On Sunday, October 31, 2010, Brazil elected their first female president. Since I'm Brazilian and a feminist, a lot of people have asked me if I'm really excited about this. To the surprise of most, I have responded, "Would you be excited if your country was being run by a fascist Sarah Palin-meets-Margaret Thatcher type?" Admittedly, it is a very harsh comparison, but allow me to explain.
At the start of Dilma Rousseff's campaign, which was the first time the world ever took note of her (much like Palin), if I looked at the facts on paper, then there'd be plenty of reasons to be excited. She is, in fact, a female. She is a leftist, belonging to the "Partido dos Trabalhadoes" (The Worker's Party). She was hand-picked by Brazil's current president, Lula, who has been extremely popular during his eight-year presidency. She wants to build 6,000 new day-cares and pre-schools throughout Brazil. She supported decriminalizing abortion, which would be a huge milestone; currently, a woman can be charged with up to three years in prison for getting an abortion and a doctor can be charged with up to four years for performing an abortion in Brazil.
All this sounds pretty great, doesn't it?
But these "facts" about Dilma Rousseff exist only on paper, if even.
A couple of weeks ago, she retracted her pro-choice statements because they were hurting her campaign, making a written promise not to change Brazil's abortion laws if she were elected and issuing a new claim stating that she values "life" in all its dimensions. (Nothing was said about the 250+ women who die every year in Brazil due to illegal abortion procedures or about the countless women who can never again bear children because their bodies have been unsafely operated upon). Her leftist ideals are questionable, if not dangerously extreme, as she has stated in interviews that she plans to strengthen alliances with Venezuela and Iran, whose politics- let's be honest- are far from being models of democracy. As a former Marxist guerilla and terrorist, she fought the Brazilian Military Dictatorship in the 60's, and was imprisoned several times, which included charges for robbery in order to finance her terrorist campaigns. She has expressed her desire to give the state more control over the economy, especially the oil industry, and increase state intervention in private companies. Mid-campaign, she underwent plastic surgery to "soften" her image, in hopes it would help get her elected; an action which may seem trivial, too personal, and unimportant, but, having grown up in Brazil, I promise you it is no small message for a public figure to be sending to women, who are surrounded by a culture that normalizes plastic surgery and glorifies absurd beauty standards. If this isn't enough to scare you, maybe watching her talk will; she may very well be the next Iron Lady- a title she despises, by the way.
Yes, a woman being elected president for the first time in Brazil is a positive and important move, especially for young women, but, having been a young woman in Brazil, I know that Dilma Rousseff is not the role model we need. I do not look at her and think, "Yes, anything is possible if a woman can be president of Brazil," instead I am shaken with fear for what she will do to my country. Her gender is simply not enough to upstage her controversial, indecisive politics and her hard-edged, dictator-like stance, which leave me distressed about the future of Brazil.
I hope, very much so, that Dilma Rousseff proves me wrong.
Sources: Folha de Sao Paulo, Veja Magazine, articles by Brazilian journalists Marilia Gabriela and Rodrigo Constantino, Brazilian law-school student Gabriela Braga, and several interviews with Brazilian citizens ranging in age, social status, educational background, ethnicities, and political preferences.
PHOTO COURTESY OF: ashdenawards.blogspot.com