Lifestyle & Belief

A picture of four female defense ministers goes viral. Is that progress?


Four female defense ministers from left to right: Ine Eriksen Søreide (Norway), Karin Enström (Sweden), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (Netherlands) and Ursula von der Leyen (Germany). Picture from Twitter.

That a picture of four female defense ministers went viral over the weekend indicates for many how far we've come. 

They are female. They are defense ministers. There are four of them.

From left to right, they are: Ine Eriksen Søreide (Norway), Karin Enström (Sweden), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (Netherlands) and Ursula von der Leyen (Germany).

Søreide, Enström and Hennis-Plasschaert had met once another before. At a security conference in Munich over the weekend, they decided to welcome von der Leyen, Germany's first female defense minister and possible successor to Angela Merkel as head of the Christian Democrats, into their fold.

Hennis-Plasschaert captured this image on her phone and posted it online. Carl Bildt, Swedish foreign minister, posted it as well and his tweet (above) quickly went viral. It's not hard to see why.

Hennis-Plasschaert, who famously said "it doesn't matter if you have a willy or not" when she became head of defense for the Netherlands in 2012, told The Guardian:

“[The Dutch politician] Neelie Kroes once said to me that old boys’ networks are the oldest form of cartels we have in Europe. She was right, but things are changing, and women can do similar things now.”

Female defense ministers do appear to be a trend, at least in Europe. Spain, France and the UK have all previously had female defense ministers as well.

But not so fast. Critics say the four female defense ministers are less a sign of advanced gender politics and more an indicator of the ministry's diminished role.

And Bildt's "True Power Girls" in the tweet above certainly shows that some still don't know the difference between girls and women. Or don't seem to think it matters.