Varieties of Feminism: German Gender Politics in Global Perspective

By Myra Marx Ferree | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
FEMINISM, FAMILIES,
AND THE FUTURE
Practical Theory and Global Gender
Politics in the Twenty-first Century

ON NOVEMBER 23, 2005, the news echoed around the world: Angela Merkel had become the first woman chancellor of Germany. One of a handful of women heading governments anywhere, running an economically powerful state with a major voice in transnational institutions such as the EU and World Bank, Merkel assumed a position of great global significance. Moreover, as the leader of a Grand Coalition between her own Christian-Democratic Union and its usual opposition, the Social Democrats, she had a commanding legislative majority and unusual power to set policy. Alice Schwarzer, longtime publisher of EMMA and media-anointed spokesperson for feminism, immediately proclaimed, “We have become chancellor.” Most media outlets interviewed Schwarzer and chimed in to claim that Merkel’s personal victory equaled that of women collectively. The newsmagazine Spiegel announced that this event “was not the election of a chancellor but the triumph of the German women’s movement.”1

But reality is always more complicated. As around the world, the numbers of women in higher political offices have grown remarkably, but few women in leadership roles identify with feminism. Angela Merkel, as head of the leading German conservative party, the CDU, explicitly avowed that she did not and

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