jump to navigation

The new Spanish Defense Minister and the Zapatero government’s policy… April 25, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
trackback

The Spanish Socialists have a fascinating job on their hand dealing with issues – particularly on the progressive social side – which are now considered settled elsewhere. Yet in doing so they have, to my mind, pointed up just how inconsistent and in some respects shallow the dispensations are in other countries.

Therefore there was something rather heartening about seeing the new, and visibly pregnant, Defense Minister, Carme Chacon, reviewing the troops in Madrid a week or so ago. Zapatero has been very clear in promoting women into positions of power, and the gender based majority, in his Cabinet. Some of his closest advisors are women and there is, whatever else about the Spanish Socialist programme, a refreshing aspect to this.

And consider the following

Although women’s rights advocates have hailed Chacon’s appointment, some conservatives have raised objections. A group of retired officers criticized her lack of military background while insisting her pregnancy was not a problem.

Well, I guess it’s an argument. But in a democracy I can’t for the life of me see why a military background would per se be a necessity to be Defense Minister. Indeed, quite the opposite in some regards. Chacon herself said as much:

“The fact that a woman is taking over responsibility for the Defense Ministry is proof of integration between Spanish society and its armed forces,”

Not an inconsequential thing in a society run by a corporatist dictatorship well within living memory. That she is pregnant adds a certain element of – to my mind specious – cover to more conservative narratives. Some question as to whether a pregnant woman, entitled to maternity leave of 16 weeks, can act as Minister. Interesting to see how Chacon crosses that particular bridge, but surely a military in a democracy is subject to a collective cabinet authority, so the idea that she will somehow weaken the operation of that seems unlikely.

Meanwhile last week she visited Spanish troops in Afghanistan. She was accompanied by her gynecologist and a medical team according to various news reports. This, a mere six days after her appointment. Now obviously few enough women have that level of expertise accompany them during a pregnancy, but, that in itself is an interesting cause for reflection upon the structures that still are extant in our societies (and of particular food for thought as regards the societal rhetoric as to these matters, as against the reality of the service provision – which might indeed be the method to her actions, and indeed those of Zapatero). After all, why should a woman in the context of a healthy pregnancy be forced to step down from her role – and consider too the situation of many women whose pregnancies are impacted by economic circumstances which allow no choice as to how they can act.

Nor is Chacon an isolated aspect of the government’s policy on these matters:

Chacon is now one of the most visible members of a government that has enacted sweeping social legislation designed to rid traditionally male-dominated Spain of gender discrimination.

It legalized gay marriage, streamlined divorce procedures, forced political parties to field more female candidates and passed a law designed to promote women in the workplace and pressure companies to put more of them in their boardrooms.

Not bad going, all things considered. A lot to think about there for progressives.

About these ads

Comments»

1. ejh - April 25, 2008

Meanwhile the opposition is in some disarray, with Rajoy having invited his challenger, Aguirre, to leave the party. She’s a hard-right economics, liberal-social-policies type so it won’t surprise anybody to learn that she’s:

(a) from the capital city
(b) incredibly smug.

Like

2. Michael Taft - April 25, 2008

Irish progressives should study that photograph in depth for it conveys more in image than so much print, statements parliamentary speeches and static portraits ever could. First, tell the story. Second, tell it imaginatively and provocatively. Third, tell it directly. This image does all three and I can only imagine the impact it has had in Spain. When progressive here seek to win over people to a new way of conducting politics, we should learn from this and find a new way of expressing that politics. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand manifestos.

Like

3. John Green - April 25, 2008

I see she’s decided Defence Ministry staff can’t surf the net any more at work looking for footie results. Can they still get CLR?

Like

4. ejh - April 25, 2008

Not if it continues to mess about like it is at the moment. Is anybody else having problems?

Like

5. Garibaldy - April 25, 2008

Yeah. Having to cancel some script or something each time.

Like

6. Joe - April 25, 2008

Meanwhile last week she visited Spanish troops in Afghanistan. She was accompanied by her gynecologist and a medical team according to various news reports.

Hmmm. I’m trying to work out whether my knee-jerk reaction to that is sexist or not. The knee-jerk reaction being that the Minister gets a gynae and medical team full-time looking after her for a few days while the working-class pregnant women back home probably queue and are lucky to see a gynae for 10 mins? Not a good socialist divvy out of the resources imho. But would I have a similar knee-jerk if the minister was male? Aaargh!

