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Video Digest: January 18, 2008

When female politicians are pinched on the cheek, a review seems in order of women leaders who drew controversy. Meave Gallagher reviews the pack.

Lately, it’s become serious punishment to follow presidential politics in the U.S. Why? Misogyny. Hillary Clinton’s big, bold run for president, and her nerve to be successful at it, has made it OK for jerks of all stripes to unleash their latent woman-hating. Allow me to indulge in some righteous feminist wrath for just a moment: You jerks are spoiling the discussion for everyone else. I can’t read political blogs anymore because of all the “Hillary is a dumb [nasty epithet], she is robotic, she is too emotional,” etc. ad nauseum. What year is this?

With all the awful things said about her, not just her political career but her personal life and her looks, it’s worth repeating the age-old question: What do they have to do with her ability to lead? Is it any wonder Hillary got a little verklempt last week?

Leader of the Hillary Hate Brigade, Chris Matthews, and the cheek pinch heard ‘round the world—I am impressed that Hillary handled this insulting gesture with such dignity and aplomb. Watching it, I yelled and threw a shoe across the room.

Even more controversial than Sen. Clinton was a woman who never officially held political office, the First Lady of Argentina, Eva Perón. Controversy aside, she remains a beloved figure, and she was able to organize Argentine women into a real, powerful political party; the last election she lived to see was the first in which they were allowed to vote. Here she is during her “Rainbow Tour” of Europe in 1947.

Unfortunately, there weren’t many YouTube videos in English of Golda Meir, the first female prime minister of Israel, other than this conversation between her and Barbra in 1978. Meir was another controversial political figure, but then again, who isn’t? The forgotten ones.

Remember the history of Liberia? Colonized by the U.S. for freed slaves in 1822, and officially declared the Republic of Liberia on July 26, 1847, by the Americo-Liberian settlers? More recently, the country was torn to pieces by two civil wars, and Charles Taylor’s “presidency” from 1997 to 2003. While child-soldier-recruiting, ethnic-conflict-creating warlord Taylor stands trial for crimes against humanity, Liberia’s first woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has made massive headway in repairing the damages. Here, the “Iron Lady of Liberia” discusses her plans for the country’s future.

I asked a political activist friend of mine what modern lady political leaders she particularly admired; she said “Madeleine Albright” immediately, and I have to agree. The first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, she was fearless when it came to achieving her goals, which she did, unapologetically. I would advise Hillary to have a nice long chat with Ms. Albright about image and politics, if she wants help from someone with guts.

Ireland’s first woman president was Mary Robinson, whose platform in the 1970s included the legal availability of contraception, which was so unpopular when she first introduced the initiative in the Senate, no one would second it and it died without discussion. Who would’ve thought that in 1990 she would successfully run for president of a country of Irish Catholics? The work she’s done is admirable, and internationally recognized; I respond (again), there are far worse names to be called than “controversial.”

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