• 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
North Korea mistakenly outraged at Berlinale
Kim Jong Un has accidentally wounded his dignity while trying to stop his dignity being wounded. Photo: DPA

North Korea mistakenly outraged at Berlinale

North Korea turned harsh diplomatic language against Berlin's film festival in the mistaken belief that The Interview, the James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy about a murder plot against dictator Kim Jong Un, will be screened there. READ  

Let's officialize Muslim community: Berlin mayor
Muslims at prayer in Berlin's Sehitlik mosque. Photo: DPA

Let's officialize Muslim community: Berlin mayor

SPD party leader Raed Saleh wants to create a contract with the Muslim community similar to the one between the town hall and Christian and Jewish groups that grants them official status. READ  

Cities see slower house price growth
Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg. Photo: DPA

Cities see slower house price growth

A trend for ever-faster growth in house prices across Germany was reversed in 2014, as prices rose by four percent compared with seven the previous year 2013. READ  

Court probes abuse at Catholic boarding school
The monk at his court appearance in Munich on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Court probes abuse at Catholic boarding school

A monk and former teacher at a boarding school in the Bavarian alps pleaded not guilty on Thursday at his trial for abusing two pupils and attempted abuse of two more. READ  

'Fight harder' against corruption: activists
Bribery photo: Shutterstock

'Fight harder' against corruption: activists

Campaigners say the states can do more to fight corruption after a report showed that Brandenburg, Saarland, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg had the highest numbers of cases. READ  

Renzi woos Merkel amid Florentine splendour
Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi speaking in Florence. Photo: DPA

Renzi woos Merkel amid Florentine splendour

The eurozone's deep divisions were set to be given an airing in Florence on Friday as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel days before crucial elections in Greece. READ  

Merkel offers Russia free-trade agreement
Photos: DPA

Merkel offers Russia free-trade agreement

Germany would be prepared to negotiate a free-trade agreement between the European Union and Russia as a way out of the deadlocked Ukraine conflict, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday. READ  

Get more 'gigaliners' on roads: Minister
Photo: DPA

Get more 'gigaliners' on roads: Minister

Environmentalists and train companies reacted with outrage to Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt's plan to allow more giant "gigaliner" trucks on motorways before they've passed a trial period. READ  

Police arrest suspect in asylum seeker murder
Demonstrators in Dresden with photos of murder victim Khaled Idris Bahray

Police arrest suspect in asylum seeker murder

Police in Dresden have arrested a man on suspicion of killing his flatmate, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, on Monday January 12th. READ  

Meet the women fighting German tabloid sexism
Photo: DPA

Meet the women fighting German tabloid sexism

After a false dawn for campaigners against daily topless models in Britain's Sun newspaper, The Local talks to the women campaigning against sexism in Germany's biggest-selling tabloid. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
The rise and spread of Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Photo: DPA
Politics
The Local's report from Pegida's largest ever demonstration.
Sponsored Article
Top-notch tech boosts bilingual schools
National
Six stories that will rock Germany this year
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Photo: DPA
National
What were your favourite news stories of 2014?
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
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

1,438
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd