Friday, February 15, 2008

He, She, We

So we've been having a conversation through comments on my previous two posts about women in power. I am thrilled that Will started this whole dialogue. I love it when people comment and I love a good debate! All you lurkers out there, come out of hiding!

Will was suggesting that perhaps women don't bring anything different to the table than men do. Many of us like to think that women in government might be more compassionate and simply nicer than men. They would be more willing to work together and listen to what people had to say. They would govern with civility. We also like to think that they would be less eager to involve us in war and conflict. Is this really true though?

It seems to me that many women in power have gotten there not because of their female characteristics, but because of more masculine traits. Hillary Clinton is hated by many people and I think a large degree of this hatred is subconscious sexism. We don't like her because she is cold and calculating. She does not embody womanly traits. Much of the dislike of Hillary stems from the fact that she stepped outside of our notion of wifely boundaries in the White House, though it is naivete to believe no other first lady did this. They were just more secretive about it. Hillary rubbed people the wrong way when she defied their notions of what a First Lady should be and she continues to turn off folks with her ambitiousness, shrewdness and sometimes condescending manner. If she were a man exhibiting these traits, would people still dislike her?

Has Hillary brought anything to the table that men have not? In some ways, I think so. She has worked for children's and women's issues and that has to be informed be her gender and her role as a mother. Have women like Condeleeza Rice, Sandra Day O'Connor, Madeline Albright, and Margaret Thatcher brought anything different to the table than the men around them? I don't know.

I think a larger question is do we really want women to be substantially different? Would we want a very womanly woman in office? Could she even ever get there?

Finally, isn't it a little sexist to believe women would act differently in positions of power? Shouldn't we be judging individual people based on their own traits rather than making generalizations and assumptions based on gender stereotypes?

What does everyone think? Comment away!

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