• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

MP's 'dirndl' quip sparks sexism debate

The Local · 25 Jan 2013, 16:16

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."

Story continues below…

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
This Week in History
75 years since one of Holocaust's worst massacres
Photo: DPA

On Thursday, German president Joachim Gauck spoke in Kiev 75 years after the Nazis slaughtered 33,771 Jews during one of the worst single massacres of the Holocaust.

Six things you need to know about troubled Deutsche Bank

Shares in Deutsche bank plunged on Friday morning, dragging down other European banks and markets worldwide. Here are six things to know about Germany's biggest lender.

Deutsche Bahn jacks up prices for first time in 3 years
Photo: DPA

Germany's main rail provider, the state-owned Deutsche Bahn (DB), announced on Friday that it will raise prices on long-distance train travel.

Baby found alive in suitcase with skeleton in Hanover
File photo: DPA.

A baby has been found alive, along with the skeleton of another infant inside of a suitcase in Hanover, police reported on Friday.

Morocco to speed up repatriation of illegal migrants
Photo: DPA

Morocco has agreed to streamline the procedures for the repatriation of citizens living illegally in Germany, the royal court said late on Thursday.

890,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year - not 1.1m
Photo: DPA

Previous reports had suggested that around 1.1 million people entered Germany to seek asylum last year. But now the German government has confirmed the number was actually lower.

Racist attacks cast cloud over Dresden Unity Day planning
A police vehicle in Dresden. Photo: DPA.

As Dresden prepares to host Germany’s national Unity Day celebrations on Monday, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony is upping security after a mosque was targeted by a homemade bomb.

Sinking Deutsche Bank stock sends shock across Europe
Photo: DPA

Shares in Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank plummeted on the Frankfurt stock market on Friday, dragging other European banks and global markets down with it, after reports some customers were pulling money out.

The Local List
10 things you never knew about German reunification
Reunification celebrations in Hanover in 2014. Photo: DPA

With German Unity Day (October 3rd) happening on Monday, Germans are looking forward to a three-day weekend. But did you know these facts about reunification and German Unity Day?

Munich pharmacy’s nighttime porno show draws crowd
Photo: DPA

When a police patrol in Munich's Sendlinger Tor area noticed a crowd gathered outside a pharmacy window they went to investigate. But the onlookers weren't interested in a new line of flu medicine.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,582
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd