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Opinions of Saturday, 16 July 2016

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur

Women in politics

With Theresa May as Prime Minister and Hillary Clinton knocking on the door of the American presidency, the talk has turned to "the year of the woman" once again. It has been 37 years since Margaret Thatcher occupied number 10 Downing street.

There are inevitable comparisons of May to Thatcher and the trumpeting of the hope that more women in power will make the world a kinder, better place.

Don't believe that hype for a moment. It sounds very familiar to the predictions that Obama, as the first black President, would make race relations in America and the world in general, a better place. Most of the things his election was supposed to improve, beginning with race relations, are worse.

I am excited by women in politics because I am for diversity and I hope they will be good, not because of, but in spite of their gender. Because of the biases of patriachal soceities, a woman must overcome a lot to succeed in politics. Thus the women who succeed deserve our respect and admiration. Theresa May's opponent, also a woman, invoked her childlessness, in a cruel reminder of the obstacles women face. Nobody would have made an issue of George Washington's childlessness.

History has some lessons-- both hopeful and otherwise.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the first woman elected Prime Minister, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher-- What have we learned from them? The first lesson is that they are strong, enduring leaders.

Mrs. Bandaranaike served 18 total years as Prime Minister, Thatcher served 11years and Gandhi served 4 terms as Prime Minister.

Gold Meir only served 5 years but in Israeli Politics, that was an eternity.
Many have the mistaken believe that women are kinder and gentler leaders. That notion is not supported by the facts. Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher all led wars. Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war and was the main architect of the Libya policy that killed Col. Gaddafi. Both Obama and Sanders were against the war and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan described her as "one wicked woman".This does not mean the women are more war-like. It means they are just like the men.

They can be as polarizing as the men. Thatcher came in touting Francis of Assisi, "Where there discord, let us bring harmony", but when she left, there was little harmony. She was tough, in a good way. Before she earned the appelation, "Iron Lady", it had been owned by Golda Meir! Gandhi presided over a state of emergency and a crackdown on Sikhs that ultimately led to her assassination.

Angela Merkel is a tough fiscal conservative and Theresa May is, to put it kindly, tough on immigration!
We are in for interesting times around the globe, as women, once again, try to make this, another year or era of the woman!!

But do NOT expect a kinder and gentler world. Regardless of how many women get into leadership, the world will continue to be a dangerous place.
Arthur K