Women in politics or European calendar girls?

Article published on Aug. 13, 2010
Article published on Aug. 13, 2010
Between German chancellor Angela Merkel's cleavage-unleashing campaign tactics, Czech and Italian ministers posing for calendars and the Slovakian prime minister praising female arms, what is the defining priority for Europe's female politicians - being women, or being politicians?

In an interview published in a Polish newspaper on 23 July, Slovakia's first female prime minister Iveta Radicová was asked whether being a woman 'helped or disturbed a political career'. Clearly a priority question to a new head of a neighbouring country. But the prime minister's answer was even more surprising than the instance of the question itself. According to her, being a woman does make having a political career difficult because one has to overcome the stigma of 'weak women'. However it also makes it easier because 'you can use your arms, your grace, a comprehensive smile and please the male ego.' Does Radicová, circled by admirers, also kiss the foreheads of her ministers to abate the screaming band of machos that they are, before looking deep into the eyes of the finance minister and enquiring after the budget deficit?

The issue gets more comical in the Czech Republic. With 44 women (20%) voted into the lower house of Czech parliament in May 2010, four female MP s of the conservative liberal public affairs party have celebrated by posing in a 2011 calendar. The so-called 'blonde coalition' prove that you can be a woman as well as a politician, as the come-to-bed images of the calendar suggest.

One case where being a calendar girl didn't pay off was Italian integration and gender equality minister Mara Carfagna, who is ultimately known not for her political achievements, but what she might have done for the prime minister to deserve her role in office. Ultimately, it seems that women in politics are caught between being seen as good politicians or being seen as female politicians. Why is it then that male politicians have not felt the urge to pose in underpants, and thereby prove to the nation that they are still men?

Images: main Katerina Klasnova ©bobster855; Merkel and Langsfeld battle it out ©CDU