because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dilma Rousseff

Born into an upper middle class family headed by a Bulgarian father in Brazil in 1947, Dilma Rousseff's childhood was relatively comfortable. But when she switched from a private Catholic school to a public school, she realized that "the world [is] not a place for debutantes" and espoused socialist principles instead. Then, after reading Revolution Inside the Revolution by Regis Debray, Rousseff embraced the idea of armed struggle and by the time she was in her early twenties, she was active in left wing and Marxist groups that were fighting to unseat the military dictatorship in power in Brazil at that time.

Since Rousseff is now the President of Brazil, the stories about her years as an in-your-face armed militant are wildly contradictory. Was she just another well-meaning young radical politico among the masses of youth committed to social change around the world at the time? Or was she one of the masterminds of multiple political and criminal actions, including bank robberies, that some have claimed she was? Was she just a "stuck up intellectual," as one witness said? Or was she the "Joan of Arc of subversion," as many called her?

Either way, Rousseff was captured, jailed and tortured for three years in the early 1970's. On her release, she finished her education in economics, had a daughter, and became active in the arena of electoral politics, working her way up the political ladder over a thirty year period until she was finally elected President of her country in 2010.

Some left-leaning Brazilian citizens have expressed great frustration at some of the policies and priorities of Rousseff's administration, which has, among other things, spear-headed an aggressive process to build hydroelectric dams across Brazil, displacing indigenous peoples, exploiting workers, and damaging the environment where they are located. Nevertheless, any woman who goes from prison to President has to be an in-your-face woman and Rousseff is no exception. "I hope the fathers and mothers of little girls," she has said, "will look at them and say, yes, women can." Got that?

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