Feminist Epilogue: Angela Merkel's Farewell
You’ve probably heard of Angela Merkel, the pragmatic, whip-smart, fearless womxn who not only became the first female chancellor of Germany, but also held on to the position for 16 years. Right on.
However, one thing that her supporters (and opposition) were never quite sure about was her stance on feminism. After famously refusing to answer the question, which she now credits to shyness, she’s now clarified her opinion – so is Angela Merkel a feminist? Hell ya!
In a recent event with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Merkel stated, “Essentially, it's about the fact that men and women are equal, in the sense of participation in society and in life in general. And in that sense I can say: 'Yes, I'm a feminist.'”
While we’d love it if she’d said it sooner, we’re glad to have another declared feminist ally on our team. Read on for an overview of Merkel’s achievements in the feminism and equality spaces – plus how we can help get more feminists into positions of power.
What is Angela Merkel's legacy?
Merkel was elected in 2005 as a member of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany. As the country’s first female chancellor, she faced a serious struggle, entering a field dominated by men (sadly, that’s the case in many countries).
Over time, she served Germany unflinchingly, leading it through an economic crisis to become the economic powerhouse of the EU that it is today. Merkel announced in 2018 that she wouldn’t seek re-election, but there’s no doubt that she leaves a powerful legacy of economic reform, human rights support, and equality for all. Oh, and she’s consistently topped lists, including Forbes, of the most powerful womxn in the world – pretty damn impressive.
Angela Merkel and women's rights: her achievements
Ok, so Merkel was a great leader, but let’s get to the good stuff: how did she help the womxn of her country?
Womxn’s rights in Germany are certainly stronger today than they were before she took office. Here are some of her highlights as chancellor when it comes to feminism.
1. Breaking the glass ceiling – more than once
Before entering politics, Merkel earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry and worked in research, at a time when very few womxn were working in STEM. She later went into politics and became chancellor, effectively breaking glass ceilings not only in the sciences, but also in politics.
Put simply, we love this. Merkel is a role model for young girls, effectively proving that you can do whatever you darn well please in life, including successfully switching careers later in life.
She’s also worked to end the gender pay gap and improve access to childcare, giving womxn more opportunities in the workplace.
2. Placing more womxn in cabinet positions
One huge issue with male politicians is that they tend to give other governmental positions to those just like them – usually old, white men. Sigh.
Diversity is so important in politics, and that’s why we love to see that Merkel brought womxn into key positions in her cabinet, helping to even out the balance. Yes, we still want to see more womxn of color in positions of power, but it’s a start.
3. Legalizing equal marriage rights
While Merkel was not an initial supporter of gay marriage, she later changed her tune – gay marriage became legal in Germany in 2017, under her leadership. Yes, we wish she’d been a supporter earlier, because #loveislove, but we’re glad she realized what an important fundamental human right this is.
4. Accepting refugees with open arms
As worn-torn Syria left millions of womxn and families without a safe place to live in the mid-2010s, many European countries turned their backs on refugees in need, refusing to offer enough aid or visas to help them resettle.
Merkel, however, welcomed Syrian refugees, eventually accepting over around a million displaced persons. Not only were womxn and children given support and a safe place to live, they went on to add diversity, skills, and multiculturalism to Germany, which is awesome.
We love that Merkel was willing to help people in need, even if it wasn’t a popular career move at the time.
5. Never backing down
There’s nothing better than seeing a confident, badass womxn stand up to her naysayers. Merkel’s fiery personality means she hasn’t taken shit from anyone, even notorious bullies like Trump or Putin. She criticized Trump’s racist and xenophobic immigration policies and never minced words when it came to how she felt.
In a world where womxn are often made to feel inferior by men (yep, we hate it as much as you do), Merkel showed the world the power that womxn really have.
How can we get more amazing feminist world leaders?
With Merkel retiring, that leaves us with one less feminist world leader. So, how can we get more womxn in power, from the local to national level?
Here’s the thing: you absolutely can help by channeling one important power – the power of your vote. If you haven’t already, register to vote so that you’ll be ready to go in time for the next election.
Research candidates and support those who have a killer track record of feminism and womxn’s rights. Follow them on social media, amplify their voices, and tell your friends. We live in a beautifully diverse world, and having decisions made that impact us all isn’t fair if there isn’t equal representation in government – many historic feminists have been fighting for this for years, but there’s still a lot of progress to be made.
It’s easy to think that one person’s vote doesn’t matter, but it does! Together, we can support and elect amazing feminist female leaders who will help advance our rights, no matter where in the world we are. Oh, and if you’re inspired to make a difference, why not think about going into politics yourself? You got this, girl.