Eight months ago, Emilia Fester became the youngest member of the Bundestag. In the interview, she talks about arriving in politics, dealing with shitstorms, the unequal treatment of young women and life in public.

This article first appeared on RTL.de

On a Friday in mid-May, Emilia Fester unpacks the last moving bag. A change of clothes goes in the closet, a little decoration on the table. Although she has been a member of the Bundestag for eight months, she has only just gotten her office. She was surprised that things were going so slowly here.

She was also surprised by the mood in Parliament, which not only affected her personally, but also other young women. “Almost always when a young woman spoke, the reaction was so hard, so sharp and so loud,” says the 24-year-old. The etiquette of honoring first speeches was abolished when the many young women moved in. This is also reported by Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt in an interview, who blames the AFD for the misogynistic mood in the Bundestag. “They want to scare us.”

Hatred of politicians online

Not only in parliament – ​​Emilia Fester hated her online too. After her first speech in the Bundestag, the hashtag “Brat” trended. After she was quoted as saying that she was sacrificing her youth for the job – a job that not only involves a lot of work but also brings a lot of money and privileges – the second shit storm followed.

A recently presented Forsa survey commissioned by the State Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia shows that no other group is attacked online as often as politicians. Emilia Fester’s team checks the hate comments, and if there is any doubt, anyone who goes too far will be reported. “They want to scare us,” Fester said of the authors of the hate messages, “if reading it scares you, you should stop reading it.”

Life in public was a change

Being in the public eye is a change. In the first two to three weeks after the election, she gave about 80 interviews as the youngest MP. It was difficult for her to prioritize at first.

Her life has changed: commuting between the constituency and Berlin, responsibility for seven employees, working days of up to 16 hours during session weeks – life as a member of parliament is not compatible with the life that other 24-year-olds usually lead. But Fester thinks it’s important that young people are also represented in parliament, “that there are also those who can report on the life of a young person and represent what this generation needs,” she says. Her focus: youth politics. Her next political goals: enforcing the right to vote at 16 for the European elections, strengthening voluntary services and developing measures for the mental health of young people who have increased fear of the future and disorientation due to the pandemic and the Ukraine war.

Emilia Fester: “We have the right to be represented in the Bundestag”

Emilia Fester not only gets resistance. On the contrary: her parliamentary group, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, supports her and she gets a lot of encouragement – especially from young people. They said she spoke to their hearts. “It helped me to see that I have a right to say this. As a young generation, we have a right to be represented in the Bundestag.”

Saskia Weishaupt, who also joined the Bundestag last fall, agrees that young women are a marginal phenomenon in the Bundestag. You and Emilia Fester live together in a shared flat for MPs. The two meet in Fester’s office and discuss a joint post about friendship in politics. Weishaupt also reports hate online. “For young women, it’s often not about the content at all, but about the outward appearance,” says the 28-year-old.

The two embody the opposite of the old politician cliché of the old man in a suit. They are often not recognized as politicians in the Bundestag – at their workplace – and are constantly asked for their IDs. They usually smile about it, laugh a lot anyway, and despite their criticism of how young women are treated in the Bundestag, seem to like their work as representatives of the people. Put it more firmly: “I like doing it.”