Kallas: I was told to act more masculine

Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas.
Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Kaja Kallas, chairwoman of the 2019 Riigikogu election-winning Reform Party, said on ETV's Esimene stuudio on Tuesday evening that during her election campaign, she was given recommendations to act more masculine. Voters elected a record 29 women to the Riigikogu this year, however, which should encourage more women to run for office.

While it currently looks likely that she will become Estonia's first woman prime minister, Ms Kallas herself would prefer not to overstate this milestone, despite it helping normalise the fact that a woman can be head of government too.

Nonetheless, the party chairwoman admitted that at the beginning of her election campaign, she received letters from people, believed to be well-intended, that recommended she act more masculine.

"'Wear pantsuits,' 'Don't wear those dresses,' 'Cut your hair off,' 'Be more aggressive,'" she recalled.

"It seemed to me as though these people, who meant well, thought that there was something wrong with me," Ms Kallas said. "But this was an effort to force you through a gingerbread man cookie cutter, and you are shaped like a gingerbread woman and don't fit. As the image has always existed that these are men, then it is subconscious somehow that you have to fit this masculine shape. But I am not a masculine woman; I am a feminine woman, and I don't have to lose this due to the type of position this is."

The likely future prime minister highlighted the fact that a record 29 women were elected to the XIV Riigikogu this year.

"We are past it being said that women aren't being elected;" she said. "They are being elected — good women are being elected. This has to give women the courage to run for office too. This is actually normal."

Ms Kallas earned 20,072 votes in Harju and Rapla Counties in the 2019 election, an all-time record for a single candidate in Estonia.

Cooperation with Centre not ruled out

In connection with the possibility of a Reform-Centre government coalition, host Andres Kuusk asked Ms Kallas whether she would be willing to attend a government meeting together with, for example, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yana Toom.

"Every party has the right to decide who their candidates for minister will be," she said. "[MEP and MP-elect] Yana Toom and I have very big differences of opinion, for example when we were both serving in the European Parliament together, but we still communicated very well, actually. As a person, she is a smart individual, and I respect her as a person. I don't see this as being insurmountable. But I don't know which minister position would best suit her. In that regard, our political differences of opinion will remain even despite the fact that we are able to communicate as people."

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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