Sunday, January 22, 2006

Feminine Virtues

This article in the New York Times should be of interest to Ukraina-philes, as it comments on the rise to power of two women to the top political post in their respective lands:

For Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (of Liberia), an economist and banker who was inaugurated Monday and is the first woman elected president in Africa, and for Michelle Bachelet (of Chile), a general's daughter who was elected as Chile's first female president, a key to victory was the power of maternal symbolism - the hope that a woman could best close wounds left on their societies by war and dictatorship.

Unlike Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir, the strong women of the previous generation, Ms. Bachelet and Ms. Johnson Sirleaf have embraced what they have both called feminine virtues and offered them as precisely what countries emerging from the heartbreak of tyranny and strife need.

All this reminded me of something I saw a couple weeks ago (and should have photographed) when I took a ride on Kyiv's funicular, a closed-car that descends on cables down the hill overlooking the Podil district. The driver's compartment sits at the front of the car, the passengers sit behind this in segmented compartments that have five or six seats running from one side to the other. Nastia and I thought to sit in front to get the best view, but when we got to the lead passenger compartment, we saw the view from one of the seats blocked by a 2006 calendar (this was only a few days into the new year) that was beautifully designed, if blatantly manipulative.

There was Yulia Timoshenko wearing all white against a white backdrop, with the edges of her top so blurred, so vaguely ethereal, that she looked more angelic than terrestrial. Before her beatific smile, in the cup of her hands, was a small pile of dirt, so dark and rich, from which grew the first seedling of a green plant.

The calendar didn't need any campaign slogans for the March election; it was all there in the image. Vote for me. I am white and pure. I can mother you. I will help Ukraine grow.

I couldn't find an image of that calendar online, and I didn't think to take a picture, but there's another strong image above, the heart in the form of a check-mark that is being used by Block Yulia -- the coalition headed by the braided one.