Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Female Politicians Should be Well-Dressed

In light of the terrific news that two American journalists jailed since March 2009 on in North Korea have been finally released, I wanted to point out the role gender has played in diplomacy with North Korea over the past few weeks.

After North Korea conducted seven missile tests and one nuclear device test in the past few months and sketchily handed down 12-year prison sentences for reporters Euna Lee and Laura Ling, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had harsh words for the reculsive communist state's leaders, likening them to “small children and unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention."


n response, the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman should logically focus on opposing Clinton’s argument or policy, right? Well, that wasn’t exactly his tactic:

“Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping.”

Also, don’t forget that this poorly-dressed woman is “by no means intelligent” and a “funny lady.” I just wonder if he means funny “ha-ha” or funny “strange.”

And isn’t it funny (strange) that the male half of the Clinton powerhouse, Hillary’s partner and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, was accepted along with a personal envoy days after these comments were made, to have talks about securing Lee and Ling’s release, and that the effort was successful? The stories I’ve seen report that Bill Clinton was acting as a private citizen, and that the talks were only about Lee and Ling, but some have speculated that a former president’s visit was, to Kim Jong-il, an affirmation of his power near the end of his reign.

As atypical a political figure as Hillary Clinton may be, it seems that in this diplomatic situation, a whole lot boiled down to gender and male ego. Some politicos are even speculating that nuclear testing or other issues may have come up in the talks--subjects that fall squarely under Hillary Clinton's authority as secretary of state.

But how was our former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, also a woman, talked about by North Korean leaders? In 2005, Rice was described as “no more than an official of the most tyrannical dictatorial state in the world. Such woman bereft of any political logic is not the one to be dealt with by us [sic].” Rice had described North Korea as an “outpost of tyranny.”

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