It should come as no shock that women leaders can be anti-feminist too
Updated 4:02 AM ET, Fri January 21, 2022
(CNN)The appointment of a woman into a position long-held by men is often believed to be a sign; a harbinger of good things to come for other women and in the fight for gender equality. But is it ever?
On Tuesday, Roberta Metsola became the new President of the European Parliament, the youngest person ever to hold the position and just the third woman since the Parliament was established in 1952.
The ink had hardly dried on the appointment, the first 24 hours barely passed before the Maltese center-right politician was already being "grilled" about her stance on abortion rights.
It would be naïve to think Metsola wouldn't have seen this coming. Her anti-abortion voting history made her a controversial candidate. But why do her views on sexual and reproductive health and rights matter, and not those, say, of the men who occupied the post before her?
All leaders should face public scrutiny for their views and values. But the attention Metsola is receiving -- both positive (celebrating her appointment on the basis of her gender) and negative (critiquing her suitability on the basis of her position on gender issues) -- reveals two assumptions:
The first is that one woman breaking a glass ceiling is evidence of inevitable, imminent progress for all women. Second, that only women can or should take up feminist causes.
It is because of the first assumption that the public (or maybe just the media?) expresses shock every time a woman in the public eye upholds some patriarchal policy, or says or does something that is anti-feminist.