On March 8, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. World leaders often use the occasion to speak positively about the valuable role women play in society and to call for closing the gender gap.
While nearly all global leaders espouse their appreciation for women, many do so in ways that don’t further the feminist agenda. Here, ThinkProgress has gathered a few of the leaders whose comments only enhance the internationally dominant patriarchy and propagate stereotypical gender roles.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
“I know there will be some who will be annoyed, but for me a woman is above all a mother,” Erdogan said in a speech from Ankara.
Erdogan has made similar comments in the past and regularly attacks the use of birth control, likening it to treason. “You cannot free women by destroying the notion of family,” he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
“You, our dear women, possess a unfathomable secret: you do everything on time and cope with a huge load of worries while looking tender, charming and amazing,” Putin said. “You bring goodness, beauty, brightness and hopefulness to the world. We are proud of you and we love you.”
Putin’s comments here are largely based on stereotypical qualities associated with women — aside from his odd remark on the uncompromising punctuality of Russian women.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen
In fairness, Cambodia is one of only a few countries who recognize International Women’s Day as a public holiday. Sen also marked the occasion by “highlighting unequal pay, fewer educational opportunities and domestic violence.”
But Sen also made a crass statement, apparently said in jest.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen, better known for savaging his political enemies than joking about family life, said many men in Cambodia are oppressed by wives who do not let them go to wedding parties for fear that they would eye prettier women,” the Associated Press reported. “He said he didn’t think he was being extreme in demanding that an association be set up to promote men’s rights.”
Nigerian Senate Leader Ali Ndume
Ndume is not the leader of Nigeria, but he still holds an influential position in his country’s government. And today, when the senate took time to celebrate Nigerian women, Ndume provided his support to the motion by encouraging men to be good to women — more than one if possible.
“I urge men to marry more than one wife. The first care of a woman is marriage,” he said. “Men should take care of women by not just befriending them, but by going further to marry them. I know there is no where in the Bible that prohibits marrying more than one wife. Starting with the senate president I ask him to consider marrying more than one wife.”
The motion was seconded, but didn’t pass.
While Kim Jong Un, the leader of the world’s most seclusive state, didn’t contribute any widely circulated words for International Women’s Day, his state’s media had plenty to say.
North Korean channeled Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, by praising its own women as obedient subjects. “Women, especially the young women who are educated with Juche-ideology are highly faithful in carrying out tasks as ordered,” state media wrote.
But that wasn’t all it had to say to mark the occasion. It also flung sexist insults at South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye.
“International diplomacy does not easily play along with the will of withered nymphomania … and the South Korean people have had to suffer the results of what this political prostitute has done all over the world,” a local editorial wrote. “International diplomacy does not easily play along with the will of withered nymphomania … and the South Korean people have had to suffer the results of what this political prostitute has done all over the world.”
Readers tweeted and let us know about more of these, including:
South African President Jacob Zuma
Zuma told a group of female journalists, “But when men compliment you innocently, you say it’s harassment…You will miss out on good men and marriage.”