When Estonia’s first female president, Kersti Kaljulaid walked out of the swearing in ceremony of a cabinet minister allegedly accused of domestic violence, it didn’t go down well with some people. According to The Guardian, Estonian politician Mart Helme took a dig at Kaljulaid by saying, “An emotionally heated woman can afford to do that,” further adding, “But Kersti Kaljulaid is not simply a woman, but the president of the republic. She reads one article, becomes so emotionally upset as a woman that she makes a decision right away.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  •  Kersti Kaljulaid walked out of swearing ceremony of a minister accused of domestic violence.
  • In turn Mart Helme called her ’emotionally heated’.
  • Character traits like compassion incur sexist remarks for female leaders.
  • But in times like these, it is essential that our leaders are ’emotionally heated’.

If standing up against domestic violence is ’emotionally heated’, then we so wish that every leader, every person in the world was just that.

Helme’s sexist remark has exposed how standing up for a cause in politics comes at a cost for women politicians. Also, how the stereotype of being emotional is used as an excuse to discredit women. Haven’t we all heard this jibe of being emotional or ‘too sensitive’ before? We are accused of being hysteric and not tough enough and, thus incapable of thinking rationally. But if standing up against domestic violence is ’emotionally heated’, then we so wish that every leader, every person in the world was just that.

Kaljulaid made a strong statement by walking out on the accused cabinet minister’s swearing-in ceremony. She made it clear that she didn’t approve of his appointment. Interestingly, the Estonian police opened an investigation to review the allegations hours later, following which the minister in question resigned the next day. Did Kaljulaid’s walk out have anything to do with this turn of events? We can only take a guess, but what matters is that she didn’t shy away from taking a stand. How many leaders across the globe can do what she did?

The political risk Kaljulaid took may seem foolish to many, but we do not elect leaders to be opportunistic and manipulative. We elect them to lead.

The political risk Kaljulaid took may seem foolish to many, but we do not elect leaders to be opportunistic and manipulative. We elect them to lead. In such testing times, we need politicians who are compassionate, yet bold, sensitive yet firm. But alas, Kaljulaid is a woman, qualities like sensitivity earn women the tag of being emotional. Apparently we are easily manipulated and our decisions stem from emotions rather rational thinking. It is a shame that Helme thinks that we should be looking at grievous allegations like that of domestic violence rationally.

It is this rational thinking and constant doubting of survivors’ credibility which has left them voiceless. According, to the National Family Health Survey (NHFS-4) released by the Union Health Ministry, every third woman, aged 15 and above has faced domestic violence across the country, in various forms. The survey stated that domestic violence cases with women reporting physical abuse in rural areas were at 29 per cent and in urban areas at 23 per cent respectively. This data from just our country is enough to give us a perspective on why we need to be emotionally invested in protecting women from domestic violence.

Leaders like Helme are only endorsing apathy under the guise of thinking rationally.

The time to sit by the side-lines and watch is gone. We all need to be ‘emotionally heated’ and ask for answers. Why was a man facing allegation of domestic violence sworn in as cabinet minister? Why is a woman leader being criticised for putting her foot down? Is she emotionally heated or are those who criticising her plain insensitive, for lacking any concern over what kind of message appointment of such a man may be sending to the common public?

Yes women are emotionally heated and so are many men, and we are proud of it. Leaders like Helme are only endorsing apathy under the guise of thinking rationally. And if caring for a valid and critical cause is ’emotionally heated’, then so be it.

Picture Credit: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Also Read: Banning Burkha And Ghoonghat: Where Is Women’s Agency In This?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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