Wednesday, November 23, 2005

News: Angela Merkel, Women, and Politics

With Merkel and the new government being the big news in Berlin today, it is not surprising that many bloggers have their own take on what all this means for Germany's foreign, domestic, and most of all economic policy. But a post on Ioannis's Studio, entitled Feminine studies in German politics got me thinking about the issue of successful women in politics.

Ioannis makes the point that it is often women who most resemble "ruthless male politicians" who achieve success in the political sphere, and then goes on to question what this means for the success or otherwise of the feminist movement.

Big thoughts for a wet Wednesday evening, but interesting none the less. Certainly, the female politician most commentators want to compare our Angie to is the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher. And it is certain that when it comes to ruthlessness, there weren't many who could compare with Maggie. But is ruthlessness such a male trait, and if women employ it to reach the top of what is undoubtedly a ruthless profession, does that mean they are aping men, or just doing what needs to be done, irrespective of gender, to succeed?

For myself, I think that no doubt, like it or not, politics, and especially party politics, is a ruthless, male dominated game. And it takes a certain type of woman to succeed in such shark infested waters. But it also takes a certain type of man as well. There is a legitimate question to be raised over the fact that political culture is such that it rewards the ruthless and the pragmatic over, for example, consensus-building idealism. And of course, parliamentary politics should be made more woman-friendly, as they have been trying in the UK.

In the end though, I don’t see this as a failure of the feminist movement to drive change in our society. Maybe Merkel needed to be 'more like a man' (in the opinion of current political culture) to reach the top in the CDU, or maybe she just needed to play the game the way that it has always been played. But the fact that a deeply conservative party, and its conservative electorate, can vote for a woman (and we haven't even started on the Ossi thing) suggests that whether the political boys club like it or not society is changing - although there remains an awful lot of work to be done. Glass ceilings in many professions remain in place, but some women can break through. We should be celebrating that fact even whilst we moan about Merkel's politics. And we should judge her only on her politics.

Now, roll on the Condi-Hilary showdown in 2008...


Blogger BerlinBear said...

Interesting thoughts, and fair points too. Like you, I am not sure that accept that ruthlessness is a solely, or even predominantly male trait.

As for the Condi-Hillary show, it ain't gonna happen. I can't base that on anything but a hunch at this stage, but if it happens, regardless of the result, I will buy you a beer (Not a Kindl!)

8:50 pm  
Blogger P. said...

Hehehe, sounds great Mr Bear. If you make it in Augustiner I'll take the bet...

9:05 pm  
Blogger BerlinBear said...

Topp, die Wette gilt! :-)

9:29 pm  

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