“Then I’m a feminist” – Merkel, personal as almost never before
Angela Merkel speaks unusually candidly in a panel discussion in Düsseldorf on Wednesday evening about her influences, the refugee crisis and her mother’s death two years ago. And it corrects a position from 2017.
sAngela Merkel is rarely seen: the outgoing Chancellor sits on a theater stage in Düsseldorf, framed by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, journalist Miriam Meckel and journalist Léa Steinacker. And don’t talk about everyday politics, but about fundamental, social and philosophical issues. And even personal things.
What has shaped the 67-year-old? “That as a child I grew up with mentally handicapped people and had no fear or contact fear. That I studied physics.” About 80 percent of the students were male. They always got to work right away, so they often no longer had a test table. Then she learned to fight for her place in a male-dominated environment.
The pastor’s daughter also talks about her mother’s death two years ago. Of course it’s hard when something so private happens and you’re exposed to the public at the same time. “If someone keeps looking at you, do you see what? I find that difficult. You have to build your own space.” She didn’t let anyone into this room who didn’t belong there.
“Back across the Mediterranean, that was not in it for me”
Your most difficult moment? The euro crisis, when it tested the Greek people so hard. And fun moments? “Very often when you’ve found a compromise.” For example, the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon, which gave the European Union a new foundation. Or last year, when EU heads of state and government finally agreed on corona aid after a long dispute. “Then you are happy,” said the Chancellor.
Has it divided society with its refugee policy? No, she doesn’t see it that way. She does not believe that her most famous phrase “We can do it” was an invitation to all refugees to come to Germany. In 2015 the refugees were already on the doorstep. “And now to say, watch out, back across the Mediterranean, that was no way for me.”
Keyword feminism: At a women’s summit in 2017, she was asked if she considered herself a feminist. The answer came hesitantly: She didn’t necessarily want to embellish herself with this title, Merkel explained. The other women on stage – including Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and the Dutch Queen Máxima – called themselves feminists without question.
“Yes, we should all be feminists”
Now she is asked again by Miriam Meckel – and corrects her point of view: Máxima had already opened the door for her by then, hinting that it was really only about women and men who participate in social life to the same extent. “In that sense I can say today in the affirmative: Then I am a feminist. I was a bit ashamed of that on stage at the time. Today it is better thought out. In that sense, I can say, yes, we should all be feminists.” Huge cheers in the house.
When asked if she would leave her office with a clear conscience, the chancellor answered with a very clear “yes” – adding to the applause of the audience: “I think I have made my contribution.” Now the country needs something new.
And her own future? Since she entered politics in late 1989/early 1990, she hasn’t actually had a normal work day and no longer wonders what interests her outside of politics. She now wants to make up for that. “Do I want to write? Do I want to talk? Do I want to go for a walk? Do I want to be home? Do I want to go out into the world? And besides that, I’ve decided, I’m not doing anything for the time being and just wait and see what comes next. And I think so very fascinating.”