Germany’s Chancellor for 15 years, Angela Merkel is one of the most powerful politicians, and most powerful women, in the world. But as a woman in politics, she has had to break through many glass ceilings to get to and maintain the position she is in today. One of the key things she had to do to get where she is now was to define her signature style so that people focused on what she had to say, rather than what she wore.
Early on in her career, Merkel was mocked for her frumpy style and unkempt hair. Then, when she had her first ministerial post, as Environment Minister, she noted herself that more people were concentrating on her shoes than what she was saying. From this point onwards, Merkel defined her signature style, which she has remained true to until this day: a bob haircut, a jacket and sensible trousers. The only variety in appearance you will see is the colour of the jacket. This ‘uniform‘ she wears means that nobody comments on her attire, seeing as it is unchanging every time; there are no noteworthy surprises. Because of this consistency in her look, now people must focus on her words, instead of her wardrobe.
Though her political position should immediately command respect and therefore the attentive ears of the public, not to mention the world’s media, because she is a woman, she has had to take additional precautions to ensure this does actually happen. This is a sad reality for women in politics.
If any female political leader decided to inadvertently make a fashion statement, simply by picking a certain dress or pair of shoes, then this has to be reported by the press. This then becomes the leading report of the day, not the statement they have made. Take Theresa May, for example, there are countless reports about her choice of heel during her time as Britain’s Home Secretary and Prime Minister. Leading magazine, Tatler, even wrote an in memoriam article, when she left 10 Downing Street, for her shoes. Would this have ever happened to any of her male counterparts? Certainly not.
Then, if you take the look of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his scruffy hair has become his signature style. But, as exemplified by Angela Merkel, if a woman looked this way, they would be ridiculed and not taken seriously in politics.
Women in politics are held to a different standard than their male colleagues. The fact that people like Angela Merkel have had to define a simple and continuous style so as to bore the public and press to actually listen and write about what she says is mad. It was a smart move by her and has worked in her favour, considering she is the leader of Germany and has been for 15 years, but the fact she had to do this in the first place is a true injustice.
Why should her gender and clothes take focus away from her words and opinions? It shouldn’t. She is simply a successful politician and world leader, who has important things to say – that should be enough.