Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Czech these out

Who'd want to be a woman in politics? You're either portrayed as a gargoyle-faced ball-buster or a featherweight filly, and no-one ever comments on your voting history without a reference to your hemlines and heels.

In the 117 years since New Zealand first gave them vote, politically minded women have come a long way - and yet they're still judged predominantly on their appearance. Even in a seemingly progressive society like ours, the press can't help but categorise female politicians according to their gender rather than their policies.

In recent years their focus may have shifted from Blair's Babes to Cameron's Cuties, but journalists are still more interested in what's in these women's pants than what's in their heads. So it's interesting to see the media reaction to a new calendar published in the Czech Republic, designed to highlight the growing presence of women in the country's politics.

Female members of the Czech Public Affairs party have agreed to pose for a charity calendar in a series of provocative poses, following the recent election in which a record 44 women were voted into the 200-seat lower house of the Czech parliament. According to Marketa Reedova, a candidate in the mayoral race for Prague, "Women's political influence is growing. Why not show we are women who aren't afraid of being sexy? Czechs are open-minded."

Whether they're reclining on a bed holding a dog, climbing on a vanity unit clutching a toothbrush or painting their toenails on a windowsill, they're all very comfortable in the unforgiving gaze of the camera lens. It's hard to picture Margaret Beckett or Theresa May lolling around in a soapy bathtub to raise money for charity.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone's happy about these liberated women striking a blow for female empowerment. Critics are concerned that the calendar will simply reinforce stereotypes, although they fail to mention which specific stereotypes are in question.

The Mail's coverage of the story quotes Zuzana Graczova, a human resources manager at Brain Logistics (no, me neither), who said these women "should be presenting themselves by showing what they want to achieve, not by showing off their looks." Because we all know how exciting a calendar about healthcare reform and immigration policy would be.

Still, it's nice to know that the Daily Mail readers are here to remind us exactly which stereotypes Zuzana has in mind. The comments section underneath the story shows exactly what negative views people have about attractive female politicians, and it makes for pretty depressing reading.

Audrey says "who is going to take them seriously - they are setting back women by about 30 years!" Ana in London adds "They look as daft as they obviously are clueless." And Carrie from Bristol comments "I hope these women are booted out of politics. How stupid are they??? These women make Harriet Harman look like Einstein."

Interestingly, all of these lazy stereotypes and disgusted responses have been posted by women. Women who profess to be concerned about the way that their fellow 'sisters' are portrayed and perceived. And yet they're willing to overlook people's professional accomplishments and judge purely on appearances.

It's going to take a lot to shift some of these deeply ingrained prejudices. Maybe it's time for Anne Widdecombe to draw a nice foamy bath and invite the photographers in.

1 comment:

  1. "Maybe it's time for Anne Widdecombe to draw a nice foamy bath and invite the photographers in."

    Well that's put me right off my breakfast!

    Given that we apparently now have so many gays in the UK cabinet, my money's on a special 'naked' issue of Attitude...