WHEN A WOMAN obtains a position of power, whether it be president of a university or bishop of a church, the fact that she is a woman must be celebrated and analysed. If she is a CEO, we must hear how she became what she is and what it is like to be in her shoes. If she is a congresswoman, she must speak about seamlessly melding the private and public, how it really isn’t that difficult to do everything at once. If she is a judge, we must get her deepest thoughts on all those years in which women were not judges.
Not only do these reflections on the miracle of a woman’s ascension become distracting to the business at hand and mind-numbingly boring, they subtly transform the public perception of what power is. The idea that power entails self-erasure and an awareness of responsibilities becomes secondary to power as self-fulfillment. The same script is played again and again. Unless a woman is unusually manly and eschews all this attention, the occasion of her job becomes an occasion to celebrate self. Once many women pass into power, the public realm is transformed. It is less a drama of ideas and competing objectives and more the arena of striving personalities battling the odds.
This will never change. No matter how many women become judges and presidents, this will be part of the nature of women in public life. As Lawrence Auster stated in the previous entry, men do not publicly marvel over their accomplishments in the same way. Women always will because of their inborn preoccupation with the personal and because public power is not their native element.
Men in power also do not analyse the male “stereotypes” reinforced by their example. That’s the other inevitable feminist preoccupation. We must delve into the stereotypes a prominent woman reinforces. In what way does she confirm that women are still oppressed despite their power? Here is a perfect example of this thinking. New York Magazine reflects on the different stereotypes that Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin represent. Yes, these women are the most powerful women in the world, but in what way do they only confirm that women are still being held down? Amanda Fortini concludes that Clinton is the classic “bitch” and Palin the “ditz.” She writes: “The vice-grip of female stereotypes remains suffocatingly tight.”
And, indeed it does. That’s because women will always be women.
No matter how many women have attained power, the Year of the Woman will never end. It will be the perpetual Year of the Woman, the Month of the Woman, the Day of the Woman, and the Hour of the Woman. We will never be able to put down our pom poms and simply do the job.