Two women in two very different but similarly devout societies hope to lead their countries. But divergences in how the news media report on gender, religion and the intersection of the two in their campaigns is noteworthy.
Benazir Bhutto wants to form a national unity government in Pakistan. Hillary Clinton seeks the Democratic nomination for US president and then the office itself. Both women have been in politics long enough to know how the game is played.
The first woman leader of an Islamic state, Bhutto was twice elected Pakistan's Prime Minister and twice resigned under allegations of corruption. In exile since 1998, she returned home last month to participate in national elections. After initially being willing to work with President Pervez Musharraf, she broke off talks after he declared emergency rule.
Bhutto says very little about religion, and press accounts rarely refer to her faith, her feelings about faith or the opinions people of faith have about her. Likewise, the press rarely focuses on her gender (with the exception of her last stint as Prime Minister when, according to speculation, her husband was behind any malfeasance.) Rather, coverage centers on her political machinations and the corruption charges that continue to dog her.
Hillary Clinton, current US Senator from New York and married to former President Bill Clinton, has made religion and gender central to her campaign. For months, reporters have queried her Methodist roots and how they contributed to her social commitment. Likewise, they have repeatedly commented on her pantsuits, her haircuts and her decision to skew hawkish to allay any concern about her soft, feminine side.
Now, the pundits—with the Clintons' blessing—are playing the “gender card,” claiming that Hillary's opponents are ganging up on a girl.
Ms. Bhutto—recently released from house arrest—has not yet played the same hand.