This September could possibly mark one of Germany’s most influential shifts in power of the 21st century. For the first time in history, a climate-oriented party could win national elections and thus not only change the country’s but the entire planet’s future. While the Green party candidate is facing multiple attacks by the media and to some, her defeat appears inevitable, I’d like to advertise a different claim: Germany needs Anna Lena Baerbock- not despite her being a young female candidate but because of exactly that.
Personally, the prospect of being represented by a female leader who stands for modern change and contemporary values sounded like the ideal option even before Baerbock was announced the definite candidate for the Green party. It was when I discovered a meme sent to a group chat by one of my parents’ acquaintances that I realized not everyone was as fond of the idea of Germany’s new face being Anna Lena Baerbock as myself. Translated, the meme depicted the following message: “I have studied for five years and have no serious political experience, but maybe you’re still stupid enough to vote for me?” (side note: a bachelor’s degree in Germany usually takes three years, a master’s degree two years; hence five years of education).
This article is not dedicated to criticizing one person’s questionable sense of humor, but it got me thinking: Why is it that in one of Europe’s most powerful countries, in a democracy built on values of equality, a 40-year-old woman has to fight twice as hard and swallow three times as many personal insults as her male competitors?
The Baerbock hate train
From a feminist’s perspective, I could easily round up this article providing the following answer: Because she is a woman. But considering that our current chancellor is a woman herself, this statement on its own fails to suffice.
It seems like her opponents – both citizens and journalists – have just anticipated the discovery of the smallest incongruency in Baerbock’s past to go into full attack mode.
Baerbock’s difficulty in earning her voters’ trust is further nourished by multiple newspapers already declaring her defeat due to her sloppiness in not mentioning all of the sources referred to in her book – a mistake which, admittedly, could have been easily avoided. Ever since then, Baerbock’s popularity has further decreased, reflected in recent opinion polls. It seems like her opponents – both citizens and journalists – have just anticipated the discovery of the smallest incongruency in Baerbock’s past to go into full attack mode. Instead of publishing headlines denying her any chance to win, shouldn’t the media be interested in informing citizens about Baerbock’s and her party’s agenda for Germany? Surely, everyone must realize that times of denying climate change and accepting gender inequality must finally end. In short, we are in desperate need of drastic changes in our society.
Instead of further polarizing Germany’s votership, the urgency to point out actual facts is more pressing than ever. While it is true that an electoral campaign will and should never be fully neutral, there is a fine line between objective criticism and distributing and nurturing unreasoned prejudices. Candidates will never be chosen purely on the basis of their political agenda as voters need to be able to identify themselves with their character. But how could one possibly understand Baerbock’s personality traits while watching her being asked futile questions by journalists such as: “If there was one thing you could change about your body, what would it be?” (an example of female body empowerment and body positivity in Germany?); an experience still rather harmless compared to the fake nude photos of Baerbock as a teenager spread on social media.
At this point, it would be redundant to underline that neither of Baerbock’s male competitors has had to endure similar insults. To determine whether or not one wants to vote green, a decision must be formed based on the political needs of the country and Baerbock’s aim to address those opposed to her gender or her age.
After all, this is what Anna Lena Baerbock has on her agenda: Recognizing climate change as a threat and taking action instead of making empty promises, a game her competitor from the Conservative party CDU, Armin Laschet, seems to excel in. Even some of his own colleagues describe the CDU’s climate goals and planned measures as insufficient.
Germany needs its first Green chancellor. Arguing on the premise of Baerbock’s lack of experience in political leadership seems rather ironic when experience becomes a synonym for choosing comfort over change. Furthermore, Germany needs a young female leader to send the message to each and every young girl around the world that yes, women are powerful enough to lead nations and that being a mother and a successful politician are not mutually exclusive rules.
We, the citizens, need to embrace this time of change and steer our country in a new direction.
With Germany being one of the most powerful European countries, a shift in power always implies not only national changes but consequences on a global scale. It is clear that the circumstances of this year’s election could hardly be more exceptional. A leader who has earned her nation’s trust for almost two decades will hand over her reign and leave behind desperate, drained and depressed individuals stuck in the midst of a global pandemic, confronted with economic worries and numerous environmental challenges. Instead of sticking to the known and comfortable of the past, we, the citizens, need to embrace this time of change and steer our country in a new direction.
Edited by: Yili Char