Like

7. Claire - April 25, 2008

Joe I thought that too. It’s absolutely true that she can only do what she’s doing because she is very privileged and very lucky. BUT that only means that we shouldn’t be shaking a finger at every other pregnant woman out there: ‘If she can do it, why are you complaining about discrimination?’ And that we should hope that everybody gets the same opportunities.

The thought occurs – surely her gynecologist accompanying her is as natural and unobjectionable as David Blunkett’s guide dog accompanying him? (Not to compare the good doctor to an animal, but you get my point). Blunkett’s disability certainly cost his Ministry as much or more accommodating it as her pregnancy will. So what?

This is what a representative government is – it’s like people, and people have disabilities. The most efficient parliament would no doubt be made up of single young men without hobbies or extended families, and it would be cheaper to run, but it would not look much like the country it was supposed to represent.

Like

8. ejh - April 25, 2008

The most efficient parliament would no doubt be made up of single young men without hobbies or extended families

When the libertarians come to power…

Like

9. EWI - April 25, 2008

Irish progressives should study that photograph in depth for it conveys more in image than so much print, statements parliamentary speeches and static portraits ever could.

I’m thinking that the Irish Times needs to get the thumb out and get some shots of Mary Coughlan on the front page. How many years is it since the IT had a memorable front-page sexy portrait of Liz O’Donnell on the mobile at Stormont?

(To my shame, I never scanned and archived that.)

On a serious note, I don’t see what the fuss is about for a female Defence Minister, other than in a peculiarly Spanish context of their military reserving to itself what amounts to a presence within cabinet by way of “ex”-military Defence Ministers.

And in states where there’s proper civil control of militaries, having a Defence Minister (or indeed Prime MInister) who’s not in love with the idea of the will-o-the-whisp of military ‘solutions’ to political problems. There’s more than enough of that enthusiasm likely to come from the military side – which is why civilian control is so important.

p.s. some of our own recent male Ministers for Defence have themselves been thunderin’ disgraces.

Like

10. Garibaldy - April 25, 2008

As have senior officers in the army making political pronuncements.

Like

11. Garibaldy - April 25, 2008

Problems seems to be with all the wordpress blogs I’ve looked at

Like

12. WorldbyStorm - April 26, 2008

ejh, again you make me laugh out loud. Damn you!!! (shakes fist)…

EWI, I know what you’re saying but Spain is different, and yet… weirdly, more radical than much of Europe.

I think Michael gets to the heart of the matter when he points to the image. It is fascinating and important…

I like the name Carmé…

Like

13. Eagle - April 26, 2008

Funny. I was expecting that you’d talk about what to me is the oddest thing about her appointment: that she’s a pacifist. Pregnant and no military experience are completely irrelevant. As you say, no military experience is not an issue at all in a democracy where the military is subject to civilian control. And I’m sure there is sufficient back-up to ensure that when she needs her time off after the birth of the baby that the Spanish government will cope.

But, I would have thought it might be at least a little problematic to have a pragmatist in charge of the military.

Like

14. WorldbyStorm - April 26, 2008

Well, I’m not one, and I tend to agree with you that it should make for an interesting time. But, if she respects them, as she clearly did at the salute, and goes out to visit them in Afghanistan, then clearly she’s able to differentiate between her personal views and her obligations and duties as a Minister in the Spanish government. Frankly I’d prefer a pacifist Irish Minister of Defence who actually respected our own Defence Forces rather than some of the grandstanding pols who have tried to use the DFs cachet to further their image….

Like

15. EWI - April 26, 2008

But, I would have thought it might be at least a little problematic to have a pragmatist in charge of the military.

In the context of civilian control of the military – which I hope everyone agrees is a good thing – it’s a plus. As I say, there’s more than enough testosterone coming rom the military side, especially from some of the officer corps of these public servants out to make their careers (Iraq? Yippee!).

Like

16. EWI - April 26, 2008

EWI, I know what you’re saying but Spain is different, and yet… weirdly, more radical than much of Europe.

Well, yes. I mean, civil war in the last century on ideological grounds and such.

Like

17. EWI - April 26, 2008

As have senior officers in the army making political pronuncements.

Garibaldy, are you referring to the recent sustained media campaign on Chad?

Like

18. WorldbyStorm - April 26, 2008

Completely agree EWI.

Like

19. Garibaldy - April 26, 2008

EWI,

Goes back before that. Stuff around the run up to the 1916 commeoration talking about how there should be an enlarged role for the army in public life. Th army should keep its mouth shut on such matters.

Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,412 other followers

%d bloggers like this: