UNTIL THE END of July 2012, Karina Bolaños was a vice-minister in the government of Laura Chinchilla Miranda, the President of Costa Rica. Her portfolio covered culture and young people.
Here she is, during her term as vice-minister, talking about reproductive knowledge and rights as key questions for the young:
Bolaños was recently forced out of her job because of another video that appeared on YouTube. She had filmed it herself in 2007 (according to her) or 2009 (according to the government) as an erotic video letter to a boyfriend she was involved with during (or after) a separation in her marriage (which was later reconciled).
Bolaños wasn’t naked. In fact, she was wearing what might be described as ‘sensible’ underwear while delivering her private message of longing.
A man working on her computer found and copied the file, blackmailed her, then posted it on YouTube.
Should I have watched it?
Should you watch it?
Should I publish its whereabouts?
Is it still there?
President Chinchilla Miranda, a socially conservative woman, wouldn’t stand for the scandal and immediately removed Bolaños from office.
Feminists across the country and the region, such as Gloria Valerín, organized in support of Bolaños, while Costa Rica’s opposition pointed out that major ethical scandals had left other Cabinet members unscathed.
Julia Ardón started the Facebook page “Todos somos Karina,” which quickly drew adherents, admirers, and media attention. It featured photos of women and children looking angry and holding up signs with the three words.
They were protesting an all-too typical moral panic, where a woman’s sexuality is used to question her fitness for public life.
Moral panics index ideological contradictions about social, economic, and cultural inequality. In this instance, a woman is labeled as dangerous to the social order because she differs from stereotypes of acceptable femininity.
Open female desires supposedly compromise civic leadership, while male conflicts of interest do not; an intimate video letter is unacceptable, whereas unauthorized publication of it is whistleblowing; a bra is a problem, but misogyny — not so much.
Bolaños was able to counter this scapegoating because of her social position: a politician with the reactionary Partido Liberación Nacional, the daughter of...read more