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ESSAY : IF WOMEN RULED THE WORLD
Friday, 04 July 2014 02:59

 



IF WOMEN RULED THE WORLD

From Julia Gillard in Australia to recent election of Dilma Vana Linhares Rousseff in Brazil, the world is experiencing an unprecedented wave of women being elected as Heads of government in countries from Asia to Africa to Europe. At present there are 29 women heading governments in the world with most recent being Brazil's newly elected President. This poses an interesting question what if women ruled the world? Would the world have been a better place, more peaceful place and more feminine place if women ruled the world in past?


In 1998, Francis Fukuyama wrote in Foreign Affairs that women's political leadership would bring about a more cooperative and less conflict-prone world.

But lot of women leaders have ruled in past too, from Indira Gandhi to Margaret Thatcher. But as it turned out these leaders tended to be strong willed leaders than males and followed unlikely conservative policies and won wars (in 1971 India Pakistan war to Falkland war between Britain and Argentina in 1982). This is exactly opposite to what was normally expected from a woman leader. Then what has been the reason behind such a difference between our perceived notions of feminine leadership and their actual work? If we closely ponder upon they were women leaders, but in men's world which has been shaped according to masculine ethos despite being women, they were forced to follow masculine ethos to carve out their way to power and then to work in a masculine world. Similarly in many cases women were just a representative of predominantly male political party and were just mere rubber stamps.


Can We Call This Women's Rule?


No, since males have played a dominant part in transforming the planet. The conquest of nature, the building of civilizations, and the exploration of intellectual and spiritual space, as well as of physical space, have been largely male enterprises. The role of females in creating culture and the human identity has been overshadowed and overlooked.


It is because the efforts of women to make their marks in a male-dominated world have been systematically ignored, thwarted or appropriated by men. Just as importantly, because a certain section of power hungry elite men have been able and driven to impose his leadership on society, the voice of the feminine has been muted in the patriarchal era and the masculine idealism that dominates it has acquired its particular tone. Male and female alike have been conscripted into the masculine ethos, and even compassionate men too have been seduced by masculine concepts and values (progress, power, success, and consumerism) that are against general will and the common good. The repression of the feminine has served to keep in their place not only women but also the majority of men. We have not witnessed a world defined by women, neither have we seen one produced by a positive masculinity: one that is not defined against women, the body, and nature, nor one that is not controlled by elite of other men.


Women rule shall mean rule of feminine characteristics and feminine ethos and sensitivities which have over time been idealised as compassion, love, beauty and virtue whereby, characteristic masculine features are what we know as "ego satisfaction", power, status, dominance, recognition, accomplishment, etc. Perhaps these reflect the extent to which social values have been defined by dominant men in this world. Thus in a society dominated by such traits it's impossible to conceive any woman leader to rule according to feminine virtues and it requires a paradigm shift in world's ideology to incorporate the feminine virtues of peace, aesthetics and compassion.


However any such paradigm shift will come through more and more participation of women in political process and that too in long term only. In short term though greater female participation would bring significant rewards. World Bank conducted studies have revealed that in the past those countries with a high number of women in parliament enjoy lower levels of corruption. Similarly another study showed that women are less likely to be involved in bribery and corruption is less in countries where women make up large part of government officials and parliament. Similarly women leadership has been good for overall economy as well.


Similarly in case of political participation it has turned out women need some initial persuasion and thrust in the beginning, but once they find their feet they tend to be as competitive as their male counterparts. Reservation for women in local body elections in India has revealed that reserved constituency for females were called "Pati Panchayats" by locals and it was believed that female candidates were just namesake for their husband's candidature. However to people's surprise females were re-elected in many of such constituencies despite competing against male counterparts and sometimes even their own husbands. This process of political participation has provided a great deal of exposure to women candidates and is a progressive step as it opens new arena in politics for them as some of them were simple housewives before contesting elections. It was found by a Ministry of Rural Development study that re-election rate of female candidates who won first time in female reserved seats increased with every progressive election from 1995 to 2007. In case of Andhra Pradesh such women leaders have contributed a great deal to local prosperity and economic growth, particularly in case of women who were previously connected with NGO's and self-help groups. This is very encouraging as this develops mass leaders with great deal of social and local understanding. It would be great if ordinary women with self-belief drop the male dependency syndrome thereby feminine virtues can gain universal acceptance in politics and international relations.