• Germany edition
 
MP's 'dirndl' quip sparks sexism debate
Photo: DPA

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

Allegations by a female reporter that a senior German official crudely came on to her in a hotel bar touched off a charged debate Friday about sexism in media and the political class.

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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

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
German ladies net Fed Cup final appearance
Germany's Angelique Kerber celebrates her victory over Australia's Sam Stosur with teammates after their match in the Fed Cup semi-final. AFP Photo: Patrick Hamilton

German ladies net Fed Cup final appearance

Angelique Kerber put Germany into their first Fed Cup final in 22 years with a fighting victory over Australia's Samantha Stosur in the semi-final in Brisbane on Sunday. READ () »

Germany should make use of shale gas: EU
EU commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger pictured in Luxembourg in 2013. AFP Photo: Georges Gobet

Germany should make use of shale gas: EU

EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger has urged Germany to make use of shale gas options and added that the he saw no danger of Europe's access to Russian gas falling victim to possible economic sanctions in the standoff over Ukraine. READ () »

Tennis aces close in on Fed Cup final
Members of the German Fed Cup Team celebrate after an earlier victory in the tournament. Photo: DPA

Tennis aces close in on Fed Cup final

Germany took hold of their Fed Cup semi-final on Saturday, winning both the opening day singles to lead Australia 2-0 in Brisbane. READ () »

Croatia extradites ex-top spy to Germany

Croatia extradites ex-top spy to Germany

Croatia extradited a former Yugoslav spy chief, Zdravko Mustac, to Germany on Thursday to face charges for the 1983 murder of a dissident on German soil. READ () »

German court jails Somali pirate for 12 years
An officer of the Lower Saxon Criminal Investigation Department (CID) securing evidence on the hijacked ship Marida Marguerite. Photo: DPA

German court jails Somali pirate for 12 years

A German court has sentenced a Somali pirate chief to 12 years in jail for hijacking a ship off the Horn of Africa and tormenting its crew during an eight-month ordeal. READ () »

New app helps clients find prostitutes
Photo: DPA

New app helps clients find prostitutes

While the German government is considering tightening prostitution laws, Berlin entrepreneurs have developed a smartphone app to connect sex-workers with clients. READ () »

Highs of 22C forecast for Easter weekend
Photo: DPA

Highs of 22C forecast for Easter weekend

The days running up to Easter may be cool and wet, but the holiday weekend should be a bit warmer for most of Germany, according to forecasters. READ () »

Berlin man must call himself a mother
The fight over the transgender man's right to be his child's official father has been raging since last year. Photo: DPA

Berlin man must call himself a mother

A transgender person who became the first man in Germany to give birth in March 2013 must be registered as the child's mother, a court has ruled after his year-long court battle to be named a father. READ () »

Study: rape convictions fall sharply
Photo: DPA

Study: rape convictions fall sharply

The chance of being convicted of rape in Germany has more than halved in the past two decades to fewer than one in ten, a major study revealed on Thursday. READ () »

SPD: Restore 45-percent investment tax
The tax privilege for investment income is unfair, says the SPD. Photo: DPA

SPD: Restore 45-percent investment tax

The centre-left half of Germany's coalition government has called for the old top rate of a 45-percent tax on investments to be brought back - to match standard income tax and fight the squeeze on middle incomes. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Rhineland
Elderly man taped €200,000 to his genitals
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
What's the unemployment rate in your area of Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Nine ways to celebrate Easter like a German
Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt
Gallery
World War I in colour photos
Photo: DPA
Society
'The mafia has infiltrated every sector in Germany'
Photo: DPA
Society
JobTalk: Why you should teach English in Germany
Photo: DPA
National
330,000 sign up against TV licence fee
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
School kids hospitalized after 'porno' party
Photo: Submitted
Frankfurt
'I'll get even with my old pal Schwarzenegger'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The week in pictures: April 5th - April 11th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten great inventions you (probably) didn't know were German
Photo: J. Arthur White
Berlin
Clashes in Berlin as refugees tear down their own camp
Advertisement:
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Munich's baby polar bears are finally named
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The 10 best German employers to work for
CurrencyFair
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Mr. Lodge
Sponsored Article
How to find a furnished rental in Munich
Sponsored Article
How to make a lasting impression in business
Hult International Business School
Sponsored Article
What they don't teach you at Business School
Photo: DPA
Society
Nine jobs you can only do in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

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

3,068
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd