Despite Angela Merkel’s 12-year tenure as Germany’s chancellor, German feminists and the feminists at the New York Times are unimpressed. Correspondent Katrin Bennhold wrote this week, “Merkel embodies what feminists the world over have hoped to accomplish, but the rest of Germany has largely not caught up.”
Bennhold’s article—not so subtly titled, “In Angela Merkel, German Women Find Symbol, but Not Savior”—mistakenly directs disappointment towards Merkel when the fault really lies in feminism. Bennhold details how Merkel has not succeeded in promoting women into the workplace. While 70 percent of women in Germany are employed, just 12 percent of women with children aged three and under have full-time employment. Ninety-three percent of the executive board members of publicly traded German companies are men. German lawmakers recently passed a law requiring large companies to replace departing members of their boards with women until women comprise 30 percent.
“Just as Obama did not end structural racism in America, Merkel has not ended structural sexism in Germany,” feminist writer Anne Wizorek complained to the Times. Bennhold even dings Merkel for “shunn[ing] the word ‘feminist,’” although at the very end of the article she then reports that so do young German women she interviewed, since they view it as “too radical.”
Scapegoating the Stay-at-Home Mom
The subjugation feminism envisions is what keeps women out of the workplace to spend their days on domestic duties. Feminists continue to be baffled and frustrated with the stay-at-home mom. While feminists are trying to save women from the oppression they suffer as victims in a patriarchal world, stay-at-home moms are telling people that there is nothing they’d rather do than care for their families full-time.
Feminism elevates the woman who goes to work caring for children every day at a center, but decries the woman who does so vocationally for her own children without pay. The Times article even goes so far as to reference how Nazis awarded medals to mothers of many children. A female German executive unwittingly underlined the catch-22 German women now face due to feminism’s saturation of their culture:
The feminist agenda to push mothers into the workplace endangers women’s freedom. Because feminists blame women who leave the workplace to care for their children for hindering progress for women, some feminists even believe women should never leave the workplace. An Australian writer, Sarrah Le Marquand, received attention from the media around the world this past spring when she wrote an article titled, “It Should be Illegal To be a Stay-At-Home Mum.” She argued:
Only when the female half of the population is expected to hold down a job and earn money to pay the bills in the same way that men are routinely expected to do will we see things change for the better for either gender.
Only when it becomes the norm for all families to have both parents in paid employment, and sharing the stress of the work-home juggle, will we finally have a serious conversation about how to achieve a more balanced modern workplace.
This notion of outlawing stay-at-home moms is not new. In 1976, feminist Simone de Beauvoir said, “No woman should be authorized to stay home to raise her children. Women should not have that choice because if there is such a choice too many women will make that one.”
I can’t envision a more free and autonomous woman than the stay-at-home mom. But feminism will continue to reject this brand of freedom and autonomy because it isn’t within the walls of a corporate or political office and doesn’t come with a prestigious title.
If You’re Really Free You Might Choose What We Don’t Like
Feminists don’t actually want women to be liberated. They want women to buy into their ideals for society—a society where women are both equal to men yet in power and women spend their adult lives investing in everything but a family and a place for that family to call home. As theologian Al Mohler observed, “Women choosing to stay home with their children would be the repudiation of the very ideology that supposedly was to liberate women to make their own choices in the first place.”
Feminists not only believe that women belong in the workplace rather than the home, but that women can have both a flourishing family and challenging career. Here, childless Merkel disappoints Bennhold and other German feminists again. She cannot be the archetype of the feminist ideal: a woman with a husband who equally shares all of the domestic duties, happy children, and an enviable career. That leaves the feminists of Germany still looking for “female role models that show young women that it is possible to have both: a family and a career,” corporate diversity officer Anka Wittenberg tells the Times.
One cannot blame Merkel for not being this hero, however. We can only speculate what Merkel would have accomplished in her career if she had children, but we know from other working moms how difficult it is to balance full-time work with giving children the care and attention they need and deserve. Katrina Alcorn, a working mother of three and the author of “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink,” said,
We’re expected to do our jobs as if we don’t have children — and then raise our children as if we don’t have jobs. If you think about the model of the ideal mother, it’s the person who sacrifices everything for her child. The ideal worker is someone who can drop everything and go on a business trip at a moment’s notice, and who can stay late — not leave at 5 o’clock to pick up kids. So if you’re trying to be both, then you are faking it.
Feminism has lied to countless women by insisting they can break free from a life of servitude if they will just have another woman care for their children while they go off to work all day. In the same breath women are told serving your family is oppressive, they are told that serving a boss or clients is impressive. Women notice and live out these contradictions, and many decide to resolve them in their own ways rather than please ideologues who pretend to speak for them.
Women don’t need Merkel or any other successful woman to be their savior. We need women who are pursuing excellence to show younger generations what it means to be a woman, and the freedom that comes from shunning ideology to pursue what is best for one’s family.