Shaking up the world with Wordfeud. (2015)

Photo: Lina Haskel, Financial Times (2015).

The headline of this article about our former foreign minister Margot Wallström in the Financial Times is among the most powerful I have seen. “Swedish minister Margot Wallström: Shaking up the world with words”.

The article’s introduction draws parallels between Margot Wallström’s feminist foreign policy, recognition of Palestine and condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s flogging with Gustav II Adolf’s conquest of northern Europe 400 years ago. Perhaps not a completely spot-on analogy, but again; a text that wants to convey POWER.

And a picture that conveys coziness.

Wallström sits on a couch with a blanket over his legs, smiling, using a tablet. If it weren’t for the context – one of the world’s largest business magazines – you’d think the picture depicted someone sitting on their couch enjoying cat videos.

In the book “Women and men in the public light”, media researcher Gunilla Jarlbro writes that men have traditionally been associated with the public, women with the private. Conclusive norms, which we are all unconsciously influenced by, can therefore make it feel like women in public stands out. Hence the focus on female politicians’ gender, clothing, appearance, private life, partying, kids or non-kids, etc etc etc… And in this case, an imagery that still somehow manages to make it look like Wallström is photographed in home – even though she is portrayed in her office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Norm-critical note! This would not have been a problem if men were portrayed in the same way in articles about their political influence. I had to look for a long time to find an equally cozy picture of a male politician:

Photo: Lisa Mattisson, Dagens Nyheter (2021).

Jonas Sjöstedt, sitting in a rocking chair in his garden with nothing else to do. However, the article is about his memoirs, which came out after he resigned as party leader…

Are men only allowed to crawl out of their suits and relax when they’re done performing? 🥺👔