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Masum Momaya, Curator
Masum Momaya, Curator
Estados Unidos

Pregnant & Powerful(?)

Recently, Spain's Prime Minister Zapatero appointed a visibly pregnant woman, Carme Chacon, to the post of Defense Minister. Newspapers all over the world displayed photographs of the visibly pregnant Chacon inspecting the troops as part of one of her first official duties. Accompanying articles speculated on whether Zapatero was trying to make a statement about gender equity, whether she was qualified, and whether she would take her full allotment of parental leave, leaving the military in a precarious position. Would these questions have been asked of a man with a pregnant female partner? Does the visibly pregnant body leave a woman leader vulnerable to attack?

Spanish Defense Minister Carme Chacon Inspecting the Troops (Bernat Armangue/The Associated Press)

Of course it leaves a pregnant woman vulnerable to an attack. What Carme Chacon essentially did here was to completely break the norms set by our image of the nuclear family. By being pregnant, taking an official office, and then looking so damn confident about it; she made quite a few old patriarchs nervous. I absolutely love that she is sending a clear and distinguishable signal: That a pregnant woman in any office should be as normal as an old white man for president used to be.

Wangui Banks
Wangui Banks
Estados Unidos

It is not unusual for women around the world to work until the moment they go into labor and then to resume work soon after the child's birth. I think this is a possibiblity with the right plan and support system in place.
Whether this is the ideal situation for all parties involved is the real question.
One thing is for sure, she must be uber qualified to have been appointed under these circumstances.

Masum Momaya, Curator
Masum Momaya, Curator
Estados Unidos

"Qualified:

So actually some commentators were arguing that she was not qualified but that Zapatero was making a statement. One commentator wrote:

"The naming of Carme Chacon as Spain’s Minister of Defense has nothing to do with her qualifications, and everything to do with Socialist President Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero’s obsession with quotas. Besides being a woman, Carmen Chacon is from Catalonia, the autonomous community that was the key to President Zapatero’s recent reelection. In an informal poll by La Vanguardia, Catalonia’s leading newspaper, 61 percent of respondents said that Ms. Chacon would not make a good Minister of Defense. President Zapatero has done a disservice to women by choosing a candidate who is unqualified to lead Spain’s armed forces."

There are many places in the world where unqualified candidates are appointed to top level positions.

IF this is true in the case of Chacon, is it a disservice to women, as the commentator has suggested?

The right direction...

In this case I think the commentator means that if Chacon as the minister of defense does a real bad job, then it will damage the image of women in public office.

But whether or whether not she is chosen for the job for the wrong or the right reasons, the fact that a pregnant woman will now be the minister of defense is then at least a symbolic step towards what we want to see more of.

However, I think commentators should wait to play the gender-card until we've seen how she actually keeps up in her new job!

Carme Chacon (The Washington Post)
patrick o'heffernan
patrick o'heffernan
Estados Unidos

PhD

I didn't notice that Angelina Joile's latest movie box officewas hurt by her pregnancy...but that is off the point. Who better than a pregnant women to want a peaceful future, which, unfortunately, includes military force to keep the bad guys in line.

Masum Momaya, Curator
Masum Momaya, Curator
Estados Unidos

Pregnant U.S. Politician

Do you think a pregnant woman could get elected or appointed to any high office in the United States?

How do you define "high office"? I don't think that today a pregnant woman could get elected to the office of governor or higher, but I'm not so sure on appointed.

I lived in Massachusetts when Jane Swift was Governor and pregnant (she had been Lt Governor, and replaced Paul Celluci when he left office), and she was actively made fun of. Of course, some of that wasn't uncalled for. For example, it is not cool to have state aides babysit your children. But the level of dislike for her was probably higher than it would have been for a man in that situation, even in liberal Massachusetts.

Wangui Banks
Wangui Banks
Estados Unidos

Masum, I think it is possible in more liberal states. It really has to do with the woman's attitude and personality. Whether she is more of a Madeleine Albright/Thatcher type. You KNOW they will get the job done regardless of what goes on in their personal lives.

Masum Momaya, Curator
Masum Momaya, Curator
Estados Unidos

Personality Obscures Systemic Flaws

While it makes sense that a woman's attitude, personality and behavior would influence how people her treat pregnancy and child-rearing responsibilities, explaining it using ONLY these factors obscures the fact that we still treat figuring out what to do with one's childrearing as a personal and individual "problem" rather than a societal responsibility. Women nowadays who have children and are in the paid work force feel very stressed about juggling work and family.

pregnancy and the military

Hi Masum, this is an interesting discussion thread. Given how the military and the nation state are deeply patriarchal concepts and entities, there is little positive in adding/including pregnant women as one more kind of military leader. We need to challenge the military and de-militarize instead of adding permutations of folks who haven't made it to the top - disabled people comes to mind. just some food for thought...

Jane Whitfield
Jane Whitfield
Estados Unidos

No, but apparently a mother of five can be nominated for Vice President which is amazing!

Masum Momaya, Curator
Masum Momaya, Curator
Estados Unidos

Palin's Child with Down Syndrome

And how do people feel about questions being posed as to whether Sarah Palin is neglecting her five children, including her child with down syndrome, by running for office? Is it important for her to publicly speak to how she would balance being a parent with being a high-ranking public official? And would such questions be asked of a male candidate? Should such questions be asked of a male candidate?

jules
jules
Australia

the difference I see

is not that she is pregnant but that she is powerful. Few people are that concerned about the effects of pregnancy and motherhood on poor working class women's employment. That it is mentioned women work up to birth and go back to work soon after giving birth explains the strength of women - it doesnt address mortality rates in those women and their babies.

I think the issue is more that she is in a position of power than she is pregnant.

All pregnant women are vulnerable to attack.One of the leading causes of death of pregnant women is attack by an intimate male family member.

esme
esme
Estados Unidos

Questioning a woman's work/life balance.

I think the only reason that the work/life balance is mostly addressed to women is that women still bear the brunt of the domestic/personal sphere. It is not addressed to men as much because it is not often questioned whether work affects their ability to be good caretakers at home. And if it does hamper their ability to be good parents/husbands/caretakers, then it is traditionally expected that the woman-partner gathers the loose ends. This still happens even tho both man and woman may work outside the home. THe truth is that women are incredibly strong, physically and emotionally; we truly hold our fragile society together. The question of balance is that of an underlying fear of accountability -that women will start demanding more accountability from men at home and in the workplace so that it's not a question of their individual ability to "balance" what should be the project of mutual partnership and cooperation.

Sonia
Sonia
Canadá

Bravo esme

That is exactly the point. Whatever is not asked of a man with a pregnant female partner and is asked of a pregnant woman is caused by the previously existing gender imbalance between responsibilities at home and in the professional environment. The more this imbalance gets settled the more we will see these examples at any level of power.

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