Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Isabel Stilwell: The Fight Against Male Privilege

Isabel Stilwell
As a successful journalist and a face of the women’s rights Millennium Objectives 2015 campaign, Isabel Stilwell is well cast to discuss the fight against male privilege.

The 49 year old Portuguese mother of three will did just that when joining an international panel taking part in ‘Viewpoint,’ a Council of Europe-produced television talk show, dubbed Europe’s first human rights broadcast.

The programme’s title ‘Women – New Century, Old Problems’ is a theme that Isabel understands well.

“The fight now is not against men but against obstacles that are still in the way of women, especially when they are poor and especially when they don’t have the money or access to education that opens doors,” she says.

Social justice is a theme to which Isabel returns often, even as she recognises the privileges conferred by her professional status and family background.

Isabel convinces as the driven power-broker whose success has been achieved without the sacrifice of personal happiness.

She has spent her entire working life climbing the career ladder of Lisbon’s media village. During that time, Isabel has juggled the demands of raising a family with anchoring a daily radio programme and a weekly television talk show, as well as authoring 10 books and editing Destak, a national, free daily newspaper.

So, does she see herself as a ‘superwoman’ or perhaps, a feminist icon, standing on the shoulders of giants?

Isabel is happier to see herself as a “fulfilled woman” but willingly pays homage to older ‘sisters’ of the struggle.

“The real icons of feminism belong to the generation just before me and to whom I am really grateful,” she says. “They had the courage which made my fulfillment possible.

“Gender was an obstacle but not one that I couldn’t get over. When I started working, journalism was 90% men. It was a world designed for men. Time–wise, it was for men and not for women with children.”

Isabel laments that women are often “their own worst enemies” in relationships with men. She fears that despite the advance of political correctness into the Portuguese mainstream, women still raise their daughters to respect traditional roles.

“Roles haven’t changed that much,” she admits. “Mothers continue to raise their boys and girls in a different way. I was educated to be a good mother, a good wife and a good employee.”

As a mother of two daughters, Isabel is concerned by the portrayal of women as uniquely sexual objects. She is also alive to the contradiction that she works in an industry which plays a key role in the coarsening of popular culture.

Her interest in furthering “behavioural change” has led Isabel to embrace the feminism that sees men as partners and not as adversaries. As an “optimist” she believes that men can enrich their own lives by sharing in the progress women have made in Portugal since the Carnation Revolution of April 1974.

“We need to educate boys to be different men,” she says. “The first reaction of a man may be to reject this change because he remembers how his father’s life was fantastic and he feels as if he is losing things that his father had.

“But in reality, when men start to take care of children they find that they love what they do. Men will find it rewarding and liberating to meet women half way.”

Isabel Stilwell is a television presenter, the editor in chief of the Portuguese daily newspaper Destak and an author of 10 books

Watch Viewpoint


  1. I'm portuguese. I've never heard about this woman. She's not a TV presenter for sure ... i made a reasearch and find that she's a newspaper editor with a QI so low ... take a look at this

  2. I am afraid she mixes poverty, social exclusion and gender discrimination in the same bag and then concludes that gender discrimination is the root cause of all evil.. Using this methodology you would also find out that women read less newspapers than men? For god sake! This is stupid. We are feed up of cheap feminism. Only book publishers find it profitable.

  3. Isabel Stilwell is not a reference in Portugal, besides from her lower quality literature, arrogant higher class position and very very low sensibility and understanding for the increasing social unequality and poverty in our country. Maybe personally she is reference in her family, and in her network,ok, but please...As a portuguese women I feel extremly disapointed that you have choosed this women to give an example of what she is not representing in Portugal.