Julia Gillard, Erna Solberg, Cristina Kirchner.

What people asked Google about their female leaders

Updated 8:14 AM ET, Fri November 4, 2016

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(CNN)As Hillary Clinton attempts to make history as the first female US president, how might her experience compare to women politicians around the world?

We looked at how people in other countries talked about their female leaders -- both in the 90 days before they were elected, and the 90 days after.
Age, weight, married, earlobes -- these were some of the most popular words people typed into Google as they hurried to find out about the women in charge of their countries.
From Australia to Argentina, the questions give us an insight into local attitudes towards women at the top.


Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard pictured with her predeccesor -- and replacement -- Kevin Rudd.
Julia Gillard became Australia's first female prime minister in dramatic style after successfully challenging then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for the Labour Party leadership in June of 2010.
Overnight, Gillard went from Deputy Prime Minister to leader of the nation -- and online, people scrambled to find out more about the red-haired, unmarried, British-born woman who had swiftly disposed of Rudd.
A few months later, Gillard narrowly won the federal election. But in 2013 she was ousted by the very same person she initially wrested power from -- Rudd.
Why were people asking about Gillard's sexuality? Gillard was one of Australia's few unmarried leaders, and her relationship with hairdresser boyfriend Tim Mathieson drew plenty of media attention.
In 2013 radio shock jock Howard Sattler was fired after repeatedly asking the prime minister if her partner was gay because of his profession.
    "There was this sense in the media that Julia should explain why she was a woman in her 50s who didn't have kids and wasn't married," said David Denemark, professor of political science and international relations at the University of Western Australia.
    "So much attention was paid to her as a female, and not as the nation's leader."
    What do her earlobes have to do with it? When Gillard faced Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott in a televised debate ahead of the 2010 election, it appeared one of the biggest talking points wasn't her policies -- but her "pendulous earlobes."
    Following the debate, thousands of people liked Facebook pages dedicated to Gillard's "epic pouches of skin."
    "Television is famous for being an image-based medium," said Denemark. "And to play on the personality and not the subtleties of policies is easy to do."
    "Most people don't know much about politics, and they rely on the media as their point of access -- and if the media plays to these images then it seems to really emphasize all of that."
    The expert view: "The pre-election Google searches appeared more substantive," said Denemark. "It's a worry that post-election it was all 'earlobes' and 'jokes' and 'partner.'"


    Erna Solberg has been Norway's Prime Minister since 2013.
    Erna Solberg was elected Norway's prime minister in September 2013, the second woman ever to hold the position after Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1981.
    Solberg has been a member of parliament since 1989, and will face her next election in September 2017.
      She earned the nickname "Iron Erna" after tightening immigration rules as a minister in the early 2000s, though in recent years has apparently adopted a more "caring" public persona.
      Norwegians want a leader who stands for them: Politicians flaunting their wealth and superiority probably aren't going to get very far in social democratic Norway -- and Solberg was no different.
      "Norway is a country were equality is highly praised," said Hilde Danielsen, research professor in cultural studies at the Uni Research Rokkan Centre in Bergen.
      "Solberg was representing the Conservative Party, but also had an image as being quite common, definitely not posh," said Danielsen, pointing to a popular newspaper feature in the run-up to the election that showed pictures inside the politician's untidy and unfashionable home.
      But what's the obsession with Solberg's weight? Solberg has never been shy about discussing her weight, and during a TV2 interview in December last year even read out some of the online abuse she had received -- including messages calling her a "fat bastard."
      "Solberg seems comfortable in her body and makes jokes about her weight even in parliamentary debates," said Danielsen, adding that while Solberg's size was in the public eye, it didn't dominate headlines.
      "Female politicians in Norway are generally respected, and we have had a history of many public female politicians since the 1980s," she continued.
      "However we still see a greater interest in their family life compared to male politicians, and the focus on looks and appearance is probably bigger now than it used to be in the 1990s."
      The expert view: "Since her election, Solberg has been seen more and more as a mother of the nation, parallel to Angela Merkel's position in Germany," said Danielsen.


      Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner pictured with husband a political predecessor Nestor Kirchner.
      Cristina Fernández de Kirchner became Argentina's first elected female president in October 2007, and was reelected for a second term in October 2011.
        Her predecessor and husband Nestor Kirchner loomed large in her political career until his death from a heart attack in 2010.
        Since leaving office in 2015, Cristina has been the focus of various corruption investigations -- which she denies.
        Why don't people know Mrs Kirchner's name? Cristina's husband Nestor was president of Argentina from 2003 to 2007, and some political analysts say his wife rose to power on the back of his name.
        "It was very difficult to avoid the derogatory construction of Cristina Fernandez as the 'wife of Kirchner,'" explained Jane L. Christie, author of "Negotiating Gendered Discourses: Michelle Bachelet and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner."
        "Many positioned Nestor Kirchner as her authoritative patron, and constructed him as an almost paternal figure who had delegated power to his wife."
        That said, Argentina also has a history of women leaders (Isabel Peron served as president in 1974, though was not elected by the people), and the country has gender quotas to increase female representation in parliament.
        Why did a "fotoblog" get people talking? Those wanting an insight into Argentina's first family were granted behind-the-scenes access thanks to their teenage daughter's blog.
        Florencia Kirchner, who also went by the online name "Florkey," posted images messing about with her friends, interviewed herself, and included backstage photographs of her mom's presidential inauguration.
        While the site raised eyebrows in the local press for its perceived vulgarity, it also drew many fans who described Florkey as "just an ordinary teenager trying to enjoy herself."
        The expert view: "There was a mixed perception of continuation and change surrounding Cristina," explained Christie.
          "Some anticipated the continuation of her husband's politics," she said. "At the same time, she was constructed as the face of newness, a break from a long history of male political leaders."


          In Australia, the focus on Gillard's appearance dramatically increased once she became prime minister.
          While in Norway, Solberg's policies were scrutinized as fiercely as her weight.
          And in Argentina, Kirchner struggled to step out of the shadow of first her political heavyweight husband, and then social media sensation daughter.
          "Some of these questions are just natural curiosity -- 'who is she?' and 'what do we know about her?'" said Denemark on the Google searches around the world.
            "But maybe people do it with a sharper edge for women," he added. "Things such as earlobes and dress styles -- I'd really like to see the media not play to the lowest common denominator and comment so heavily on these."