All posts by myrafatima

Full-time college student part-time writer

How Evita’s Image Set a Political Trend for Argentine Women

Evita is often remembered as the Mother of Argentina, a kind first lady who aided the descamisados, and a women who died before she could reach her full potential. However, I argue that, while she was an amazing female political figure, and the first of her kind, she also set dangerous precedents that allowed for the women who followed her to be treated poorly.

As the first active First Lady, Evita set the tone for those who filled this position after her. Moreover, as the first active women in government in Argentina, her image had far reaching consequences.

Eva_Perón_Retrato_Oficial

(Pictured: Eva “Evita” Peron; PC: Wikipedia)

I choose to analyze the most recent female president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, as a political figure to compare to Evita. Evita emphasized her subordination to her husband by never referring to herself as a leader, only him.  She also believed that a woman’s highest aspirations should be to be a homemaker. Jewelry “calmed her as food calmed others.” When she fell ill with uterine cancer, she had no involvement in choosing her treatment, and was actually unaware of what kind of cancer she had.  All of these cited behaviors are aspects of her life that can be used to undermine her position as a women in government, and leave room for her interpretation as a frivolous socialite turned First Lady who was extremely photogenic.

cristina

(Pictured: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner; PC: Wikipedia)

The way Cristina is characterized draws parallels from Evita’s persona. Cristina is known for her auburn hair and full face of makeup.  While president, she was seen as a puppet for her husband to control the government, despite the fact that Cristina was a well versed politician in her own right. After her husband’s death, she was characterized as a grieving widow, and her reelection win is pinned on her exploiting this fact.  All of these instances surely point to a trend of women being treated poorly in Argentine government. Particularly, Evita set a negative trend for women who followed her.

Something interesting to address in this situation is how Cristina was able to call on Evita’s image to use to her advantage (See: Image of Evita) . Although it is clear that Evita created dangerous precedents for women who followed her, and forwarded gender stereotypes, Cristina is also guilty of using these stereotypes to her advantage. Because of Cristina’s alignment with the Peronist party (the party that Evita’s husband created), Cristina is known to call upon Evita in speeches, in order to increase her association with the Mother of Argentina.

Also, the negativity surrounding Cristina’s image can also be due to the sexism and implicit biases that exist in individuals in Argentina. With a political culture that is not used to having many women involved in government, and a society that has always framed women in government negatively, it is not surprising that the media coverage of Cristina is predominately negative.

Overall, while Evita definitely created an image of political women that hurt women in government that followed her, there are other forces at play that make the situation even more intriguing, and one worth many follow up studies.

The Image of Evita

My paper focuses on how the role of women in government and social systems evolved in Argentina. In particular, I contrast the colonial period with the 20th century. Some materials that I am using for my paper include a book authored by Asuncion Lavrin, titled Latin American Women: Historical Perspectives as well as Susan Socolow’s The Women of Colonial Latin America. 

In my paper I use Evita as a model for the 20th century woman, and found this article particularly interesting: Eva Perón in the Twenty-First Century: The Power of the Image in Argentina

This article details Evita’s image at first lady, and showcases how the first female president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, evoked Evita’s image to gain support.  I found this piece interesting because is highlights facets of Evita’s image that were important for her and Peron to have political support–the way she interacted with laborers, her philanthropic tendencies, and her maternal image.

This article connects with bigger ideas in my paper because it highlights how the role of women in government had evolved. Particularly, is shows how it is still evolving, and how the first female president used Evita’s lasting image as a stepping stone into power. When the article characterizes Evita, it highlights her rags to riches story, and how she was able to retain a connection with lower class citizens through her foundation.

Some aspects of Evita’s life that are missing in this article is a larger discussion on how her role as first lady played off of her husbands role as president. The article mentions how they were seen as a mother and father for the country, but does not address how they used their actions to each others advantage to retain power.  This would be particularly interesting if addressed in the article considering that Cristina became president after serving as first lady.

Because my paper is on the evolving role of women in government, this article was perfect for highlighting the modern role for women that was trail-blazed by Evita.