Philobiblon: An African first, but what about Thailand?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

An African first, but what about Thailand?

Well it looks as though (if the young men of Monrovia allow it) Africa has its first elected female president - Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia.

With good timing, I stumbled across an article I wrote many years ago for Thailand Metro (it must have been 1991 or 1992) about Khunying Supatra Masdit, then billed as the woman most likely to become "Thailand's first female Prime Minister".

She's still in the international women's rights movement, but unfortunately the political trend in Thailand has not been her way in recent years.

I was struck by some of the quotes, and her careful denial of "feminist" credentials.

"I hope that in my lifetime I'll see it [a female Thai Prime Minister]. In 1979 the people would have laughed at the idea, but now they would accept a woman leader if she was good enough. ...

"It is not that males in power were to blame for deliberately obstructing women's advancement," she says. "that just didn't understand."

She is determined to stress, however, that her political success was built on a foundation laid by the hard but apparently unrewarded work of other women. "When I was the minister I was the midwife, delivering on all their hard work, but instead of nine months the gestation period was ten years.

"Are you a feminist?" is an inevitable question for any women in a position of power. Khunying Supatra finds it a difficult one to answer because the term sometimes suggests a woman who wants to exclude men, something that doesn't fit in with her views. "You can't change anything without men - it's a man's world," Khunying Supatra says with a laugh.

Sadly, however, from what I know of Thailand, Khunying Supatra is still far from any hope of real power - partly because she's female, and partly because of a distinctly authoritarian trend in the political landscape.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home