When We Are Angela Merkel

Way back in the early years of my career at George Fox University, a colleague (from another department) approached me at a faculty gathering, exchanged a few niceties, and then offered to help me develop my scholarship. He wanted to give me advice about how I might get my first book published, and how I could begin getting my work into academic journals. Given his success as an author, he said, he knew he could help me get going on my own writing.

When we had that conversation, I had already published my first book.

Along with several other articles, in fairly prominent periodicals.

Because I was a young faculty member, and because I wasn’t yet tenured, and because he believed himself the Man About Campus, I thanked him for his gracious offer, and told him I’d connect with him at some point for his advice.

Which is why, when Angela Merkel eye-rolled Vladimir Putin’s mansplaining at a G20 summit meeting several weeks ago, I felt immediate kinship. Just in case you haven’t watched the beauty of that moment 100 times, as I have, here it is:



Most women have been Angela Merkel at one time or another. We may not be the chancellor of Germany, or the leader of the free world, or have a doctorate in physical chemistry, or be conversant in European politics, but we’ve had to stand by while an entitled man—perhaps even an entitled man without our qualifications and experience—explained in detail something we already know.

I can think of several instances, even in the last year, when the Merkel eye roll should have been employed:

  • When, on numerous occasions, a fellow runner in town stopped me on my own training runs to share with me details of an awesome marathon he finished years ago, what his time was, how hard he trained for the only marathon he’s completed, never once asking me about my running history or about the marathons I’ve run. (I’ve done 49.)
  • When a student discounted my authority as an English professor because I hadn’t read Milton since I was an undergraduate, and my interest in contemporary literature and memoir meant I was not adequately trained in the greats of the western canon, despite my doctorate in English.
  • When one of my beloved sons explains to me the plot of an 80s rom-com that I’ve already watched a thousand times, or tells me I don’t know anything about a sport I’ve been doing for 35 years now. (Okay, so maybe all teenagers believe their parents are stupid, but still . . .)

In each of these instances, I simply accepted the lengthy mansplaining, because I am kind and hate confrontation, and because my culture has taught me to listen politely to the male people in my life, even on the occasions when they are patronizing me. Because I am passive-aggressive, though, my internal monologue is far less kind, and I’m often eye-rolling hard in my mind, my serene countenance covering a broiling white-hot rage.

If only I could be like Merkel, though, eye-rolling for all the world to see at the G20 Summit. This was not some kind of mainstream media fake news event, but a prominent leader, telling us—in essence—that after several decades in politics, she has had enough of the mansplaining, and despises being patronized by leaders who lack her credentials and her experience but still treat her as a little woman to be coddled.

Or ignored, as Donald Trump did earlier this spring when, during a visit to the White House, he refused to shake her hand or look her in the eye. That moment, replayed again and again on (Fake!) mainstream media, made me proud.

Proud to be a woman, that is. Not proud to be an American. But I’m sure someone will see fit to explain why I shouldn’t adore Angela Merkel after all. I’ll be waiting, and will have a perfect response.