Women in politics – What is their role?
For those of us born in the last fifty or sixty years, it now seems incredible that there was ever any debate about the right of women to vote in a democratic society. The exclusion of fifty percent of the population from even the most basic involvement in government – the selection of elected representation – now seems incomprehensible.
So how far back do we need to look to find the right of women to vote in Western democracies? New Zealand granted adult women the right to vote in 1893, Australia in 1902, Finland in 1907, Norway in 1913, Germany in 1918, the United States in 1920 and the United Kingdom in 1934. France reached a similar conclusion in 1944.
Today, the right of women to vote exists in almost every country. More importantly, women are occupying positions of political leadership at local and national levels around the world. In her book, Fighting Global Tyranny: Where Are The Women? Francesca de Bardin shows the progress women have made.
In 2016, The Interparliamentary Union compared the number of elected female politicians in 193 countries. Women represented from 19.4% (USA) to 43.6% (Sweden) in the United States and European lower houses of government. The remaining European lower houses averaged 35%. The country with the highest proportion of female politicians was Rwanda with around 64% in the lower house -- an example of women empowerment that has recognized the value of the contribution of feminine principles in bringing a country torn apart by civil strife to a peaceful conclusion.
When we examine the state of the world today, the US and European-backed wars of regime change, 50 million war refugees, pervasive corruption at every level, global hunger and poverty, environmental disasters caused by major corporations, unemployment and tax avoidance schemes depriving nations of sorely needed funds for social programs, one wonders, where are the women? What’s the point of “gender diversity” if women are not engaged in resolving the critical issues before us? Are they just like the men?
Politicians, at every level, men and women, are selected for office by local leaders and oligarchies. They are obliged to march in lock step with the wishes of their patrons or risk losing their positions, status and power. The end result is that most women in Western governments are merely “men in dresses”. The system is designed that way. It’s up to women to change it.
It has long been (correctly) assumed that women’s feminine values would contribute positively in the masculine, hierarchical world of politics. Women, by their nature, bring values of fairness, inclusion, flexibility, collaboration, persuasiveness and empathy into a patriarchal political world where positive masculine values such as focus, competitive drive and assertiveness have devolved, into corruption, domination and greed. Men are certainly aware of the potential negative consequences of their decisions but they are conditioned to ignore moral issues in pursuit of a predetermined goal. They focus solely on the result.
The elevation of masculine values over feminine values has caused an imbalance in almost aspect of human life. Now that women have successfully proven their abilities, it is time for them to acknowledge, respect and honor their feminine attributes, ideals and values and to bring them into the world with wisdom and passion. There must be an equilibrium and balance which is interdependent and complementary, not one value system elevated over another.
Women are as responsible as men for the injustice and inequities in the world today. As Francesca de Bardin argues in her recently published inspirational book for women, “Fighting Global Tyranny – Where are the Women?” the inclusion of feminine “heart centered values” benefits all society and has consequences more important than simple statistical equality.
Women in Government – an overdue phenomenon?
Democratic governance can benefit from the increased involvement and influence of women and feminine values at its highest level, provided that such female leaders are not simply “men in dresses”. It is not just the ratio of women in government that is important, but the greater emphasis on peaceful solutions, care for the environment and humanitarian issues that will benefit the whole world.
There is a very powerful argument that to ignore the intellectual capital resource of half the population is wasteful of itself, but women just holding leading government positions is not enough. To address global injustice and advocate compassionate policies, both men and women must recognize the value of a balance in government, with women not simply emulating the male role model, but bringing their own principles to every negotiating table.