Germany in Uproar over Political Profile that Calls Out Sexism

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.

by Nils Pickert
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16 Comments Have Been Posted

so - only women can talk

so - only women can talk about 'women's issues'? that's like saying only cops and lawyers can follow the law... take the help where you can get it...

Name me a place where men

Name me a place where men don't have a voice.

Oh that's right! Everywhere!

Men have always had a voice at Bitch

We regularly have magazine contributors and guest bloggers who are men; one of our founders is a man, and we've always had male staffers. I'm not sure why our having one blog post from a man is so concerning to you, but rest assured we are confident that a feminist site can have male contributors without them dominating the conversation.

Oh I know Bitch's stance is

Oh I know Bitch's stance is to give men a voice in the one place where it doesn't really belong but I like to point it out sometimes. Just for fun. But by all means please go on celebrating the white man who thinks that wearing a skirt sometimes makes him a feminist. His voice isn't heard enough! Oh wait. He's been in HuffPo, the Daily Mail, Yahoo, Daily Beast, MSN... And now he's here, independent media that supposedly gives voice to feminist writers and women. Taking up space because what? There aren't enough women to talk about sexism? Or are you just supporting his need for some feminist cred to support his oh so awesome skirt wearing? (Because women are made of skirts!!!!)

(You know, I don't think Feministe, Shakesville or Jezebel have any male writers... And supposedly they're less feminist than Bitch. If it was a competition.)

Wrong actually

Shakesville does indeed have male writers--they have an equal number of women and men contributors. Jezebel lists 2 men on their staff, and other feminist sites like Yes Means Yes, The Crunk Feminist Collective, Tiger Beatdown have regular men contributors.

Then they're losing to....

Then they're losing to.... Jezebel.

No but seriously can someone actually tell me how men have a voice in feminism, specifically feminist spaces? Is Bitch destined to become a partner site to the Good Men Project? Or perhaps, the Good Bitch Project, if you will? Or how someone who's been globally covered deserves to be paid for a piece about Germany (wat) in a magazine predominately read in America? You know, possibly taking money away from women? Who are underrepresented in mainstream journalism anyway?

Your donations are going to Bitch paying men for their opinion. How about them apples?

I'm genuinely curious as to what you think the answers to those questions are.

It's also telling that the vast majority of bloggers here also work for larger media outlets. Like The Guardian and Jezebel. To name two. (Also that their pieces there are better researched, edited and written.)

I promise I'm not just trolling. I was a long term reader of Bitch and the direction they're going is depressing as shit.


To quote the great Ani D: why can't all good men and women call themselves feminists?

This writer obviously does.

It's true that white male privilege is ubiquitous, and there need to be spaces provided for others' voices; but why must you assume the writer to be villainous, cisgendered, and heteronormative? You cage yourself.

Regarding Men not being able to be feminists?

I agree with Erzsebet an Ani. Men can be feminists- being one means that you believe in the equality of women. Pushing someone away from positively endorsing women (no matter what race or gender) is extremely inappropriate, especially if you are preaching for female justice. It is not outlandish for a man to support feminism- keep in mind, this writer is not the ONE VOICE for feminism, he is a supporter. He is not trying to imply that he is empathetic to women's struggle, but as any decent, good willed human being, he is pointing out the injustice.

As a side note, I'd hardly

As a side note, I'd hardly call Yes Means Yes a feminist blog. It's a dude who is (admittedly) not an asshole about sexual issues not being an asshole about sexual issues.

hey! Wow, what a nice way to

Wow, what a nice way to comment on that article!
Seriously, I get that one might be irked by males explaining females what feminism and stuff is because of some shitty males of yesteryear who usually start mansplaining in safe spaces. I get that. Its not nice but understandable.

However, could you just cut that guy some slack? He reports about a situation that, as of right now, is not exactly okay and that's it. In fact: He's written pretty neutral about this issue. Given all the mansplaining/"funny" articles/reactions written by males about this incident I had to read in Germany, this post is a breath of fresh air.

So, Nils, thank you for this Post! Oh, and I didn't know that Bruderle lawyered up. What the hell and why?

Yes see because men always

Yes see because men always need to have allowances made for them because they don't have every single ear to begin with.

...erm... you do realize that

...erm... you do realize that I'm not making any excuses on his behalf, do you? It just so happens, that he is the first person who raises this point in an english publication in a valid and non judgemental manner (or at least the first person who talks about this on an english speaking blog that I know of). It doesn't help anyone if we disregard a valid point in a discussion if the person voicing it has the "wrong" gender.

Nils Pickert

I loved this article and I was so excited to have read something written by Nils Pickert! It was great! :)
Thank you!

Radfem invasion?

Nils, ignore her. You're awesome and your statement made with your son is an inspiring Feminist gesture to say the least. It's also good to be informed of the sexism going down in other places, even Europe which people assume is ALWAYS more progressive than the states. I mean, it usually is, but there is still sinister waves that they need to be held accountable for.

I'm a proud Feminist male, and lead my life in every way with Feminism in mind: my studies, social circle, actions, and statements. Gender essentialism is insulting and counter to this space's purpose.

Please tell me about what

Please tell me about what feminist spaces should look like. Here's a genuine question. What do you think you have to offer feminists? What do you think you have to offer feminism?


Thank you for writing about this. I'm German and yes - part of me was not surprised by the immense misogynist backlash - but part of me was heartbroken to see that it has SUCH a strong hold in our society. Among the articles I read

1. A front page interview in an important regional newspaper with a female FDP politician who criticized any mentioning of sexism as "uptight" and concluded "What is wrong is flirting?"

2. An article in a very respected newspaper (SZ) which was basically a MRA's reaction. It started out that criticizing sexism is the worst form of stereotyping and ended with a plea to instead please pay more attention to the alarming rates of domestic violence by WOMEN against men. Whole page too. I was positively flabbergasted.

3. An article in - again - a very respected newspaper about how "dangerous" and "harmful" anti-sexual-harrassment laws in the US are.

I always knew that for all its progressiveness in other aspects German society is squarely set in a time frame of the 1950-70s but it still hurts to have it lay open like this.

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