Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released from jail on Saturday, after ousted president Viktor Yanukovich fled Kiev. The opposition leader has announced that she will run for president, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already welcomed her back to the public stage. (Tymoshenko supports integrating Ukraine into the European Union.) But some fear her return to politics, claiming she's just as corrupt as Yanukovich. Edward Lucas, a senior editor at The Economist, insists, "The truth is that her determination is terrifying. Nobody and nothing gets in her way. When she needs to, she is prepared to use her undeniable sexual magnetism."
In the same Daily Mail column, Lucas warns, "don't be fooled by [Tymoshenko's] angelic looks." He continues, "I have interviewed her many times. Her body language, eyes, coquettish tosses of the head and cooing tones are almost hypnotic. But she is also capable of explosive anger. I have seen her shriek and curse in terrifying eruptions of rage: the kitten turns into a tigress." Lucas uses almost every sexist cliche imaginable about powerful women in an attempt to discredit her. According to him, Tymoshenko "believes in horoscopes and psychics," is "prone to irrational, often self-aggrandising flights of fancy" and can't work in a team. "Aides and colleagues are expected to guess what she wants and do it. If they get it wrong, she erupts," he writes. She apparently even uses her womanhood to scare men:
An ambassador once told me that a two-hour journey he spent in her sound-proofed, tinted-window limousine was the most sexually threatening experience of his life.
Lucas isn't the only one to come up with these criticisms, though his column is the most egregious example. The Daily Beast's Christopher Dickey agrees that Tymoshenko is "no angel." He argues, "there’s no doubt that the fire of a hugely ambitious politician still burns hot behind the iconic face and hair of the fairy tale princess."
Tymoshenko didn't always have her signature blonde hair folded into halo braids — before she became prime minister, she was brunette. But in consultation with a PR firm, Tymoshenko developed her look to represent the softer, more feminine Urkranian woman. Her hairdo alludes to patriotism and sainthood. It was a calculated political move, sure, but one she felt she had to make to succeed as a woman in Ukraine's political sphere. As Dickey explains, she was a "hard-bitten ice queen" before the transformation. Welcome to 2014, where female leaders are either frigid or sexually dangerous.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.