The new Spanish Defense Minister and the Zapatero government’s policy… April 25, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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.