Argentine president’s gender card wears thin

July 31, 2009

 Since she became Argentina’s first elected female president at the end of 2007, Cristina Fernandez has often complained that things are tougher for her because she is a woman.

 Some analysts and historians say that while women in power do face sexism, Fernandez’s frequent playing of the gender card can be detrimental because it emphasizes a perceived position of weakness.

Only a few months after taking office,  Fernandez got into a messy conflict with farmers over taxes, which did lasting damage to her approval ratings.

“It is harder because I’m a woman,” Fernandez said frequently during the farm dispute, which persists more than a year after it began.

In one speech, she said she had committed two sins that explained the ferocity of the attacks against her and her government: first, winning office with lots of votes and second, being a woman.

Since her party was defeated in a June midterm election, the president has kept using the gender issue as sort of a safe-conduct pass.

Last Friday, when she arrived half an hour late to a South American summit in Asuncion, Paraguay, she complained that the media unfairly pick on her when she is late.

“I’ve attended three international summits in which men arrived late and we had to wait for them for half an hour and nobody reported that story,” said Fernandez, who followed her husband, Nestor Kirchner, into the presidency.

Women in power are often more closely observed than men regarding their looks, emotions and families, and Fernandez is no exception. Even prestigious media outlets in Argentina have criticized her makeup and hair, and during her campaign for election she denied reports that she had had cosmetic surgery. She has also been critized for tearing up during speeches or having a masculine attitude. Her inauguration outfit was scrutinized and criticized for copying Spain’s Princess Leticia.

In neighboring Chile, President Michelle Bachelet was said to have too masculine a style, and when she was campaigning there was media speculation over whether she could combine the presidency with raising her children as a single parent. She complained about machismo in the political system when she took office and said women were judged differently from men. But nowadays, with her popularity high, she has been silent on the gender issue.

German Chancellor  Angela Merkel has never blamed gender for bad treatment, although her clothes and a low-cut dress she wore to the opera have been criticized.

German media sometimes refer to her as Angie, an informality that Fernandez also faces. Newspapers often call her “Cristina,” although no male president has ever been referred to by his first name.

PHOTO CREDIT- Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner waves (2nd L) during a group photo at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain April 19, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

One comment

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Dont worry, we have the same thing with Obama, exept hes a man.

Posted by Ian | Report as abusive