Not long ago, 34-year-old Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin was interviewed by Trendi magazine and posed for photographs wearing a black blazer with apparently nothing underneath except a necklace in the plunging neckline. This style is nothing new on the red carpet of an awards show, but a national leader dressed like that causes quite a stir.
By contrast, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) always wears a clean-cut suit with strong lines in relatively neutral colors.
When she was running for election as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairwoman and president, DPP political heavyweight Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏) repeatedly asked whether the party should put its future in the hands of an unmarried woman, and said that “someone in a skirt” was inappropriate to serve as commander-in-chief.
Is being married a guarantee that someone can handle national and international affairs?
In modern history, key positions, such as national leaders and supreme commanders, have mostly been monopolized by men. Despite the perhaps unruffled, imposing and gallant figures they cut, have men brought peace and harmony to the world?
After Marin’s photographs were published in the fashion magazine, conservatives criticized her outfit saying that was likely to damage her political credibility.
Some even discussed how much people would pay for membership to a pornographic Web site that featured photo spreads of her.
Although the number of female national leaders is on the rise, many still expect them to have a masculine look. Once a woman, whether a star or a politician, reveals a more sexual aspect of her body, conservatives immediately sexualize her and diminish her value as a talented woman by reducing her to a sex object.
However, Marin’s supporters have been posting images of themselves in blazers with nothing underneath on social media with the #imwithsanna hashtag as a show of solidarity and to support her effort to break a patriarchal gender stereotype.
The case of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reveals how society struggles with this issue.
When Ma displayed his male charm and mature manliness by exposing his chest muscles and wearing swimming trunks, did people question his political credibility?
Ma and Marin both presented their bodies in outfits that fell outside of political norms, but why was only the female politician labeled “untrustworthy”?
What Marin has encountered is the misogyny complex, which to this day is present almost everywhere. Misogyny is not limited to men — some women have internalized patriarchal thinking, with disgust for, and censorship of, other women.
When women are unwilling to abide by pre-established gender norms — to be obedient and act like “good women” — or unwilling to take the initiative to conceal their femininity in a male-dominated public domain, they are viewed as unqualified.
Marin’s challenge is that she has become a “magic mirror” for revealing misogyny.
Yang Chia-hsien is a managing director of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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