Turkey but no further (2020)

I was thinking about crossed arms and how body language can give different associations depending on the gender of the person depicted. And suddenly I remembered this disaster of image communication:

Photo: The Moderate party

Ulf Kristersson, marking against Turkey’s temporary opening of the border with Greece (due to a chaos that, among other things, led to a migrant being shot dead) – with a murderous look, hunter’s cap and the text “STRENGTHEN THE BORDER”.

Is Ulf about to personally go down to the EU border with his elk rifle and hunt refugees, or what’s being communicated? people asked. An overcompensating macho attempt to appear rationally “cold” towards refugees? “Well, you think that Swedish democrat’s communication is harsh? Hold my thermos.”

In 2018, Ulf was also mocked for looking too angry in a campaign photo. That time it was pointed out how similar he looked to Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down, about a white middle-aged man who, after a bad day (and having been denied all the privileges that his sex, class and skin-colour promised him) takes up arms against multiculturalism and the “societal collapse”.

Image to the left: the Moderate party. Image to the right: poster for the movie Falling Down.

Perhaps not a completely safe, non-toxic look for an aspiring Father of the land?

The question is: had we made a negative interpretation of the same image depicting a female politician? Or had we said: “check the power! Only on us, Uffelina! 🤩”

My theory: If you are a man (“hard”) and pursue “cold” politics (right), you should watch out for projecting too much anger. If you are a woman (“soft”) and pursue “warm” politics (left), you can look as fierce as you want.

Take Nooshi Dadgostar and Jimmie Åkesson, party leaders for the Left and the nationalist Sweden democrats, as examples.

Nooshi Dadgostar in Expressen, 2022. Photo: Anna-Karin Nilsson

According to Kantar Sifo’s report Rättvisaren 2022, Nooshi is often shown with sharp camera-angles, “angry” facial expressions, leaning forward and surrounded by shadows “which allude to darkness/danger from which a sharp and cocky character emerges.” An image that had made a man look quite scary?

Jimmy, however…

Jimmie Åkesson in Aftonbladet, 2022. Photo: Lotte Fernvall and Erik Simander

Try to find a picture where he looks dangerous. When he’s not playing boule or eating paper, he might look “mildly worried”. And check this year’s election posters.

Graphics: sorendls, Resumé, 2022.

Of all the party leaders, Jimmie has the softest, kindest smile. And the SD’s design color? Pink.

Hard in the politics, soft in aesthetics.

Sweden democrat’s women’s branch in Scania, however:

Photo: SD-kvinnor Skåne

They can use the same border-drawing pose as Ulf. A front of closed arms.