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Angela Merkel's Party Risks Reverting To Male Domination

The debate about Angela Merkel’s successor shows that her CDU party is lacking in powerful women to take the party forward. As strange as it seems, her party still has a long way to go to achieve gender equality.

Auf wiedersehen, gender equality
Auf wiedersehen, gender equality
Cerstin Gammelin

BERLIN — A week after CDU party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer's shock announcement that she will be stepping down, Norbert Röttgen – the first candidate who has put himself forward to replace her – has laid out his plans for the party if he were elected.

Röttgen belongs to the ranks of men who during Merkel's time in power have found themselves pushed to the back benches after an embarrassing blunder – in his case, a humiliating local election defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia. He stuck it out though, which shows courage — and yet raises questions.

For 20 years now, it has been women – most prominently Angela Merkel – who have been at the helm of the CDU. But now that there's a leadership contest to choose her successor, no women are joining the race. Promising candidates such as the party's deputy leader Julia Klöckner and Susanne Eisenmann, Culture Minister for the state of Baden-Württemberg, have not put themselves forward. That's a shame, and it sends the wrong signal to women in the CDU. If they won't put themselves in the mix, they shouldn't be surprised when male colleagues set the tone of the debate, vaunting their own capabilities with perhaps a little too much self-confidence.

There are structural reasons why women are not putting themselves forward.

To avoid any misunderstandings: of course it doesn't say anywhere in the CDU's constitution that only women can be party leader. Of course, after two decades of female leadership, there can be a male successor. But there can equally be a female one. This isn't a question of whether a man or a woman takes on the leadership, but of how the CDU can preserve its reputation as a party that appeals to men and women, old and young, from all walks of life. That will not be possible if it doesn't attract female voters.

The CDU chairmanship remains vacant after AKK's resignation: Kay Nietfeld/DPA via ZUMA Press

There are structural reasons why women are not putting themselves forward, but the causes also lie in the party's internal relations. The late hours involved in politics put many women off, as does the fact that they are still often judged on physical appearance. And the CDU has still not achieved equality within the party. The fact that there has been one female Chancellor has distracted from the reality that the party still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality.

Merkel was groundbreaking in many ways: as a Protestant, an East German and a physicist with a PhD. But now that her Chancellorship is coming to an end and her anointed female successor has thrown in the towel, it is clear that the CDU is lacking in female leaders. It has no female state Minister Presidents, only one woman among its regional party leaders, and hardly any female mayors or municipal council leaders. Only one fifth of the party's representatives in parliament are women. This cannot be allowed to continue if the CDU is to be a party that genuinely represents society.

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Look At This Crap! The "Enshittification" Theory Of Why The Internet Is Broken

The term was coined by journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the fatal drift of major Internet platforms: if they were ever useful and user-friendly, they will inevitably end up being odious.

A photo of hands holding onto a smartphone

A person holding their smartphone

Gilles Lambert/ZUMA
Manuel Ligero


The universe tends toward chaos. Ultimately, everything degenerates. These immutable laws are even more true of the Internet.

In the case of media platforms, everything you once thought was a good service will, sooner or later, disgust you. This trend has been given a name: enshittification. The term was coined by Canadian blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the inevitable drift of technological giants toward... well.

The explanation is in line with the most basic tenets of Marxism. All digital companies have investors (essentially the bourgeoisie, people who don't perform any work and take the lion's share of the profits), and these investors want to see the percentage of their gains grow year after year. This pushes companies to make decisions that affect the service they provide to their customers. Although they don't do it unwillingly, quite the opposite.

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Annoying customers is just another part of the business plan. Look at Netflix, for example. The streaming giant has long been riddling how to monetize shared Netflix accounts. Option 1: adding a premium option to its regular price. Next, it asked for verification through text messages. After that, it considered raising the total subscription price. It also mulled adding advertising to the mix, and so on. These endless maneuvers irritated its audience, even as the company has been unable to decide which way it wants to go. So, slowly but surely, we see it drifting toward enshittification.

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