Vogue photo-shoot puts Spain's new women ministers in spotlight

By posing for Vogue Espana the female cabinet members have set off a controversy on the left.

By Ben Sills
Published August 20, 2004 1:17PM (EDT)

Eight female members of Spain's new Socialist government have attracted the ire of the country's feminists by posing for a glamourous photo-shoot for Vogue Espaqa. The eight, all recently appointed by the prime minister, Josi Luis Zapatero, will be seen in designer clothes at the Palace of Moncloa, this official residence, in the magazine's September issue.

The feature was intended to celebrate the number of women in the cabinet. But women's groups and opposition parties have criticised the style of the images.

"I don't want to see the minister of health posing like Claudia Schiffer, it's not right," Reyes Montiel, a leftwing member of Madrid's regional government, told El Mundo newspaper. "This haute couture image contrasts with the day to day reality of women in our country."

Angeles Alvarez, a spokeswoman for Feminists Against Domestic Violence, added: "It irritates me that men never appear in features like this.

"I don't feel that this feature represents me. What would have been revolutionary would have been to see the men in the cabinet posing like this."

When Mr Zapatero announced his cabinet last March, it was warmly received, in part because half of the 16 posts went to women.

But since then there has been criticism of the women's performance in government. An editorial in El Mundo yesterday suggested that the move may be part of a government strategy to raise the women's profile.

Critics, however, suggested that there would have been better ways to achieve that.

"We don't have to demonstrate our value in this way," said Lourdes Hernandez, the president of the Association of Neighbourhood Women. "The ministers don't need to parade in those outfits like models."

Vogue's editor, Elvira Leal, said her magazine wanted to celebrate the fact that this was the first government in Europe to have equal numbers of men and women.

The accompanying article described the ministers joking together, enjoying the shoot.

"It's hard work being a model," said Carmen Calvo, the minister of culture.

"Yes but you earn more," Elena Salgado, the minister of health pointed out.

Yesterday, Ms Calvo responded to the criticism, saying that the photograph was austere, serious and historic.

"The important thing is that there are eight women who have taken on important responsibilities, whose opinions are sought on important matters, and that our point of view matters as much as that of the men in the government."

The ministers are also due to appear in the September issue of Marie Claire.

Ben Sills


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