On Women Leaders

In a recent Morning Report, I cited a post by Tammy Bruce on the Foley scandal (and on men in power generally). Tammy wrote:
Here's one comment which will remind you of my Authentic Feminist foundation--while we all complain that politicians are politicians, here's one thing we can be sure of--with all the page scandals, the intern scandals, and girls who worked for politicians turning up dead (think Kennedy/Kopechne and Condit/Levy), none of the politicians involved have been women. A woman lawmaker has never been accused of sexually harassing an intern, or of making passes at a page, nor has a woman in office been linked to an office worker's death.

So perhaps it's not Washington, DC, power or politics that is the common thread here--maybe it's the sort of man [TB's emphasis] attracted to that environment. There are women serving on both sides of the aisle, and no matter what you think of Hillary Clinton, as an example, we can be pretty darn sure she's not chasing an intern of either sex around her office. The same can be said about Elizabeth Dole, and Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, or Barbara Mikulski. Because it's not about homosexuals, but about men, gay and straight, young and old, and what they do with power.

Is it possible to have the same peace of mind with men in Congress as we do with the women in Congress, at least when it comes to their personal deportment? Is that too much to ask? I certainly don't think so.

Let's admit it--women handle power differently. And as pundits on the left and the right point fingers and complain about who is more corrupt--perhaps it's time to see this as an opportunity to decide to really do things differently, and vote for women, for a real change.

In my Comments, Jeremayakovka expressed reservations about Tammy's post, and I agreed:
I think Tammy makes some great points but I think the issues need to be addressed more clearly. She weakens her argument by conflating two or three points which I believe are distinct from one another: (1) the assertion that women tend to have a different style of leadership from men, quite possibly true in itself; (2) the fact that men tend to display *certain forms* of sexual aggression that are less prevalent (though not necessarily absent) among women; and (3) the lack of (and continuing discrimination against) women in leadership roles.

Also it's important to remember that just as men and women tend to have different styles of leadership, so too do women and men have different ways of engaging in conflict and aggression. Phyllis Chesler wrote an excellent book on female/female conflict.

So, let me elaborate a little here. Individually, I believe Tammy's points are all valid, but I think it would be misleading to suggest that one should vote for women with the expectation that women will be better leaders. Of course, that's not what Tammy is saying; she says, "women handle power differently" (my emphasis), not necessarily "better". But it's not too much of a stretch to read her post and think, "I should vote for women because they will be less likely to harass their pages and will therefore be better leaders". Which of course is wrong thinking.

One of the assumptions of old-school feminism has been that if women leaders were given a fair chance, they would prove less aggressive, less violent, less susceptible to "testosterone poisoning", and generally better leaders than men. Now for all I know, this may very well be true! Given the continuing paucity of women leaders on the international scene, it is far too early to make any kind of empirical assessment.

But we should not predicate our support for women leaders on these assumptions, because they may prove to be false. To put it another way, it would be unfair to put women on any kind of a pedestal based on pre-conceived expectations. And even if a putative future generation of women world leaders did prove to be less predatory and warlike in the patriarchal fashion, might they not make up for it with other vices? Again, as Phyllis Chesler has so ably demonstrated, women are quite capable of their own forms of cruelty.

Do vote for women because women leaders bring many things - character traits, abilities, and experiences - to the political world that men lack. Do vote for women because women have had the deck stacked against them by a sexist, patriarchal society for generations.

Don't ever vote for a woman just because she's a woman, or because you think women can do no wrong.

Do vote for women because of what women can do.