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I've two words for those hailing rise of female politicians as some sort of brave dawn - Margaret Thatcher

It's facile to assume women have an innate capacity for better, more caring politics, says Fionola Meredith

Published 08/07/2016

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher

Bow down to the women! All hail thou fair harbingers of peace, love and colourful power-suits! With their glorified peeing competitions and silly wars, men have screwed up the world again. Typical. So it's down to a new posse of top women - Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May - to get things clean and tidy. Restore decency and order. Wipe up the spillage, if you will.

These bizarre domestic metaphors are everywhere. According to a column in the German newspaper Die Welt, women like May, Merkel and Sturgeon are at the forefront of a new "femokratie" (femocracy). Apparently they are "post-modern Elektras in trouser suits and rubber gloves" who will "clean up the mess created by the men".

Iceland's first female Prime Minister has been quoting obscure Icelandic poetry to make the same point: "When all has been said/when the problems of the world/have been dissected discussed and settled ... a woman always arrives/to clear the table/sweep the floor and open the windows/to let out the cigar smoke/It never fails."

Meanwhile, in post-Brexit Britain there is much talk of naughty boys messing about and the desperate need for nanny to come in, knock a few heads together and sort it all out.

What a load of pathetic, demeaning, juvenile rubbish. It's like the Western world is crying out: "Mummeeeeee! Help, I'm scared!"

Leaving aside the offensiveness of characterising female leaders as domestic staff, doing essentially the same drudgery as their poorly-paid counterparts only on a well-paid world stage, why should we assume that women - simply by virtue of their sex - will do a better job than the men?

It is absurd to believe that women in positions of power will be nicer and cuddlier and more naturally consensual. I mean, look at Arlene "I won the election" Foster. I can't see her as a post-modern Elektra in Marigolds, can you?

This is only the shiny surface of the ancient, toxic and debilitating myth that women are less rational and less moral than men, as well as more flighty and emotional and in need of paternal guidance. It doesn't do female politicians any good, because it imprisons them in their sex.

Besides, isn't the most important thing to vote for the politician that most accurately represents our own ideas, values, beliefs and aspirations, not the politician that physically matches us in the reproductive departments?

Take Clinton. Yes, please, do take her away, because it's a joke to think that women should automatically and dutifully vote for her, as former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright urged them to do, simply because "there's a special place in Hell for women who don't help other women".

Well, what if you happen to be female yet unimpressed with Clinton's record of duplicity, greed, crony capitalism and - as the dissident feminist Camille Paglia has pointed out - a career that's been founded almost entirely on her association with a powerful man?

PJ O'Rourke is right, the only good reason to vote for Hillary is to keep out the horror that is Trump: Hillary may be "to politics and statecraft what Pope Urban VIII and the Inquisition were to Galileo", but "better the devil you know than the Lord of the Flies on his own 757".

Theresa May? No thanks. She's keen on Government snooping powers, hostile to immigrants and she wants the UK to leave the European Convention of Human Rights. Don't expect me to have an outburst of sisterly cheering if she makes it to the top of the Tory party.

When I used to work for an organisation that encouraged women to get involved in politics I was assailed by doubts like this all the time. To mention them would have been a form of blasphemy, likely to get me instantly fired.

It reminded me of that scene in Father Ted when Dougal gets asked by the bishop whether he ever doubts his faith. "Well, you know the way God made us all, right? And he's looking down at us from Heaven and everything? And then his son came down and saved everyone and all that?" Father Dougal asks. "Well, that's the bit I have trouble with."

Celebrating political leaders just because they happen to be female is the bit that I have trouble with. More women, in greater positions of power, may be a fairer form of public representation. But to those who wish to witlessly eulogise the rise of women - any woman - as a victory for our sex, I have two words in response.

Margaret Thatcher.

Enough said.

Belfast Telegraph

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