Question: "What if Women Ran the World?" is the lead article in this month's Foreign Affairs magazine. Author Francis Fukuyama asks whether a "shift toward a less status- and military-power oriented world" would be a good thing. Would it?
Josette Shiner: Most people would like to see a more peaceful world. For the first time in human history we have the resources and the technological know-how to feed and educate every child on earth. And yet we allow the innocent to suffer in the name of hatred and war. The problem is that wishing for peace, and actually establishing peace, are two very different tasks.
Fukuyama brings a much-needed note of realism to the debate over the feminization of world politics. He takes on the politically correct argument that male attitudes toward violence and power are the products of patriarchal culture rather than rooted in biology.
Can we be more peaceful, more maternal, less aggressive in the "democratic zone of peace" while at the same time remaining tough-minded when it comes to tyrants and terrorists?
Fukuyama rightly concludes that feminists should be more appreciative of "tough-minded" women leaders - such as Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir - who can "beat men at their own game." He writes: "If a future Saddam Hussein is not only sitting on the world's oil supplies but is armed to the hilt with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, we might be better off being led by women like Margaret Thatcher than, say, Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Norwegian prime minister. Masculine policies will still be required, though not necessarily masculine leaders."
Bonnie Erbe: Frances Fukuyama, we all should remember, also wrote, "An End to History," in which he hypothesized major wars may be history in this increasingly feminized globe. Now he marshals his considerable intellectual arsenal against the question whether women leaders are as violence-prone as men.
His article compares human behavior to that of chimpanzees and notes primates (including humans) are the only species that murders its own. In the wild, he notes, only male chimps kill each other. And then he questions whether female leaders who embody his idea of a particularly female approach to international conflict are up to the leadership role, when it comes to armed conflict. He divides female leaders into two categories: feminist models such as Gro Harlem Brundtland and more prototypically male-oriented leaders such as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Fukuyama deserves credit for carefully hedging his statements and for avoiding rash generalizations. But I still find problematic his underlying premise that women world leaders fall into either a "male" (i.e. pro-conflict) or the "female" (i.e. anti-conflict) prototype on issues of international conflagration. Male and female leaders are much more complex.
Having interviewed Brundtland at a U.N. Conference in Cairo in 1994 I found her to be an exceedingly sharp, tough-minded individual. I believe she would have had no trouble leading Norway into war if a situation had arisen that called for it. Conversely, even Saddam Hussein, arguably the most belligerent male leader today, knows when to rattle his saber and when to back off. And who can imagine even an extremely "feminine" archetype, such as Mother Teresa, failing to raise weapons against the ultimate aggressor, Adolf Hitler?
Women leaders are different from men. They tend to emphasize issues of importance to women (education, health care) and are somewhat more pacifist in nature. But generalizations beyond even these tepid examples will lead even the most respected of scholars down a path laden with nettlesome fallacies.