It has often been said that, "you have to be a man to be a woman in politics." But would a feminine approach really make a difference?
Throughout history, the voices of women have advocated for positive social change. We have had the suffragettes, the female abolitionists, and the advocates for women’s reproductive rights as the models for feminine principles fighting for the causes of humanity. Yet it is undeniable that women have taken a back seat to men in the worlds of politics and warfare. It has often been said that if women ruled the world, there would be no war among mankind. But a close look at some of the successful female politicians of the past half century seems to indicate just the opposite.
One of the foremost principles of the universal feminine is the care for the child. Yet as the UK’s Secretary of State for Education and Science in 1970, Margaret Thatcher earned herself the title of “Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher” when she administered a cut in the country’s education budget which ended the policy of providing free milk for school children. During that same term, however, she adopted the so-called “left wing” policy to abolish grammar schools and adopt comprehensive secondary education (which currently serves 90% of British school-children today). As Prime Minister, she made similarly clashing moves. She claimed to work for bettering the economy, yet during her reign, taxes rose and unemployment soared. She claimed to be opposed to apartheid in South Africa, yet openly opposed placing sanctions to stop it. She also supported the 1986 US bombing of Libya. These contradictions in her policies made her stances wishy-washy, at best, or perhaps revealed that her seemingly altruistic intentions actually served a more sinister purpose. During her time in office, Thatcher established a strong relationship with then-US President Ronald Reagan unprecedented between any US president and British Prime Minister. She fervently supported the US in its Cold War against the Soviet Union and adopted many of the US’s conservative models for welfare recipients, which resulted in an increase in the British poverty rate. She fought against workers’ unions and spoke out against homosexuality. Toward the end of her time in office, it is said that Thatcher fervently pushed then-US President George H.W. Bush to launch what would later become known as Operation Desert Storm. So much for women opposing war.
Similarly, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has, in the past five years, become one of the most controversial women on the world’s political landscape. As the US’s first woman to serve as National Security Adviser, Rice was one of the most outspoken proponents of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. She has fervently condemned Saddam Hussein and attempted to link him to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Even after the US’s failure to uncover Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, Rice maintained her stance against Hussein, grabbing at straws when she publicly stated: “While Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the actual attacks on America, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a part of the Middle East that was festering and unstable, [and] was part of the circumstances that created the problem on September 11.” As Secretary of State, Rice has introduced an initiative which she has named “Transformational Diplomacy,” a series of policies which, while presented by Rice as benevolent and altruistic, are viewed by many around the world as deceptive ploys designed to promote US globalization and corporate interests. Her outspoken views on the importance of “bringing democracy to Cuba” have resulted in uproarious responses from the global community at large. Cuban President Fidel Castro has called Rice a “mad woman who talks of transition” and has referred to her Commission as “a group of shit-eaters who do not deserve the world's respect.” She has been very outspoken in her views against the governments of North Korea and Iran, referring to Iran as “the world's most important state sponsor of terrorism.” Citing the importance of “preventive measures” against terrorism, Rice’s policies seem to justify any US attack the Administration deems necessary.
Yet not all women in power have been war mongers. In spite of the West’s constant accusations of Middle Eastern governments’ oppression of women, ironically, Pakistan elected its first female Prime Minister in 1988, while the US still has not elected a woman president to date. Elected to office twice, once in 1988 and again in 1993, Benazir Bhutto became the first woman to ever lead a post-colonial Muslim state. During her time in power, Bhutto spoke out against the Taliban; when pressures from the Pakistani military came cascading down on her, however, Bhutto offered some support, which she and her government still claim was “moral support and nothing more.” While in office, Bhutto worked tirelessly toward rights for women in the Middle East, promising the betterment of health care for women and an end to discrimination against women, and announcing plans to develop women’s police stations, courts, and development banks. With overwhelming pressure from the opposition (some who even threatened assassination), Bhutto was unable to fulfill the majority of these promises during her time in office.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, other women in positions of power have taken their roles almost to a state of totalitarianism. Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi illustrated the devastating affects of authoritarian rule in the 1970s. Following a mandate in 1971 which led to an immense economic slowdown and a drastic increase in unemployment, many popular public figures and former freedom fighters began speaking out against Ghandi’s government. After accusations of election fraud, the people of India began to rally for Ghandi’s resignation. Strikes and rallies occurred all over the country. In order to protect herself, Ghandi instituted a State of Emergency throughout India. She immediately deployed police throughout the country in order to end the strikes and rallies and to enforce “Emergency State” rules such as curfews and unlimited power of detention. During this time, all publications throughout India were strictly censored by the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting and elections were indefinitely postponed. Local governments were dismissed and totalitarian rule was in place. Unions were oppressed in honor of the slogan “Less Talk, More Work,” a slogan which was allegedly geared toward improving India’s economic status. Yet Ghandi’s policies resulted in human rights violations all throughout the country, including the torture and indefinite imprisonment of political activists, the clearing and ghettoisation of India’s major cities, which left thousands killed and hundreds of thousands homeless, and a mandatory “family planning program” which forced often poorly administered viscectamies on thousands of fathers throughout the country.
At the top of the twentieth century in Iran, `Abdu'l-Bahá, son of Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, wrote: “In past ages, humanity has been defective and inefficient because it has been incomplete. War and its ravages have blighted the world; the education of woman will be a mighty step toward its abolition and ending, for she will use her whole influence against war. Woman rears the child and educates the youth to maturity. She will refuse to give her sons for sacrifice upon the field of battle. In truth, she will be the greatest factor in establishing universal peace and international arbitration. Assuredly, woman will abolish warfare among mankind.”
Certainly, `Abdu'l-Bahá’s proclamation seems to make sense. The nature of feminine intuition, compassion, and the very essence of motherhood seem to indicate the bold truth that women should be the greatest advocates for worldwide social justice. No mother wants to see a child starving; no mother wants to send her son off to war. Yet why haven’t women risen to the occasion, to utilize the greatness which might be theirs through the very virtue of that which is their femininity?
Are women in politics pursuing the causes in which they believe? Or are Thatcher and Rice simply two examples of female politicians denying their womanhood in order to serve a greedy, deep-pocketed, and conservative agenda for the advancement of Western establishments and big businesses which are almost entirely controlled by the white alpha male? It is no doubt difficult for a woman to embrace her femininity in the world of politics; Bhutto demonstrated for the world just how far a feminist agenda will take a female politician. Certainly, the women who have played the alpha male role have proven to be more successful in the political world. Even Hillary Clinton, whose feminine-driven plans for domestic health care, child care, and education certainly looked great on paper, was a fervent supporter of her husband’s foreign policies which led to human rights violations on every corner of the planet.
Currently, the world is driven by testosterone. One need only look to Hollywood to see the frightening reality; tastes in film and popular music are driven almost entirely by the male sex drive. In film, female nudity completely eclipses male nudity. MTV showcases music videos which earn their ratings based almost entirely on the exploitation of the female body. Even feminine consumerism is driven by the male sex drive; while male consumerism is geared toward cars, tools, and electronics, women’s consumerism is geared toward cosmetics, clothing, and hair care products: almost solely, toward purchases which enhance our sex appeal. It seems that the roles of women around the world are being influenced by this testosterone-driven market; women no longer buy for the desires which might be innate, but, rather, for the desire to perform for men. In the fast-paced, consumer-driven world of Hollywood, which undoubtedly affects the entire world, a woman’s worth is almost entirely determined by the appeal she holds to men.
Could the same be true in politics? Is it possible that the booty-shaking dancers we see on MTV are no different than the female politicians who gear their policies toward appealing to men in a male-dominated profession? Both are giving their male audiences what they want in order to succeed. In short, they are both whores for their profession.
The frightening reality is that, while women are taking office more and more, the presence of the femininity in the world of politics is just as absent today as it was five hundred years ago. Just as the black politician can adhere to “white” policies (often earning the title of “Uncle Tom”) in order to advance his office, so can women play the roles of men in order to maintain their political grandeur. Cuts in the education budget and increases in funding for military interests? Globalization which results in starving children all over the world? War? These are not feminine principles. Nor are they male. No; rather, these are results of the power of the alpha male: the role which controls our society and dominates our world. And both men and women on the political landscape are playing the role of the alpha male.
It has often been said that “you have to be a man to be a woman in politics.” And at the present moment in time, this statement terrifyingly holds true. The vast majority of women players on the political ball field are merely wolves in sheep’s clothing. The world desperately needs the unity of both the male and female principles of humanity in order to achieve a balance which will promote the spread of global justice. The only way for this to happen is for women to stop playing the roles of the alpha male which so dominantly pervade our society and bring their true qualities of womanhood to the political table. Then, and only then, may the world start to see a shift in the war-mongering testosterone driving the world today.
1st August 2006