“Let us also make it clear that although we know from her biography that Merkel has struggled greatly as a woman throughout her life, Merkel will not go down in history as a woman who fought for the rights of women,” writes Elif Sonzamancı for Yeni Özgür Politika.
On 26 September Germany is going to the elections. These elections are particularly important, because Merkel, who is in the top echelons of the most powerful leaders in the world, is in her last year in office.
In 2018, Merkel declared in a press statement that she would be leaving office, and that she would not stand as a candidate at the party congress.
She also stated that she would leave active politics when her term of office is complete in 2021. She has followed this through, and as a result Merkel is leaving active politics following the elections on 26 September.
Much has been written about Merkel; her taking her place among the limited number of female politicians, her managing a country with one of the strongest economies in the world, her role in the EU, her proactive stance in foreign policy, and these in particular, as well as other similar characteristics, have established her image in the world of a leader who was always strong.
But Merkel never pushed her identity as a woman to the fore.
Merkel started in office as the Federal Minister for Families, Women and Youth in 1991, and her primary focal point was problems of finance. At that time problems of gender did not really bother her mind. Again, when in the 2005 elections, Merkel took on the title of Germany’s first woman prime minister, she continued her political life without pushing her gender to the fore.
As Merkel moved forward with the slogan, “We can do this”, her search for solutions to women’s problems were remained dormant.
As a woman prime minister of Germany, a country with one of the strongest ecenomies in the world, she has been unable to improve the pay gap between women and men, or to produce alternatives for policies opposing violence against women.
Though Merkel may frequently say that she has fought against men in her educational and political life, she has always kept her identity as a female politician in the background.
Thus in 2017 she thought before replying to the question, ‘are you a feminist?’, asked of her at the Women20 Dialogue Forum, in which Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump also participated.
She may not have evangelised about it, but she has expressed indirectly that she was no feminist.
Perhaps in order not to anger women’s rights activists, Merkel gave hedged her response, as was her wont. She did not want to be remembered as a feminist.
Let us here pass over criticisms about the identity of the women participating in the meeting, or the sincerity of women claiming to be feminists, and continue.
This interpretation of Merkel has been much discussed. Interpretations have even been made to the effect that the Merkel’s reserved statements are understandable in the backdrop of it being men who direct politics.
This subject, much discussed years ago, has once again become relevant.
Because in a speech made on stage in Düsseldorf Merkel has now said, “I am a feminist. We should all be feminists.” These words, spoken on the eve of her leaving politics, received great applause.
Cries of joy were heard from the moderators in the hall, but it had not been possible to get Merkel to say these words or to hear them in her statements while she still had effective time in office.
So will anything come of Merkel’s use of these words at the last moment, courageously, as she believes?
There probably won’t. But if she had answered this question with the same decisiveness when she was asked it in 2017, important gains could have been made.
It remains to say that wanting women and men to have equal rights, but only for priviliged women, is not feminism. Sex discrimination is a problem suffered by all women in the world, without exception, throughout their lives.
Women of our day believe for example that the concept of “killings of women” is insufficient and that the the concept of “femicide” explains the situation more accurately.
Women have to struggle with many difficulties in their lives simply because they are women.
That Merkel said what she did is important, but her expression of this, as she said herself, clearly and without hesitation, on the eve of her term of office coming to an end, will not bring any important gains.
Let us also make it clear that although we know from her biography that Merkel has struggled greatly as a woman throughout her life, Merkel will not go down in history as a woman who fought for the rights of women.