I recently read an article in the Economist about Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rouseff. While this should be a moment of celebration, especially for women in politics who fight so hard to make it to the top levels of government, it’s frustrating to read that women are so often harshly criticized for their rise to power. While admittedly, I am unfamiliar with the detailed history and intricacies of Brazilian politics, I was shocked read the author’s questioning and subtle support of Rousseff’s critics toward her abilities to be a distinct leader.
From my own reading and brief research about her, she appears to be a competent and an intelligent woman who has been very active politically. She was a part of a left-wing urban military group in the 1960’s that fought against the military dictatorship. Rousseff was captured and jailed between 1970 and 1972 and reportedly tortured. This clearly experienced and powerful woman has been actively involved in politics throughout her career, to name a few as State Secretary of Energy and before her presidential win was Chief of Staff for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president she succeeded.
This particular critic on the Economist’s team further illustrates this the challenges that so many women politicians face– the idea that they are undeserving of their positions. A quote directly from the article “Ms Rousseff will have to convince the doubters that she is not simply Lula in lipstick.” Grossly sexist, critics make her win seem undeserving and her abilities as a leader yet to be proven. In spite of this, Rousseff has not even taken power yet and has not been given the opportunity to prove her abilities to perform in the best interests of Brazilians. But in my humble opinion, she was selected by Brazilians and frankly doesn’t need to prove anything more than anyone else. Others obviously beg to differ–Why? Because she is a woman taking over from a mentor that is a man. Naturally, a man must be running the show, right?
On a secondary, but related note. Rousseff’s win inspired me to find out some other powerful female leaders from other parts of the world…. So, as I did my search –I typed in “women politicians” and “female politicians”. Overwhelmingly the results were dominated by results such as ” Hottest Female Leaders from across the world” or most “beautiful women politicans”. . .
While, I don’t doubt that all, any or some of these politicians are beautiful, it got my gears grinding that, there were so few results for “Powerful Female Leaders” or women leaders that were making change. Shallow much? It’s frankly disenchanting that there is such little respect for women who are in positions of power and who may not be the most beautiful. Hmm, could be too scary of a idea to be both. However, on a more positive note, I did manage to find an excellent compilation article, which was actually about action, capability and achievement of the “Top Ten Female Politicans from around the world” (and not specifically about their appearance, ugh.) A special mention here, third on the list is Dilma Rousseff who said following her victory in Brazil’s election “I would like parents who have daughters to look straight in their eyes and tell them: ‘Yes, a woman can,’’. Dilma Rousseff and these other politically powerful women serve as broad and varying examples of women who come from all walks of life and have contributed and continue to contribute to politics. Thus far, these women broken down through the glass ceilings in politics and risen to be leaders of their countries . Finally, something encouraging.
We here at Equal Voice UOttawa have a lot of work to do here in Canada toward promoting women in politics. We’re working toward breaking down barriers, providing the resources and tools women need to have not only a role in politics, but also vie for the most powerful roles in politics …. Because ultimately, in the words of Rousseff, “Yes, a woman can!”
Here’s a quick reminder of what EV UOttawa has going on…
Tonight, Tuesday, November 16 is YOUNG WOMEN IN POLITICS: Speakers Panel and Round Robin from 7:00pm – 9:30pm at the University of Ottawa in Desmarais Building – Room 12102
Next week — Wednesday, November 24 from 7:00pm – 10:00pm Equal Voice’s present’s “Will She Run?” in Cafe Alt
An event with the goal of inspiring young women at UOttawa to run in the 2011- 2012 campus elections.
Be sure to get out there and support women in politics or learn how you can get directly involved!