A women's new world order near
WASHINGTON >> It has occurred to me, during this hot summer week, that perhaps we are finally seeing what my beloved mother used to say occasionally — that the world really would be better off if women were to run things.
No, she wasn't a feminist. She was not much of a critic of men. Her words would just suddenly come forward, as out of nowhere, when she was feeling sad about some tragedy or angry about something that should never have happened.
Yet, it seems to me that we are finally seeing a time when women are taking a number of leadership positions, and they may, eventually, be able to give us a reading on my mother's idea. Would women really do better things if there were enough of them in positions of power to make a fair judgment? That is the question.
Of course, we have Hillary Rodham Clinton waiting in the wings to be named the Democrats' presidential candidate. Then, just a week ago in London, we had Theresa May, who overnight was made both the leader of the Conservative Party and the government. And of course we have the indefatigable Angela Merkel, in charge of Germany and more and more of the world, as well as Christine Lagarde at the International Monetary Fund, and Janet Yellen, head of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Although she is of a different genre, being the wife of the presumptive Republican candidate for the presidency, Melania Trump also belongs here, if only because her opening speech at the Republican National Convention gives her such importance.
Perhaps Melania's position on my growing list of prominent woman would still be a tenuous one, despite everything, were it not for whatever happened with her speech and its alleged borrowing of phrases from Michelle Obama. But that assured Melania a real, if questionable, place in history.
But, back to the fact that so many leading positions are being held by women. Is this the promise of things to come, a world in which women leaders would be more humane and un-warlike? Or only a warning of more disappointments on the horizon, where women leaders would be no different from men, or even more aggressive and warlike?
Let's take a couple of recent case studies:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been known for her political expertise, both inside Germany and outside, as leader of a re-unified Germany and the putative leader of Europe. She has seemed to harmonize the best in male leadership (toughness, fairness, honesty) and the best in female leadership (sympathy, empathy, hopefulness) — until this winter.
The strange thing is that Merkel's biggest mistake came because of a decision that might well have been seen as the result of feminine feelings. That mistake, of course, was to announce to the world that Europe would take virtually every refugee, immigrant or lost person, supposedly from the wars in the Middle East.
When millions responded, from as far away as Afghanistan and Niger, it became commonly said in Europe that this was her un-finest hour.
The new prime minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, is also a bag of contradictions when it comes to supposed male/female traits in leadership.
In her other government leadership positions, she has shown deep concern over social welfare problems, and she was a founder of Women2Win, an effort designed to elect more conservative women. But when she was grilled in Parliament as to whether she was "prepared to authorize a nuclear strike that could kill hundreds of thousands of men, women and children," she simply answered: "Yes!"
In a Financial Times article, "March of the Sisterhood — From Brexit to the White House," writer Roula Khalaf found U.N. data showed that in 2015, only 11 women served as heads of state and 10 as heads of government. Women also lag behind in filling cabinet positions, she wrote, with only 17 percent of women being ministers.
And yet, there are real changes occurring. For a long time, there were women in high positions, as in India and Sri Lanka, but they were almost always being rewarded for coming from prominent leadership families, as did Indira Gandhi. Today, women are making it on their own, and to have elected women in leadership positions in countries such as Great Britain and the United States is bound to be of enormous consequence elsewhere.
Only then will we be able to see whether women can change the world.
Georgie Anne Geyer has been a foreign correspondent and commentator on international affairs for more than 40 years.
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