Argentine press reacts to Pope Francis's election

Argentina, home to more than 30 million Catholics (out of a population of over 40 million), is now also home to the first pope from Latin America -- or from the Southern Hemisphere, for that matter. How is the Argentine press reacting to the historic election of Pope Francis I?

All outlets, of course, are leading with Jorge Mario Bergoglio's nationality. Here's Cronica, which simply lets the headline "the pope is Argentine" sink in before declaring today an "historic moment for our country."

The popular daily Clarín, which has clashed repeatedly with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has been highlighting the "acrimonious relationship" between Bergoglio and the country's leaders in recent years. The paper points out that Kirchner's husband, Néstor, once called Bergoglio the "true representative of the opposition" when he was president, adding that his wife has had a more "cordial" relationship with the new pope, albeit with "ups and downs" (despite the rancor, Bergoglio still officiated at a mass to mark Néstor's death). One of those downs came in 2010, when Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage. Bergoglio denounced the legislation as a "destructive attack on God's plan."

The Argentine newspaper La Nación has also highlighted the "tense relationship" between the Kirchners and Bergoglio, in addition to profiling the "man who made a cult out of keeping a low profile" (in the picture below he's drinking Argentina's iconic yerba mate):

Clarín has two other fascinating bits of coverage. It notes that when the papal news broke today, a heated dispute erupted in Argentina's Chamber of Deputies between the opposition, which wanted to interrupt a ceremony for the late Hugo Chávez to listen to the new pope give his first address, and the ruling party, which wanted to continue the tribute to the Venezuelan leader (the ruling party won out).  

The paper is also running a biting article about how Argentina's president was complaining on Twitter about minutia -- specifically how newspapers weren't paying attention to her local infrastructure projects -- while the Vatican was announcing Bergoglio's momentous appointment. 

But, to be fair, Kirchner has since congratulated her countryman and sometimes-bitter rival. "To His Holiness Francis I," she tweeted, linking to a card expressing her congratulations:



Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images


A close reading of North Korea's sexist insults

In a statement on Wednesday, a North Korean government spokesman complained about "the venomous swish" of the skirt of South Korea's female President Park Geun-hye. North Korea seems to take a certain joy in sexist insults. The AP reports that in 2009, North Korea's Foreign Ministry  called then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "a funny lady" who sometimes "looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping," while a North Korean state radio program called then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "a hen strutting around in the White House, crowing arrogantly" and "a bitch running riot on the beach."

I don't know how it sounds in Korean, but "the venomous swish of the skirt" is an unexpectedly melodic phrase in English. "It's beautifully dense, isn't it?" said Christopher Baswell, a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, who prefaced his comments with saying that the words might have a very different meaning in Korean, a language he doesn't speak. Terry Castle, a professor at Stanford and the author of "Boss Ladies, Watch Out! Essays on Women, Sex and Writing" also cautioned that she doesn't speak Korean and doesn't know the original context, but said that the phrase "brings to mind the cross-cultural association between woman and serpents.... the serpentine in a lot of mythological contexts summons up deceitful and dangerous woman."

The image of snake, with its associations of deviousness underfoot, mixes with swish, which in American English connotes homosexuality. "You have an odd combination of phallic and vaginal," he said.  That combination also appears in the insult to Rice. "Hen's don't crow or strut. It's supposed to be a rooster -- that's really playing on inappropriate gender activity." Castle notes the "Chaucerian" quality of that insult; and compares it the "cosmological infamy or calumny" often featured in Iranian propaganda. Calling someone "the Great Satan sticks in people's mind more than a hen running around," she said.

And poor Hillary, Castle added, always getting assailed with sexist comments. Castle said the schoolgirl part suggests "naivete and in over her head, while the pensioner "de-sexualizes her."

What did Baswell think? "It's very interesting the degree of sexual anxiety and sexual hostility that both those images imply."