A.rmin Laschet was allowed to choose on Wednesday evening whether he would rather talk about men or women in the Brigitte Talk. At first he hesitated. “About both,” said the CDU chairman and candidate for chancellor of the Union, but then decided in favor of women. One can assume that the audience was mostly female. But what he said and how he said it did not sound like it was only tailored to his listeners. “We still do not have proper equality between men and women,” complained Laschet, who is also the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The gender pay gap, i.e. the differences in salaries between the sexes, is one thing. There are also too few women in politics, “especially in my own party”. “Too little” was also his comment on the allegation that his cabinet in North Rhine-Westphalia has only four female ministers, but eight ministers. He looked for reasons, but couldn’t think of a really convincing one. For the federal cabinet, if the Union leads the next government, he has already announced parity. “The view is always different when men and women are discussing with each other than when it is only men,” said Laschet.
When, after 16 years in government by Angela Merkel, a man moves into the Chancellery, it is “all the more important” to get ahead here. But the controversial question is: how? Or in Laschet’s words: “What can politics change about it?” Laschet mentioned that there are already quotas for supervisory boards and thus expressed that the creation of equality is also a state expense for him. But he – like many party friends – is more sympathetic to another way: “My goal would be to help society think more about gender equality.” He did not explain how that should work. But it is clear to him: “Equality is not a question that women have to worry about”, that is also the job of men. Laschet himself was Minister for Family and Women in North Rhine-Westphalia between 2005 and 2010. At that time, the position of women and the question of the compatibility of family and work were still “completely new territory”.
No gender ban
When it comes to gender, too, Laschet tried to find a middle ground. The topic polarizes. In many faculties and in parts of public broadcasting, the pause before the female form, the so-called spoken gender asterisk, is now standard. Laschet’s former rival in the fight for party leadership, Friedrich Merz, whom Laschet brought into his campaign team, sees this as a compulsion that he rejects – and believes that a majority of Germans are behind him. Laschet said on Brigitte television: “I don’t think we should prohibit anything there”, nor should one make fun of people who use gender-sensitive language. Just be it not his own style of language. But sensitivity in the language is important to him, “that works without asterisks and pauses”, for example, one could speak of doctors, that is, name both genders.
The fact that Annalena Baerbock first had to be asked after her nomination as candidate for chancellor how she wanted to reconcile the chancellery with her two children, Laschet found “inappropriate”, as he said. He, the father of three children, was never asked such a question – at most whether he would like more time for his children. He didn’t want to say anything more to Baerbock, who is now facing sharp headwinds because of a pimped up curriculum vitae and plagiarism in her book, only this: “I would like us to slowly get into the political debate.” especially in the social networks. According to Laschet, women are much more often affected by sexist insults.
Do not upgrade every remark with a comment
It was still about vaccinating children, changing lessons in schools, the dispute over tax increases, the social consequences of the coal phase-out – there was little surprise here. It became uncomfortable for Laschet when the moderators came to speak of Hans-Georg Maaßen, former President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and now CDU direct candidate in southern Thuringia. Only recently he had provoked again by accusing public broadcasters of connections to the left-wing extremist scene and demanding that the biographies of some editors be “put to the test”. Laschet made it clear that he was not thinking of expulsion from the party, that the thresholds were high. What Laschet did not say is that parties are mainly getting into trouble with it – see Thilo Sarrazin and the SPD. “A strong public service broadcasting is important,” said Laschet, that is the opinion of the entire CDU, especially in times of fake news. Each of the 299 direct candidates must adhere to this, according to Laschet. But does he want to punish violations? If someone gives interviews that deviate from the position of the CDU, “that is his problem,” said Laschet, he did not want to enhance every remark with a comment. It was noticeable that he did not even mention the name Maassen.
Laschet gave the audience some personal insights. He likes series, most recently a series about a mayor of Marseille grabbed him. “I sit there until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and watch these series,” his wife admonishes him to switch off from time to time. “I don’t need much sleep, that’s an advantage,” said Laschet. His bravest decision? The candidacy for chancellor, “yes, that takes courage”. If you made a portrait of him, what would be the appropriate title, the moderators wanted to know. A steep template that Laschet knew how to use: “The right one”.