Four people posing smiling in Times Square, in the center of New York (USA). It is the image for which, in recent days, the Minister for Equality, Irene Montero, and three women from her team have been criticized very harshly by a part of the right. And for which the leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, has come to ask for dimsiones. In fact, it is the same image that Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s number three, Elías Bendodo, starred in in 2016. And very similar to the photo What did Isabel Diaz Ayuso do? in September 2021 in the same place.
In the image of the latest controversy mounted by the media and political right, the spokesperson for Podemos, Isa Serra, the Secretary for Equality, Ángela Rodríguez, and the head of communication at the Ministry, Lidia Rubio, appear together with Montero. It is a trip to reinforce the feminist agenda in which Montero has had meetings with the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Sima Bahous; with the director of Women’s Affairs of the State of New York, Emily Kadar; or with the Executive Director of the White House Gender Policy Council, Jennifer Klein, among others.
Criticism of the Minister of Equality, however, has come from different sides. In an interview on Cadena SER, the general secretary of the PP, Cuca Gamarra, criticized the visit of the Minister of Equality to New York. “Those images of adolescents that we have seen from a minister of the Kingdom of Spain and those who have accompanied her, I do not think it is what Spaniards deserve at the moment (…) It seems more like an end of the year than really working for Spain and by the Spaniards”, he pointed out.
She has not been the only leader of her party who has been launched against the trip. “Groupie posed in Times Square,” said Elías Bendodo about the image of the trip, which he described as a “total free vacation” because only one “photo with friends in emblematic places” of New York has been seen, despite the fact that he himself Bendodo starred in a traced image in 2016 when he presided over the Diputación de Málaga. A little further on was Cristina Cifuentes, who tweeted the image with the ironic phrase from “Jo, aunts, we’re going on a total free excursion”, a tweet very similar to the one also published by Macarena Olona (VOX).
Even further has gone the president of the Popular Party, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who has criticized the Minister of Equality to the point of asking the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, to “pronounce” or “act accordingly”. Feijóo has lamented that Montero dedicates “resources to tourism and boast about it on social networks.” And he added: “When a minister and her friends decide to go sightseeing in New York, it is disrespectful.”
But what is behind all these criticisms? Why is Irene Montero’s trip criticized and not Bendodo’s or Ayuso’s, among the dozens of public officials who have undertaken similar expeditions? “It all adds up,” says political scientist and researcher Silvia Claveria, “that it be a left-wing party, that they are young, that they are women and that they are in an area that demands women’s rights, because the most masculinized things are taken more really”. “If they had gone to Economy issues, perhaps they would not have talked this way,” she says.
But the objective of the trip is not the only thing that is fixed: “It is again about the stereotyping of women as not very capable or not very empowered, a distortion of the conceptualization of women as someone who runs a country.” Claveria regrets that this is not an isolated case: “Women are represented either by omission or by trivialization and they are judged by their bodies and their clothes, which reduces the focus of what they really do.” Remember, for example, the criticism of Leire Pajín for her photos in a bikini, “when many ministers are fat and nobody says anything” or the episode of Queen Letizia a few months ago, when she coincided at an awards ceremony with a woman who wore the same dress. “Men are always dressed the same and that is never commented on,” she says, “women are judged more for their private sphere than for their power.”
In this sense, what has happened with the photo of the members of United We Can is that “it is assumed that they are like minors, that they do not have that responsibility or authority that is attributed to other ministers or other people. They put on a hat of little girls who are only going to have a good time and that’s it. An infantilization that does not usually happen with men.
For her part, the president of the Association of Political Communication Verónica Fumanal, also points out the machismo behind the declarations of the right: “Whenever a woman is criticized for her appearance or an attempt is made to frivolize her image, behind there is a structure macho who allows it. And these structures are closely linked to those of power.” That is why she believes that there is a “kind of impostor syndrome of usurping positions of power that belong to men, and that is when the right charges against that usurpation.”
Machismo, a “wrapping” to criticize the women of Podemos
The political scientist and expert in feminist theory Mariam Martínez Bascuñán thinks that machismo has a lot to do with it, but that “it is the packaging of some criticism” that basically is due to the fact that they are women from United We Can. “Surely it has to do with the fact that they have a feminist agenda, but I think that if Alberto Garzón had gone to deal with Ecological Transition issues, the same thing would have happened and he would also have been criticized.” Criticism of a left-wing man, according to Martínez Bascuñán, would not “have had that macho tone, but the trip would have given rise to controversy, questioning, etc.”
The gender expert believes that “obviously, there are macho overtones such as infantilization, playfulness with physical appearance or criticism of the pose, which are things that are always more related to women.” But she goes further and she points out that “what she really bothers is that they are from Podemos.” “There is a very patrimonial conception of power on the right, which prevents the normality of a trip of these characteristics,” she asserts.
Martínez Bascuñán “refuses” to enter into the controversy that the trip was made on the Falcon, the presidential plane: “It is an official trip and of course it can be used. It does not occur to me to think about this controversy if someone from the Biden Administration makes an official trip on Air Force One or the same with Macron’s plane. “What bothers mainly is that, that they are from United We Can. But they are also women over 30 years old and with an Equality agenda”.
In Cuca Gamarra’s criticism, moreover, the expert has also identified a “classist” tone. The PP spokeswoman was surprised that “the photos of one of the main leaders of Podemos is in the cradle of capitalism.” “New York is many things and it is a city to go to. A cosmopolitan city full of culture. To say that someone from the left cannot go to New York is very crappy”, concludes Martínez Bascuñán.
Fumanal agrees with Bascuñán in this regard. “The right criticizes the left when it is in certain areas of power or has certain privileges,” he says, “we see it when they go on vacation, when they use the Falcon… There is a very finely tuned criticism that tries to remove the component aspirational to the left”.
The communicator believes that “if the left is in areas that are not humble, it is criticized in some way to take away the appearance of success and the ability to succeed or enjoy some privileges.” “There is an interest from the right in telling the voter that the left has to do with poverty and that the right is success,” she asserts.