A piece in today’s Times:
Each year, shortly after dawn on the first Sunday of July, a thousand men plunge into the brook that runs through the Bavarian town of Memmingen and try to scoop up trout in their old-fashioned hand nets.
The man who catches the heaviest fish becomes the “fisher-king”. But in the 554 years of the folk festival’s history there has never been a fisher-queen. Women are strictly excluded from taking part.
The Memmingen fishermen’s club may soon be compelled to give up its men-only entry policy by a legal challenge that could set a precedent for a rush of similar claims.
The lawsuit is a cause célèbre in a broader struggle to secure German women the right to take part in their country’s traditions, in the face of sexist tirades, poison-pen letters to local newspapers and even threats of physical violence. The backlash has been so hostile that the woman taking the fishermen to court has declined to be publicly named.
She is being represented by Susann Bräcklein, a prominent lawyer who this year tried without success to force the Berlin boys’ choir to accept a nine-year-old girl. It successfully argued that its right to “artistic freedom” trumped the girl’s right to gender equality. The fishermen’s club is expected to argue that as a private society with little influence over anything beyond Memmingen’s trout population, it is exempt from Germany’s anti-discrimination laws.
Dr Bräcklein said that with the rise of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party, whose members have openly attacked feminism, there was a pressing need to protect women’s rights.
“We don’t know exactly where we stand in Germany or which will win out: the defence of equal rights or the preservation of traditions at the cost of equality,” she said.
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