December 8, 2013
The distaff side
While in the rest of the world we have been seeing homophobic outbursts from such diverse leaders as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, Argentina has seen a spate of its own variety of gender-loaded comments which perhaps shed an interesting light on its political system. First and foremost, the gaffe of former first lady and ex-senator Hilda “Chiche” González de Duhalde. Since 2005 when she became yet another example of the entrenched Buenos Aires province party machine’s inability to bring home the vote despite her army of “block ladies” (thus showing that mechanistic theories of political patronage are not only simplistic but insult the poor) she has rarely been in the headlines but on Thursday she ended that obscurity with a vengeance. “Chiche” Duhalde jumped on President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s setbacks in last Sunday’s primaries to suggest that women were emotional rather than rational creatures whose capacity for political office was dubious. The fact that Germany for the last eight years and Argentina for the last six have seen women leaders indisputably heading governments (while Chile’s Michelle Bachelet is a shoo-in to return to power and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff has broken popularity records in the past) would seem quite lost on this female misogynist (if there is such a thing).
The word “misogynist” at least would not be illogical in the case of television journalist Nelson Castro although that Spanish word “machista” would probably be more accurate — just as “Chiche” Duhalde is a reflection of Argentina’s political system, so Castro says something about the level of much of today’s press. In leaning on his medical background to lecture CFK on her “hubris” (which is actually a Greek word from tragic theatre referring to overweening pride and ambition ultimately leading to ruin and not a medical condition, as Castro seemed to imply), his tone came very close to the patronizing theories of 19th century medicine on hysteria. Yet CFK is not the only target of such male chauvinism nor anachronistic theories of hysteria which are also far from being limited to opposition critics. Thus Elisa Carrió, the Lower House hopeful comfortably heading the field in the party with the most votes (UNEN) in this metropolis in last Sunday’s primaries, regularly sees her public stances denigrated as “hysterical” or even “crazy” — criteria which would never be applied to male politicians. And thus denigrated also by Kirchnerites who are now outraged by “Chiche” (or by Clarín) and who should know better.
As we head deeper into the 21st century, no need to lurch back to the Stone Age.