A Woman’s Touch

Picture 8This pic was making the rounds of social media the other day — have you seen it? It depicts the presidents of Brazil, Chile, Argentina today, and, at bottom, during the 1970s.

It speaks for itself. Right?

I’m not so sure it does — not without a fair bit of help from a viewer.

For I’m not sure why the two photos are juxtaposed — unless, of course, you come to them with a specific set of assumptions about essential gender differences (“Why, if women ran this world…”). Armed with them, then the picture screams significance, I guess, for now there’s a difference that’s worth noticing.

But, while not wishing to suggest that the governing style of anyone in the top photo is comparable to, say, Augusto Pinochet (center bottom, dictator of Chile from 1973-1990) in terms of using violence to advance his political agenda, I do wish to point out that the leader of any modern nation-state — democratically elected or not, man or woman, wearing a uniform or not — not only has considerable control over the means of violence to promote what they can persuade others is in the “national interest” (e.g., although he doesn’t wear a uniform, the U.S. President Obama is “Commander in Chief,” as they phrase it), but has likely also made so many compromises and deals to other powerful interests in order to reach such a position of political influence that s/he hardly represents some idyllic notion of innocence or justice or equality.

So it seems to me that you have to overlook some possibly unpalatable similarities and perpetuate some troublesome notions of gender identity — notions that many women have been fighting to overcome for a long time, no? — in order to “see” a difference so obvious that all you need is to put the two pictures beside each other to produce an effect.

5 Replies to “A Woman’s Touch”

  1. I think several significant point are playing out:: humans marked as female/feminine have yet to reach critical mass in the political sphere in the majority of social bodies -so this image is markedly different than many we see and speaks to changes in the social body..
    As for what feminisms want – there are many kinds – so saying that feminists want this or that is a miss – rather epistemological positions play a significant factor in how gender/sex is read.

    Finally, we see another three contexts where the connection between masculinity and militarism (the warrior) is deployed – this connection was used for a very long time as one means to prevent humans marked as female/feminine from voting.

    So – to my mind a very provocative picture 🙂

    1. Sure, there’s all sorts of things to find similar or different, but I still think it is curious that these three are, presumably, commanders in chief of their nation’s militates whether they wear a uniform or not. That their gender apparently allows us to overlook this — as if the issues many have with the nation-state are suddenly suspended — is to me, troubling, for they seem to get a pass when I can’t imagine their administrations suddenly disbanding their militaries, abolishing private ownership, etc., etc. The ladder merely gets inverted in this model, as I see it, the goal being not to critique power but simply to get access to it.

    1. Indeed–I realize that now: air force, army, and navy, from left to right. I initially though that was Jorge Rafael Videla at the right. But this makes the original photo, juxtaposing the two threesomes all the more interesting then, as does your comment below.

  2. And, for extra historical interest, the president of Argentina from 1974 to 1976 was actually Isabel Peron, the first non-royal female head of state in a Western country (Jiang Qing, aka Madame Mao, was ahead of her in China)

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