It’s not about their gender, Niall Ferguson assures us. It’s not the number of women leaders that is redefining our politics, but their way of exercising leadership.
In the past, women leaders were “iron ladies.” They were tougher than tough. When IRA terrorist Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher chose not to force feed him. When he died, she had this to say:
Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims.
As I say, Thatcher was tough.
Ferguson compares the old style iron ladies to the new breed of female leaders, women who have a more feminine, more motherly style:
But it’s not the fact of their being female that is important, so much as the feminine style today’s female leaders have brought to politics. The powerful women of the 1970s and 1980s — Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher — were iron ladies, famous (metaphorically speaking) for having more cojones than the average male politician. By contrast, the female leaders of our time are not just female; they are also feminine. The archetype is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose political style combines the gift of the gab, multi-tasking, never losing her cool, and emotional intelligence.
Didn’t feminists tell us that all we really need is a softer side to leadership, a kinder, gentler side? Didn’t they tell us that women would contribute to the bottom line and do wonders for their nations and the world by showing a more caring and compassionate side? Perhaps not as compassionate as John Kasich, but still.
Of course, as has often been noted on this blog, the more feminine and motherly leaders of Germany and Sweden, among other places, have given Europe the current refugee crisis. Women are more caring, more emotional, less cold hearted and rational. They are also softer, weaker and thus invite aggression. Thus, Germany and Europe are collapsing from the overflow of Muslim refugees. And, let’s not forget, these Muslim refugees have made Sweden the rape culture capital of the Western world. About which the feminist prime minister of Sweden has little to say. After all, the feministically correct approach to rape culture is more sex education.
Ferguson shows how Mama Merkel’s motherly instinct flooded Germany with refugees:
On German television last July, Merkel reduced a young Palestinian refugee to tears by explaining that her family might have to face deportation. “There are thousands and thousands of people in Palestinian refugee camps,” she explained. “If we now say ‘you can all come’ … we just cannot manage that.” The waterworks worked. Six weeks later, Merkel had opened the gates of Germany and was declaring: “We can manage that.” All kinds of historical explanations have been offered for her epoch-making change of mind, but to me it was the essence of feminine politics. Faced with Reem Sahwil’s tears, the chancellor’s reaction was an impulsive attempt to comfort her, followed by a massive and unilateral U-turn.
Even the childless Merkel has a fully functioning maternal instinct. We ought briefly to point out the contradiction in feminist thinking. On the one hand feminists assure us that women will bring something new and invaluable to leadership. On the other they tell us that the differences between the sexes are social constructions, not biological realities. Curious then that women who insist on ruling as women, on doing things that a man would not do, seem so clearly to be following their maternal instincts.
Were we to want to resolve this contradiction, we would have to say that the new women rulers are ruling as feminists. They are driven by an ideological construction that seeks to undermine the patriarchy and the values it represents.
Given that women are gaining more and more political power, in the West, in particular, it makes some sense that there would be a reaction. Ferguson calls it “caveman politics,” and declares that its most prominent practitioner has been Donald Trump:
He is just the latest standard-bearer of a world-wide revolt against feminine politics. Leave aside terms like populism and fascism: this is caveman politics — not just male, but aggressively, crassly masculine. Vladimir Putin is the Russian version. Narendra Modi is the Indian version. Xi Jinping is China’s macho man. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is Turkey’s. They talk tough. They strike tough poses. They would never, ever comfort a crying girl.
One might question some of the names on the list, but, at least as far as the Western world is concerned, the point is well taken. I have made it myself on numerous occasions, so it must have some validity.
You cannot imagine anyone throwing a sucker punch during a Merkel speech. Nor can you imagine Clinton threatening “riots” if she is denied the Democratic nomination. She wants to “Make America Whole Again” — a classic feminine slogan — not to punch a hole in America.
Of course, Ferguson adds, caveman politicians show a special contempt for “girlie men.”
Note, too, that the caveman politicians are repudiating not just female leaders but also the “girlie-men” leaders of the post-Cold War era, who were young, went to the gym, sipped Pinot Noir, and had metrosexual policies to match. Politics, like the German language, has masculine, feminine, and neuter.
But, before you start thumping your chest, Ferguson explains that something is off about today’s caveman politicians, something too showy, lacking in substance. As I have mentioned, with Donald Trump we are not dealing with Eisenhower, McArthur or Marshall. Today’s macho politicians are more about posturing than leading effectively:
The irony is that, compared with the male politicians of an earlier generation, today’s macho politicians are not truly manly at all.
True, Trump was sent to a military school (after all other educational options had failed). But he has never seen action. Indeed, he has served his country less to date than the lowliest grunt. In that sense, there is something deeply phony about his machismo. A man who has to reassure the world about the size of his genitals is not macho; he is just insecure.
I have often discussed this concept on the blog. According to Michael Carroll, machismo characterizes men who live in a female dominant culture, a culture that had cults to the Virgin Mother. These men are ineffective and ineffectual as men. They have not succeeded at protecting their families or providing for them and thus the only way they can assert masculinity is through a caricature, through machismo. Note that the word comes to us from a romance language, not from English.
Donald Trump does not quite fit the mold, because he is running for the presidency on the basis of his ability to make money, to succeed at business.
And yet, when it comes to the experience, temperament and knowledge required of someone who wants to be president, he does not have them. He is woefully unqualified to assume or to conduct the office of the president. Thus, he is forced to indulge in macho posturing, in caveman politics, to cover up his inadequacy.