An Example but not a Role Model

Just days before the 12th anniversary of Angela Merkel assuming office as Chancellor of Germany, her party the Christian Democratic Union could be in danger of losing power in the Bundestag. After two months of negotiations, Merkel has been unable to form a coalition leaving a new election looking more and more likely. The chancellor herself is in favour of a new election despite the chance of the CDU losing more seats and the increase in power for the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Photograph: Google

This month also marks the anniversary of a different kind for another female politician. On the 28th of November it will be 27 years since Margret Thatcher left 10 Downing Street in tears after resigning as Prime Minister. These two women will leave very different political legacies but will both be remembered for succeeding in what continues to be a male dominated sphere.

There is no doubt that Thatcher helped pave the way for women in UK politics especially during a time when women were still banned from the Conservative Party’s club the Carlton Club. However to call Thatcher a feminist would be an insult to all the women that have fought and continue to fight for equal rights. Thatcher herself was vocal in her disapproval of the movement. “The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.”

Margaret Thatcher during her tenor as UK Prime Minister Photograph: Google

While Germany is hailed as being one of the most successful countries in the European Union they are trailing behind in terms of equality, there are more CEOs named “Thomas” (seven) in Germany’s 160 public-traded companies than demale CEOs according to the AllBright foundation, which tracks women in corporate leadership. 93% of all executive board members in these companies are men and nearly three out of four of the corporations have no women on their executive teams.

Despite the clear social and economic divide between the sexes, the German public have a positive view of their chancellor’s gender, affectionately nicknaming her “Mutti” (“Mummy”).

Meanwhile in the UK, female MPS continue to receive harassment from voters. A fact that was finally brought to light in 2016 with the death of Labour MP Jo Cox. While there is no evidence that Jo Cox’s killer took part in the online abuse that was sent to her over social networking sites it was revealed that Cox had been harassed in many messages over a period of three months.

Elsewhere in the world women in positions of power are receiving similar treatment. In August, Jacinda Ardern became the new leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party and was met with a barrage of questions about her lack of children. In an interview on the AM Show with Mark Richardson she said “It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. It is unacceptable, it is unacceptable.”


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