Why Aren’t Half the Politicians Women?
In my surveys of over 4,000 young people from 88 countries for books-in-progress (I’d be happy to share chapters of interest) few gender differences surfaced because youth are more comfortable with diversity than older generations. Although globally women are less than a quarter of the politicians, many studies indicate that women legislators deliver more to their constituents and are more able to cooperate with their colleagues. Girls and women are the world’s most underused resource, and their labor is especially needed in aging populations lacking enough workers to support retirees. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recognized this fact in his “Abenomics” plan to encourage more women to work. He planned to develop more state-funded childcare so Japan can become “a society where all women shine.”[i] A less respectful health minister in Abe’s first government in 2006 described women as “baby-making machines.”
Gloria Steinem and others explain that many of us are uncomfortable with women leaders because we associate them with our mothers and childhood. German Neo-Freudian psychiatrist Karen Horney believed that men fear and envy women’ power as procreators. Our ancient ancestors thought birth, lactation ad menstruation were evidence of women’s magical powers. Hence, the first deities were female fertility figures. The archetype of the powerful Great Mother was described by Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung and a book of that title by Jung’s student Eric Neumann (1955), followed by Neumann’s The Fear of the Feminine (1994). Early civilization was goddess worshipping and more egalitarian and peaceful than warrior patriarchal culture, according to various authors. [ii] The shadow side of the mother is the witch. Thousands of women are killed for being witches in Africa, India, Latin America and Papua New Guinea. The witch hunters, often young male vigilantes, may be motivated by taking the women’s property.[iii]
Former President Jimmy Carter argues in A Call to Action (2013) that sexism is the “worst and most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth.” He faults religious leaders who preach that women are inferior and don’t allow them to serve as pastors and priests. Dr. Nawal el-Saadawi, the famous Egyptian writer and feminist, pointed out, “Whenever any external or internal power wants to abort a revolution, they control women. If women revolt, that’s the end. And it’s easy to control women by religion.”[iv] Hillary Clinton agreed that the status of women is the unfinished business of the 21st century and that extremists everywhere share a common goal of dominating women. When she told the 1995 UN Beijing Women’s Conference that women’s right are human rights and proposed a 12-part plan, conservatives in the US accused her of proposing a “radical feminist agenda.”
Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies.[v]
Although Clinton downplayed her gender in her first bid for the presidency partly due to polls showing that people view men as better leaders,[vi] she played up being a mother and grandmother in her second attempt indicating a shift in attitudes. When discussing national security, the Republican National Committee criticized her for not smiling more, but in a double standard they didn’t criticize Donald Trump although he smiled less. Generations Y and Z will change the double standard.
[i] Jonathan Soble, “To Rescue Economy, Japan Turns to Supermom,” New York Times, January 1, 2015.
[ii] Marija Gimbutas and Joseph Campbell. The Language of the Goddess. Thames and Hudson, 2001.
Leonard Shlain. The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. Penguin Books, 1999.
Riane Eisler. The Chalice and the Blade. HarperOne, 1988.
Merlin Stone. When God Was a Woman. Mariner Books, 1978.
[iii] Mitch Horowitz, “The Persecution of Witches, 21st-Century Style, New York Times, July 4, 2014.
[iv] Katherine Zoepf, “A Troubled Revolution in Egypt,” New York Times, November 21, 2011.
[v] May 2012, remarks to the Women in the World Summit. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2012/03/hillary-clinton-extremists-control-women-/1#.T-ePnStYv-I
[vi] “Sexism Rules in the Ballot Booth Unless Voters have More Information,” Research News @ Vanderbilt, November 9, 2015.