In This Review

Women and Politics in Chile
Women and Politics in Chile
By Susan Franceschet
Lynne Rienner, 2005, 203 pp

A young Canadian feminist finds fault with all past Chilean governments -- right, center, and left -- for their neglect of women's rights and gender equality. Franceschet blames the Chilean rejection of feminism on deeply ingrained conservative social values, the Catholic Church, and, most notably, male-dominated political parties. Making good use of over 50 interviews with Chilean women, she provides an informative, well-structured tour through the internecine struggles among women's groups as they adjusted to cuts in international funding following Chile's return to democracy and debated the pros and cons of cooperation with the new Ministry of Women's Affairs. The book's rather gloomy tone does not prepare the reader for the stunning triumph of Michelle Bachelet, a Socialist and a single mother, and now president. As if responding to Franceschet, Chile's first woman chief executive has committed to tackling social issues of special concern to women, even as she has promised continuity in economic policy and has eschewed an aggressive feminist discourse in favor of presenting a more consensual -- as she puts it, "modern" -- public persona.