The representation of women in power is full of contradictions – from Elizabeth I through to Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton and Theresa May: stereotyped; objectified; masculinised; feminised. The media representation of women politicians continues to reference their appearance, their voices and their supposed ability (or not) to be ‘ball-breakers’.
In her recent book ‘Women and Power: A Manifesto’ Mary Beard notes that the modern trouser-suit-and-heels is an attempt to neutralise this gendered commentary. However, despite their ‘uniform’, Thatcher’s iconic handbag and Theresa May’s kitten heels draw us back to their gender, whether or not a deliberate PR strategy or sexist press angle.
New Zealand has long held a progressive reputation, having been the first country to give women the right to vote in 1893. Now they have a woman prime-minister who is pregnant and will be the first to give birth in office. Will Jacinta Ardern finally change the way women politicians are represented (and choose to represent themselves)?
‘MANifesto’ by Hastings photomontage artist Julia Andrews-Clifford.
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