seems to be discussing big questions about sexism. The current conversation was sparked when journalist 29-year-old Laura Himmelreich published a portrait of 60-something political party leader Rainer Brüderle. Himmelreich mentioned meeting the politician at an informal occasion where politicians and journalists are trying to get comfortable and set the real deals over a glass of wine. She asked how it would feel to be suddenly some kind of hope for his party at his age. According to the Himmelreich, Bruderle didn’t want to speak about age—at least not his age. He knows women her age, he told her before he made a comment about how her breasts would “easily fill a dirndl.”
At first, the furor over the incident seemed positive, with conversations springing up all over the country about sexism. Should the politician apologize or resign for this? Germany’s most famous feminist magazine, EMMA, reported on how sexism is a fundamental part of German society. An activist started up the Twitter hashtag #Aufschrei (meaning “outcry”) as a platform where women can give examples for their own personal experiences with sexism.
The country’s tabloids picked up the story, of course. Infamous tabloid Bild rejected the idea of sexism as a problem—it ran a column about men and women can’t work together without so called sexism and another on how it is intolerable for men to be accused of sexism in cases like this.
But after a couple of days, a huge backlash had spread beyond the tabloid pages and into mainstream news media.
The political magazine Cicero stated that sexism can’t be that much of an issue for female journalists because they don’t lodge official complaints. In a Frankfurt newspaper, the culture and feature section editor asked how a young female journalist could insult an elder politician by mentioning his advanced age. Günther Jauch, the host of a political TV talk show, gave airtime to a guest on the topic who said mention that men and women are essentially different species.
In another talk show the lawyer of the accused politician—yes, he’s got a lawyer now—called a female politician hinterfotzig for demanding political consequences from his client. For those of you who don’t know: hinterfotzig translates as “deceitful” and is based on the term fotze, German for “cunt.”
So did the female journalist really ask for this? Is it her fault, did she have it coming?
No, of course she did not. Nor did she ask for running the gauntlet for publishing an honest profile. Suddenly the victim is the perpetrator. Yes, again! Old tricks just work best.