• Germany's news in English
 

MP's 'dirndl' quip sparks sexism debate

Published: 25 Jan 2013 14:10 GMT+01:00
Updated: 25 Jan 2013 16:16 GMT+01:00

The reporter, 29-year-old Laura Himmelreich, wrote in the weekly Stern that Rainer Brüderle of the co-ruling Free Democrats (FDP), leered at her breasts and told her, "You could also fill out a dirndl," Bavaria's low-cut traditional dress for women, during an informal chat after a party congress in 2012.

He then told her, "Politicians always fall for journalists," according to Himmelreich, in an article that recounted what it called frequent unwanted advances by frisky officials toward female journalists.

She came forward after Brüderle, 67, a former economy minister, was tapped this week as chief candidate for the FDP, junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, in September general elections.

Brüderle has declined to comment but top FDP officials flew to his defence.

"This type of reporting a year after a purported incident is deeply unfair," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

"This is so transparent and base that it says more about the journalism from Stern than about Mr Brüderle," said FDP deputy Rainer Stinner.

Even the opposition Social Democrats chimed in. "It shows an odd understanding of one's profession to want to have an official discussion with a politician in a hotel bar at midnight," MP Sebastian Edathy told the daily Tageszeitung.

However several editorials described boorish behaviour encountered by women on the job and the wall of silence around the issue, even in a country whose most powerful political figure is a woman and where relations between the sexes usually compare favourably with neighbours such as Italy and France.

Nina Bovensiepen of the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung called the incident "relatively harmless" but said it touched on a serious problem.

"This business is still dominated by men," she wrote. "Occurrences of sexual lewdness and line-crossing are surely more common here."

A senior editor at the online service of Der Spiegel magazine, Patricia Dreyer, said she was "grateful" to Himmelreich.

"Female journalists experience stupid remarks, dumb come-ons, being reduced to their appearance and discrediting based on their gender just as often as millions of other women in other fields, and are just as sick of it," she wrote.

She noted that alcohol-fuelled "briefings" on the sidelines of political events were crucial for reporters seeking behind-the-scenes information.

The Tageszeitung's Anja Maier added: "The malice against Himmelreich, the denigration and the vulgar remarks – these are all sure signs that she did exactly the right thing: to blow open the murky side of the relationship between politics and the media."

The debate drew a massive response on social media, with the Twitter hashtag #aufschrei (outcry) attracting a flood of complaints about sexism in everyday German life, as well as a backlash against "unfounded" accusations by women.

It also came amid a heated discussion about whether Germany needs quotas to deal with a lack of women in its boardrooms.

Asked about the Stern article, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to comment on the accusations against Brüderle but he said the ground rules for such interactions ought to be clear.

"Of course the chancellor believes in a professional and respectful approach in politics as well as between politicians and journalists," he told a regular media briefing.

AFP/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

19:50 January 25, 2013 by Englishted
Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to comment on the accusations against Brüderle but he said

We all know who would not look well in a dirndl don't we .
21:31 January 25, 2013 by lordkorner
I guess that's not the journalist in question standing beside Brüderle.
Today's headlines
'Auschwitz bookkeeper' trial nears verdict
Oskar Groening, the 'bookkeeper of Auschwitz'. Photo: DPA

'Auschwitz bookkeeper' trial nears verdict

A former SS officer known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz" and a woman who survived the Nazi death camp delivered wrenching testimony in a courtroom on Wednesday as his historic trial neared a verdict. READ  

Assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
A photo of a Volkswagen assembly line, not related to the incident. Photo: DPA.

Assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen

A worker was setting up a robot at a Volkswagen factory when the machine grabbed him and pressed him against a metal slab, causing lethal injuries. READ  

Greece crisis
Greek offer 'no basis for discussion': Schäuble
Pro-EU Greeks demonstrate outside the Athens parliament on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Greek offer 'no basis for discussion': Schäuble

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Wednesday crisis-hit Greece was sending mixed signals in debt talks and called on its government to "clarify its position" before negotiations with creditors can resume. READ  

Weathermen issue snow alert in heatwave
Could this be July in North Rhine-Westphalia? Photo: DPA

Weathermen issue snow alert in heatwave

The German Weather Service (DWD) issued a weather warning for North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Wednesday predicting 5 to 10 cm of snow and winds of up to 60 km/h. READ  

Analysis
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
Angela Merkel faces a battery of microphones and cameras at a eurozone summit in Brussels on June 22nd. Photo: DPA

How German media shaped the Greece crisis

It's often said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the one person who truly matters when it comes to how the eurozone deals with Greece. But how much freedom does 'Mutti' really have in the face of the public and the media? READ  

Women trade punches over neglected dog poo
'This is not a dog toilet.' Photo: DPA

Women trade punches over neglected dog poo

Bergisch Gladbach in North Rhine-Westphalia, hometown of supermodel Heide Klum, was once linked in Germans' minds with the catwalk. But now it is just as infamous for a dog walk, after two women came to blows over a mound of pooch poo. READ  

Referee costs Germany dear against USA
Head coach Silvia Neid (r) with Celia Sasic (l) on the bench. Photo: DPA

Referee costs Germany dear against USA

Germany coach Silvia Neid said she found the referee's decision-making 'sad' in her country's 2-0 semi-final defeat to the USA in the Women's World Cup in Montreal on early Wednesday morning. READ  

Train strikes
Train drivers and Bahn bury the hatchet
Three ICE (intercity) trains stand in a siding. Photo: DPA

Train drivers and Bahn bury the hatchet

The Train Drivers' Union (GDL) and Deutsche Bahn (DB) have finally agreed to end their dispute over drivers' work conditions, offering hope that nine months of rail chaos has finally come to an end. READ  

European heatwave
Keep cool and stay safe in the July heatwave
A couple leaping into an open-air pool in Freiburg. Photo: DPA

Keep cool and stay safe in the July heatwave

Here's how to keep cool as the mercury soars during this week's heatwave in Germany. And don't forget your pets! READ  

Former judge to see NSA target list
Photo: DPA

Former judge to see NSA target list

The Bundestag (German parliament) inquiry into spying by the US National Security Agency (NSA) has chosen a former judge to examine lists of targets given to German spies by the Americans. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
Politics
Follow our LIVE blog as Europe holds breath over Greece crisis
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
Culture
What's top of the charts in June
Gallery
Germany's most beautiful cycle routes
Business & Money
The business case for Britain in the EU
Rhineland
Why farmers are free to pong up the countryside
National
German restaurants among world's best
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,949
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd