When Women Rule..
How to curb rape culture and the flawed foundations of government
Well, haven’t we just had a tumultuous week in Westminster? Heads rolling and backstabbing aplenty. The boys club is falling again and Boris’s banter is no longer enough to brush yet more dirt under the mountainous carpet. But is redemption possible in a government that is evidently so scandalous and without moral code?
The current list of those running for the role of Prime Minister consists of six men and three women. How do you feel about them? How do you feel about a woman in leadership?
Egyptologist Kara Cooney writes in When Women Ruled The World: ‘Most of us feel a lot more comfortable if a man tells us what to do. We are more likely to feel safe and protected if a man, rather than a woman, is ordering us into a war. Modern female leaders are far more distrusted than their counterparts...’ Do you agree? And if so, why is this? What spell are we under that makes us think and feel this way, especially when it goes against the signs that suggest we should feel otherwise?
There is a fair amount of evidence over years gone by that governance under a female figurehead is generally more oriented toward the needs of others and less driven by their own ambition - that’s not to say it isn’t part of their raison d’etre. According to the American Psychologist Association, women tend to have a more ‘cooperative and participatory’ style of leading, whereas men tend to have a more ‘command and control’ style. There are always exceptions to the rule, we need look no further than Priti Patel and the Rwanda bill to see that.
A quick Google will show you that women consistently score higher than men in most key traits that make effective leaders. Women tend to have higher levels of emotional intelligence, humility, and moral sensitivity, they also outperform men in educational settings. Recent research published by the Harvard Business Review shows that women are also better leaders in times of crisis and yet we are still, far from experiencing women in positions of leadership as the norm. Why is this?
Where are the women leaders?
Through our developmental years, we were programmed to trust men when it comes to leadership, doubtless a reflection of the world we’ve grown up in. And even though the data shows otherwise these days when looking at sex-specific qualities, our behaviour patterns continue. We continue to favour men because for some subconscious preprogrammed reason, we have more confidence in them. An article in Forbes breaks it down in black and white: ‘We live in a sham meritocracy, where we pretend to pick the best person for each job, while simply picking those we prefer: and when the jobs pay well, they are still overwhelmingly male. Our preferences are based on style rather than substance, so we pick individuals for leadership on the basis of their confidence rather than competence, charisma rather than humility, and narcissism rather than integrity. For every Angela Merkel, there are many Silvio Berlusconis, Jair Bolsonaros, and Donald Trumps. Not just in politics, but also in business, the typical leader is not known for their humility or competence, but arrogance and incompetence’.
Style over substance? Really?
I was listening to Tom Swarbrick on LBC last Friday, the day after Boris Johnson announced he was leaving and the discussion around who could be next was rife. Various MPs were being discussed, one at a time, their credentials listed and their subsequent likelihood of getting the job. They went through Rishi Sunak, Tom Tugendhat, Sajid Javid and then it was time to discuss Penny Mordaunt, a lesser household name than some of the others. Tom welcomed Sean O’Grady, Associate Editor at The Independent onto the programme:
Tom: ‘Sean, thank you for joining the programme, what can you tell us about her?’
Sean: ‘Well, she’s quite an interesting character. I mean she is…. er… different. …umm, if only because she is the only Conservative candidate for the leadership who has appeared in a swimsuit, on a TV game show called Splash. Sadly for her, she made more of a splash than she wanted to because she was expelled (snigger), for messing up a back flip or something. But anyway that’s not disqualification for office ….’
No, indeed it is not, and it was highly inappropriate for him to open his profile of her that way. But you see, this is the problem. You would never hear a male politician being described first by anything other than his qualification, achievements and what he stood for. It is appalling in 2022 that women are still often discussed according to how they look. Remember the Legs-It headline?
The world is still sexist.
According to UNICEF, 100 million girls will be forced into child marriage in the next decade. This will not only involve being forced to have sex and become mothers before their own childhoods have come to an end, but it also means they will be forced into a life of hardship and hard labour. In 2022, when everything is available to us, and knowledge readily at our fingertips, we continue to sexualise women, and see them abused, kept down, held back, and disregarded. There is a long way to go!
We’ve read about the Russian soldiers raping women and girls throughout cities in Ukraine. Rape is a very real war crime used as motivation and reward for soldiers, the stories are horrifying.
I’ve just read Firefly, a book about a young refugee being hunted by terrorists for some information he has on his phone (it’s an excellent book by the way) but there is one scene in which a terrorist offers up to his soldiers, the body of a female hostage once they have carried out his orders. It’s a reality check that cuts to the core. This isn’t just fiction, it is reality (not the TV type) in 2022. Rape culture is out of control, the rise of the ‘incel’ (involuntary celibate male) is a perfect example of women’s bodies being seen as little more than the provision of sexual gratification for the male in an increasingly sexualised society.
We are nowhere near equality.
In some arenas we may be much closer than we once were, but we are still nowhere near equality. And so when there are women who are willing to stand as leaders, they need us to be the wind beneath their wings. If there’s one thing that all these lies and broken rules in Westminster have shown us, it is this: Politicians are no more or less human than you and I. The bar for them is and should be higher, but we’ve had a window in on their culture, their failings and their shortcomings. Politics is for all of us, and that means voting, supporting and being aware. Right now, there are women who could potentially take the position of leadership and whilst we don’t get to vote at this point, we can encourage, lift them up, speak positively of them and seek out the opportunities to do so.
Check them out, give them your support, and model respect for these women to the younger men and women in our lives. This way, we may be in for a chance of equality.
Things have to change.
We can’t just sit and wait for it to happen organically, or on someone else’s watch. As we learned in Covid, we are in this together.
What can we do?
We can examine our own prejudices and potential misogyny that prefers a male in leadership. We can question things we have been told that we’ve taken on as truth, for example, my dad refused to clean and said it was a woman’s job because ‘men don’t see dirt’, which of course is the most ridiculous excuse for laziness not to mention a whole heap of rubbish (pardon the pun), of course they can see dirt, they just choose not to …(I know, not all men are like this, but you catch my drift). How many girls are told not to speak out for fear that they might seem bossy or outspoken, but when it’s a boy they’re deemed to be showing leadership skills; or how many girls are told that their brain isn’t capable of a STEM career path, or that they can’t be a journalist because it’s a cut-throat industry. Women are seen as sluts if they sleep around, but men as studs. The inequality is evident whichever direction we cast our gaze, yet the reality is that a woman is often far more adept at managing emotions and connecting with the world around her in a very real way. It is this, which has the potential for great leadership.
So, my hope for this shambles is that we see light at the end of the tunnel. That Suella, Penny or Kemi come into a position of leadership, and that we sort our house out, remembering the words (below) of Millicent Fawcett, an English political leader, activist, writer and feminist icon who led the movement for woman suffrage in England for 50 years. Our country has been an embarrassment for too long, we are so much better than this. May the world no longer watch Britain for entertainment, but instead for inspiration.
“Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied"
In other news, I recorded episode 98 of the podcast this week which is now available on all podcast platforms. You can search for it by putting in my name on any of the apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Podbean, you can access it through my website here or you can just click below:
I do hope you’ve enjoyed some of this glorious weather and as always, thank you so much for supporting me here on Substack. I hope you have a wonderful week ahead and remember if you want to comment on any of the posts, you can do so by being a paid subscriber of just £4 per month. Thank you so much to those of you who have already signed up to support my work here and on the podcast.
Whatever you’re up to, I hope you have a good one!