Friday, May 9, 2008

Power in pink. Or not.

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero made waves last month by appointing the 1st-ever majority woman Cabinet in Spain (above) and, one ventures to guess, just about anywhere else. The new appointments are not entirely pathbreaking given that Zapatero, "a self-proclaimed feminist" elected after the Socialist Party's victory in 1994, had appointed 8 women to his old 16-member Cabinet. And his Vice President was María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, who will retain that post.
New appointees are: Minister of Defense Carme Chacón, who's due to give birth any week; Minister for Equality Bibiana Aído Almagro, the youngest person ever to serve in a Spanish Cabinet; Housing Minister Beatriz Corredor; and Science & Investigation Minister Cristina Garmendia.
To bring the new Cabinet total to 9 women out of 17 members, add these women, each of whom had held office before: Environment Minister Elena Espinosa; Public Administration Minister Elena Salgado; Education, Social Affairs & Sports Minister Mercedes Cabrera; and Transport & Development Minister Magdalena Álvarez.
The reaction of some to this tipping of the male-female balance? A phrase familiar to IntLawGrrls readers:
Too pink.
A Spanish commentator went so far as to deride these ministers as "'inexperienced seamstresses,'" notwithstanding that many have been public servants before, nor that 2, Fernández and Álvarez, hold Ph.D.s.
Criticism's come from outside the country, too, most notably from newly re-elected Italian President Silvio Berlusconi:

'Zapatero has formed a government that is too pink, something that we cannot do in Italy because there is a prevalence of men in politics and it isn't easy to find women who are qualified ... He will have problems leading them. Now he's asked for it.'

That said, Berlusconi himself has just appointed some women to his own new Cabinet -- though the appointments are not quite the 1/3 women that voters expected. While campaigning he'd promised 4 such appointments in a Cabinet of 12 members. But with election came a much larger Cabinet -- 23 members, of whom 4 are women (below). Of those, however, only 2 women are Italian "ministers who merit the name," as a column in London's Guardian put it: new Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini and new Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo. The other 2 are "described as 'ministers without portfolio'" -- and it's reported that 1 of them, Mara Carfagna,

will have a hard job living down her (quite recent) past as a topless model and beauty queen ('Miss Smiles and Songs'). All the more so since Italy's new prime minister has given her responsibility for equal opportunities.

'Nuff said.

(Credits for photo at top and bottom. Thanks to our colleague Anil Kalhan for alerting us to these doings.)

No comments: