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July 14, 2010

Czech Them Out! European Politicos Strike a Pose

Public Affairs Party
Public Affairs Party

Although these photos would be standard fare in Maxim magazine, their appearance in the typically staid Wall Street Journal is rather surprising—apparently the WSJ  is just doing its due diligence covering the latest political trend.

The photos represent the efforts of the Czech Republic’s Public Affairs Party to garner attention (and maybe a few votes) with a 2011 parliamentarian-of-the-month calendar. These political pin-ups feature female members of the upstart Public Affairs Party, whose positive showing in the May elections helped women win more seats in the Czech parliament than ever before.

Visually, the photos enact a version of feminism, sometimes called “power feminism,” that assumes that women’s political and sexual agency can comfortably coexist in public. As explained in the WSJ article by Marketa Reedova (Prague city council member, mayoral candidate, and the calendar’s “April’ and “October” model), “women’s political influence is growing. Why not show we are women who aren’t afraid of being sexy?”

Of course feminists of another type (and generation, perhaps) would point out the ways in which the images trade on age-old stereotypes about gender and power. Three of the four women featured above are gazing up at the camera, a perspective that casts the observer as the “subject” and the woman as the “object” of the gaze. Even the photo of Kristyna Koci (top right), who is touted as “the party’s chief negotiator,” signals her availability—with her legs open and her top literally falling off, Koci is primed to be consumed with very little negotiation required.

The photos also picture women as sexual agents rather than as political ones. The top two are staged in the “public spheres” of an office and a window seat—there the women are all play and no work, invoking the familiar story of a powerful woman who sleeps her way to the top. The images in the lower panel, however, remind us of the politicos’ “true” female natures as they recline longingly in bathtubs and beds.

Only time will tell whether the Public Affairs Party’s new method of servicing, er . . . serving their constituency will catch on.

Photo credit: Public Affairs Party via styleite.com

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