The gauntlet of politics for women in Greece

The gauntlet of politics for women in Greece

New Zealand is a country where its prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, stepped down at the age of 43 because she has “no energy to seek re-election” and because “it’s time.” Greece is the country of “do you know who I am? I wear the pants” (Antonis Samaras in the tumultuous year of 2012).

So, little surprise that there are 62 women and 238 men in Parliament. Next time there will be more thanks to SYRIZA’s law of 50-50 representation, which is no solution but is, at least, an acknowledgement of the problem.

Politics is a tough act for women. It’s a little easier for daughters and granddaughters inheriting the role, for women who are beautiful, rich or have powerful friends, women who are famous or well-known in the media circuit. Otherwise, they have to come from the leader’s close circle, to have made the rounds with him. Or they have a lengthy record – and therefore a mechanism – within a specific political party.

They definitely need to want it a lot. The chase of the vote is a painful process; it’s a game played in the home, in church, at farmers’ markets and municipal events, and, of course, on television – all day, every day. That means that you need to have help if you have kids, and the complete support of your partner. If you do manage to get elected, you need to be prepared to see yourself being featured in reports about the best- and worst-dressed women in Parliament. You need to laugh it off when a camera is trained on your chest (as was the case with Olga Kefalogianni) or you’re bullied for making an appearance without putting on your makeup (like Efi Achtsioglou). Being photogenic has its perks, as it did for erstwhile media darling Eva Kaili until she was imprisoned. You certainly won’t be named defense minister, but you may be given a seat in the cabinet for “symbolic” reasons.

If you’re elected because of the quotas, your male competitors will say all sorts of things and you will feel bad about being on the party’s central committee by virtue of your gender, taking the seat from someone who had more votes.

And no matter how high you climb the political ladder, you will never be free from sexism. Fofi Gennimata was the president of one of the country’s biggest political parties, yet she still had to listen to quips that she was at the hair salon instead of Parliament.

The worst that can happen, however, is that you start to emulate male behaviors and attitudes to survive the fray – and not have someone like Jacinda Ardern as your role model, but your many, many colleagues who refuse to head to the exit door even when they’re being pushed.

Aggeliki Spanou is a journalist and a writer.

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