In the Oct. 11 edition of the Hartford Courant an Op/Ed piece with the headline “What if women ruled the world?” appeared.
Tremendous. Sept. 11 has already caused us to question national security and civil liberties, race relations and U.S. foreign policy, religious fervor and the United States Post Office. Why not add on gender, just for fun?
The essay, written by Mark Boyer, a professor of political science and Scott Brown, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut, begins with an enlightening exposition of a philosophical truth: “If women ran the world,” they inquire, “would Sept. 11 have been any different? The short answer is “we”ll never know.”
But there were still a good 300 words left to their combined effort, so I ran with the assumption (correct) that they had it left to theorize what kind of Tuesday Sept. 11 would have been if standard apparel for The Situation Room did not include ties and shoelaces.
As their only support for their theory that yes, Sept. 11 probably would have been different they write, “Researchers have found that countries with greater gender equality tend to use violence less in their foreign policies than countries with lower levels of equality.”
Ah, the vocabulary of the vague. “Researchers” and “countries” and “tend to (insert verb here) less.” Who can argue with this kind of concrete evidence, this statistical hardball, this solid postulate no wait, axiom of the gender dichotomy?
If my name was Maureen Dowd and I wrote for The New York Times, there would be a good chance that today, somewhere in England, Margaret Thatcher would choke on her tea as she read my column and saw this conclusion of the “Researchers”.
And here”s to Madeline Albright and Indira Gandhi, paragons of compassion in an otherwise sea of ruthless three-piece suits. Right.
Is it possible that there is a hidden roster of countries, besides those represented by these women, that in the last century have used or threatened calculated violence in their domestic and foreign policy while at the same time boasting an (if quasi) gender egalitarian national leadership?
Boyer and Brown go on to argue, “the male dominated decision-making systems we have today haven”t been doing a great job of resolving conflicts, so why not look to the intelligent women in our midst for new insights?”
So OK. Let”s spice up political leadership by counting a few more of those “intelligent women” (there are some, men, don”t be fooled!). The problem with this sentence is that the tone and the vocabulary indicate that the authors feel they are doing women a favor by pointing out to the public that some females might actually be good (gasp!) leaders. It is patronizing to the extreme and unfortunate that this sentiment is slumming around in the upper echelons of academia.
Or from another angle, substitute “black people” for women in that sentence and you have blatant paternalism in its most recognizable form. But write “the intelligent women in our midst” and that”s fine.
And at last for Boyer and Brown”s grand finale: “So next time you”re in the voting booth looking for a new perspective, vote for a woman. Not only might a fresh voice be heard as a result, but also the male-dominated structures might start to get the message and look beyond their walls to the other half of the population that has views on important topics.”
In the 1994 film version of Louisa May Alcott”s novel “Little Women,” Jo(sephine) is seated at the dinner table in her New York City boarding house, privy to a gentlemens” conversation about the possibility of women”s suffrage. One man argues for, on the basis that women are more compassionate and sympathetic to the people”s plight and therefore will make more humane decisions when they vote.
“Let us hear what Miss March has to say,” (and this is all paraphrased) interrupts another man, who sees Jo struggling to restrain herself from making a contribution.
“Women should be given the right to vote,” she says, “not because they are good or because they are kind, but because we are people.”
And perhaps the wisdom of a 19th Century novelist can carry into the 21st Century.
Women should be voted for, not because they are good or because they are kind, but because we are people. (And a few of us happen to be intelligent).
Johanna Hanink can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.