Maria Martin de Almagro

Maria Martin de Almagro is a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge and Assistant Professor in International Affairs at Vesalius College (Belgium). Her research focuses on the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Women, Peace and Security Agenda, with a particular focus on the Great Lakes region in Africa. Her work has been published in the Journal of Modern African Studies, Critical Studies on Security and Recherches Feministes, among others. She can be reached on Twitter @DrMmartind

International Women’s Day: political crisis as windows of opportunity

As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, Spanish women are getting their banners, pickets and hashtags – #yoparo (#Istop) – ready for a feminist general strike. The strike’s motto is “If we stop, the world stops” and it calls for all women to stop all professional activities during the day, all household chores and to restrain from buying anything and spending any money at all. There will also be marches at the end of the day in Spain’s main cities. The women associations who are organising the industrial action indicate that the strike is motivated by the fact that women are still doing the biggest chunk of unpaid labour, are for their most part in precarious jobs, and are paid less for the same job (from 14 to 30% less) in Spain, the glass ceiling and the ubiquitous sexual harassment. They also demand the government to put in place more and better measures for the eradication of sexual and gender-based violence. Strikers also demand public authorities to pass laws that help combat sexism in advertisement and to develop educational programs that teach children about equality and respect.   Continue reading

The legacy of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Why ‘great inspiration’ is not quite enough

A co-authored post by Dr Leena Vastapuu and Dr Maria Martin de Almagro.

The first elected woman head of state in Africa, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has just stepped down from her office in Liberia. Her successor George Weah assumed the position on 22 January 2018.

In a recent interview with CNN entitled “Why Africa owes a debt of gratitude to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf”, President Sirleaf and journalist Chude Jideonwo had the following exchange.

Chude Jideonwo (CJ): You are in your final days as the first female president of an African country. When you step down, there won’t be any more. What does that say to you?  

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (EJS): It tells me that we haven’t worked hard enough for parity, particularly in political participation. It saddens me, to a certain extent, because I represented the breaking of the glass ceiling in Africa. And I think that there are lots of women out there who haven’t quite reach there, but the queue is forming.

CJ: You’ve been a president for 12 years. […] What do you think your gender, your femininity, brought to this particular position, if anything?

EJS: It brought great aspirations. To women, and to girls, in Liberia, in Africa. And going beyond, in my travels in the United States, in Europe and in other places, inevitably there is someone who comes up to me and says: “You’ve inspired me”. Continue reading

The top 5 issues in International Politics for 2018

2017 was not a great year for international politics. The sentence I heard the most during conferences and other academic gatherings was that “the global order is in crisis.” Granted. It all started in 2016 with the victory of Trump, Brexit and the No to the Peace Agreement in Colombia. Nationalist ideologies have nothing but grown in 2017, when the victories of Marine Le Pen in France and of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands all of a sudden seemed plausible. Luckily, they did not materialise. We also had auto-proclaimed nations that demanded independence, such as Catalonia or Kurdistan. To top it all, the far right did win elections in Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. This nationalist move is having consequences across the world. In the Libyan costs migrants are being sold as slaves by smugglers or are locked up in hangars with no access to the most basic needs, after the European Union’s enactment of its policy of helping Libyan authorities intercept people trying to cross the Mediterranean and return them to prison. Continue reading

The ultimate guide to stop procrastination

I must confess. I have not been very productive this last month in the Duck of Minerva. I have been thinking about the topic for my next post and postponing it “till tomorrow”.  I have been procrastinating. Procrastination comes from the Latin pro, meaning “forward, forth, or in favor of,” and crastinus, meaning “of tomorrow”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines procrastination as a postponement, “often with the sense of deferring though indecision, when early action would have been preferable,” or as “defer[ing] action, especially without good reason.” According to psychologist Pychyl, procrastination is fundamentally a visceral, emotional reaction to what you have to do and that you consider hard, boring or overwhelming. Continue reading

On Catalonia’s referendum: Groupthink and strategic essentialism as the enemies of democracy

Last Sunday, I was having a walk around the city centre of Cambridge when I saw a demonstration of around 50 people rallying for their right to vote in a referendum for independence from Spain. They were joining other demonstrations of Catalan separatists that took place all around Europe and in Spain on that same day. The Catalan government and a separatist majority in the regional parliament seek to organise a referendum on October 1st in order to decide whether Catalonia will become a republic independent from the rest of Spain. Non-separatists political parties oppose or criticize the referendum because they consider that it has been imposed unilaterally to half of the Catalan population that wishes to remain in Spain. Continue reading

I can’t identify as a woman! Political discourse and Germany’s general elections campaign

The next US presidential elections are around the corner and the Democrat US President has already announced that he will not run for the Presidency again. He defines himself as pro-choice, and it is now up to the Vice President, a woman, to position herself – and fast – on the issue of women’s rights to abortion. She also needs to propose the maximum number of weeks up to which it is acceptable to have an abortion. Because she is the only woman candidate to the Presidency, her team believes her opinion will be taken seriously by the electorate. The team encourages Selina to start her sentences by “As a woman…” However, the Vice-President knows that focusing too much on gender issues could be a risky strategy:  “No, no, no, I can’t identify as a woman! People can’t know that. Men hate that. And women who hate women hate that, which, I believe, is most women.”

This sequence of the series Veep brilliantly illustrates the challenges of being a woman in politics. You have to do both, to defend your political ideas and to eliminate possible disadvantages you might have derived from the plain fact of being a woman. Selina is not the only example we have about the difficulties of being a woman in politics. In House of Cards, Claire has been labelled as warrior, feminist and anti-heroine for using a national TV interview in which she was questioned about her childless marriage to fight for the causes more dear to her: sexual assault and abortion. But these women have to be careful not only about the words they use. They also need to pay attention to the non-verbal elements of their performance, such as the way they dress or the make-up they wear. Take for example Birgitte Nyborg, from Borgen, who fears that her neckline can make her look frivolous and curvy. All these three scenes explore different angles of the same reality: women in politics are trapped in a sort of bipolarity that makes them resilient and versatile, although it sometimes forces them to operate out of a system of discursive and cognitive frames attached to political parties and ideas.

According to Klenke, the typical masculine leadership style is instrumental and autocratic, as well as task oriented, while the feminine is more interpersonal-oriented, charismatic and democratic. This resonates with Campbell’s research on political communication that identifies a feminine style of discourse characterized by a more personal tone of communication, reliance on personal experiences and anecdotes; inductive structure; prone to invite audiences to participate and to address the audience as peers. In contrast, the masculine style is deductive and uses examples that are not directly related to its listeners. As Dolan demonstrates, stereotypical masculine traits are however still regarded by the public as more important in politics that female traits. Female political leaders then tend to adapt in order to gain voters. For example, a study found that Clinton’s political power grew when she spoke in an increasingly masculine way. Nevertheless, the same study also found that the Democratic partisan stereotypes encouraged different and sometimes conflicting self-representation strategies and therefore, it is fair to wonder whether the discursive strategies for attaining and maintaining power are different for right-wing and left-wing female candidates. As one could conclude from this study and this one, the candidates from conservative parties have it easier to adopt a masculine style. Nevertheless, the majority of these studies have the USA as an example.

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