‘Women always have to explain their success’: Chile’s ex-president to Correa on fight for equality

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    Gender equality still has a long way to go, be it in politics or day-to-day matters, says the former president of Chile. She shared her own history of encounters with sexist double standards with RT’s Rafael Correa.

    “Successful women always have to explain their success,” said Veronica Michelle Bachelet, who served two terms as the president of Chile (2006 to 2010 and 2014 to 2018). She spoke to Rafael Correa on the RT Spanish show “Conversations with Correa.”

    Latin America once had four female presidents (in Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Costa Rica). Now, all the leaders are male. It’s always been an uphill battle for women in power, Bachelet said, and they are often being judged by the least relevant aspects of their public life.

    “I was on a plane once,” she recalled, “and there was a ladies’ magazine, in which I saw a photo of myself. I think this was the only time a picture of me appeared in a magazine like that. The caption read: ‘It’s preposterous! She put on the same suit twice in one week.'”

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    Even public displays of emotion are picked apart, and not in the women’s favor.

    “When a male president is worried, people will say he’s emotional, right? They will say he is capable of feeling emotions, because he is concerned about the situation,” Bachelet said said. “But if a woman is worried – not even crying, just her voice failing, her throat catching a bit with emotion – she’s hysteric, unable to control herself.”

    During her term as president, Bachelet made several breakthroughs in the fight for equality. She introduced laws that boosted the number of female members of the Chilean parliament from 12 percent to almost 24 percent, and the number of female directors of state companies from five to over 40 percent. At some point, half the ministers in her cabinet were women.

    Her efforts, however, were not restrained to high-end politics. She also introduced pensions for housewives and widowers (previously, only female widows were entitled to their deceased husbands’ pensions). She also partially decriminalized abortions in Chile, pushing for women to have control over their own bodies.

    “Why does a woman have the right to vote, to be elected, but is unable to make decisions about her own body?” she asks. “We women are being divided into two parts: what’s above the belt and what’s below. All the rights we are being given are only for the upper part, not the lower one. I don’t think that’s fair.”

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    You can watch Michelle Bachelet’s full conversation with Rafael Correa in Spanish on

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