As many women (and men) know, changing the status quo in society is a monumental task. They have to overcome the obstacles of traditional practice, misperception and misconception. That, in the modern age, men are “born to lead” is a fallacy. That, at any time in the history of the human race, women have been incapable of leading, is equally fallacious, but contemporary social structures tend to reinforce the stereotype and resist change.
This resistance is led by men and supported by very few women, certainly by none of my acquaintance.
In the present world men no longer need to protect “their women” from primitive dangers, so, in their roles as leaders, men now tend to think nationally, internationally and globally. The sabre-toothed tiger threat has now been replaced by threats from human predators.
Since the world’s leaders in past centuries have been predominantly males who have tended to come from the more “macho” end of our imagined spectrum, their natural response to threats, real or imagined, has been to employ violence to resolve issues. A huge number of male led nations have been involved in armed conflicts, internal and external, for hundreds of years.
The increasing sophistication of world societies has meant that more cerebral and less physical responses to problem solving are now more appropriate. We now need leaders who are “better balanced” temperamentally and more inclined to use mental effort to deal with dilemmas.
There may still be the desire, but there is no longer any need, to bomb problems out of existence.
This surely opens the door to equal representation of women and men in leadership roles. In fact, we need to get past the idea of “women” or “men” as leaders, and become accustomed to looking for “people” with leadership capabilities, regardless of their gender.
What needs to change for this to happen?
There must be a major adjustment of attitude in most men, towards moderate (less “macho”) men, and towards women in general.
There exists a stupidly idealised stereotypical male who is thought to be superior to his fellows. “Superman” is created as a physically powerful and courageous individual who is capable of overpowering any and all opposition through the application of massive aggression.
“Superman” plays rugby league in the annual State of Origin conflict, when “mates battle each other to a standstill”. His physical prowess, his heavily muscled body, is admired by women and envied, perhaps worshipped, by lesser men, even if he can barely string several words together in a coherent sentence, or write his own name legibly, and with correct spelling.
His loyalty to his teammates is boundless and his alcohol consumption (mostly a heavily advertised beer – a real man’s drink) is legendary. When he, his mates or his woman are threatened, he responds with violence that crushes the threat. His inappropriate behaviour is deemed less inappropriate because of his media manufactured image.
Like politicians, royalty, and “personalities”, he develops a sense of entitlement to match his exaggerated ego. He is a warrior, of the type that used to defend the primitive village from attack by other warriors.
Truth is, he’s a renowned dickhead! He’s also an anachronism in a modern world.
A 21st century male need not adhere to any stereotype. If he chooses, he can find for himself, a comfortable place anywhere along our imagined spectrum, or anywhere else if he is so inclined.
We no longer need “Superman”, and especially not as a leader.
Modern leaders can afford to be intelligent, articulate and informed. They need to be able solve problems through the application of mental resources. They need to understand concepts such as consideration, consensus, co-operation, compromise and conciliation. They need to be able to argue without aggression, to seek agreement, not a “win by 20 points”. They do not need to Trump-et their victories, nor Turn-bull shit into fact. They need to put issues, not egos, first.
They don’t have to be men. There are countless numbers of women who have the requisite qualities for effective leadership, and men must acknowledge this. They also need to see past the stereotypical “little woman”, “the missus”, to recognise that social equality begins within the family.
So why haven’t moderate women (and, for that matter, men) come forward in greater numbers?
In some cases, the answer lies in the fact that many women who try to challenge for leadership roles in any sphere of society suffer badly from headaches.
These headaches happen to people who continually bash their heads upon the glass ceiling. (This obstacle can also affect men, resulting in a tendency to concede to, rather than challenge, stupidity.)
In what respects are women disadvantaged where leadership aspiration is concerned? Since, as I have already stated, I am not a woman and therefore have no first-hand experience, I have make guesses, based upon my observations.
I can start with my awareness of me, and with my attitude to my wife and daughter. I have to go back 50 years, to the time when I was totally unaware of my prejudices, and of the extent to which I expected to meet stereotypical women.
I had had no suitable role model of appropriate behaviour, on which to base my relationships with women, so I fell back onto the understandings that I had gained from reading fiction, watching films and television, and, to a lesser extent, observing the relationships between the parents of my closest friends.
I became a victim of “Tarzan and Jane Syndrome”. I would be the hunter, the protector, and “my woman” would gaze at me with awe and appreciation.
Fortunately for me, Jenni was prepared to see past the bullshit, and find someone with whom she felt she could spend her life. It wasn’t long into our marriage before she began to teach me the error of my ways. She wasn’t just charming and beautiful, she was also intelligent, and not prepared to be regarded as someone in need of guidance and protection – she could look after herself.
For me, the learning curve was almost vertical and I wasn’t a very good student. In retrospect I find it hard to believe how misguided I was, but every now and then, residue of my former attitude creeps into my present behaviour, and I need a slap.
Jenni has taught me heaps, both directly and indirectly. Seeing the way in which her status as a female prevented her from achieving in her career, has been an object lesson to me. When she finally decided to make a lifestyle change and resigned from her high-pressure job, her former boss (a “Maximum Macho” if ever there was one) was forced to replace her with two men in order to try (and fail) to meet her output.
I sincerely hope that I did a decent job of encouraging my daughter’s self-belief and her drive to achieve on her own terms. My observations lead me to believe that I haven’t hampered Jenni’s efforts to produce an independent female adult, given the fact that Erin (Noi Creations) doesn’t take any shit from anyone, but that she also has the wisdom to know which fights to choose. Her relationship with her husband, Eric, is very strong, and together they are raising two independently minded girls.
My son Damon and daughter-in-law Cassandra, while raising two outstanding teenagers, together have managed to establish and run a very successful I.T. business (www.maytek.com.au), and Cass, a capable and powerful woman, is now building her own business (www.affordableweb.solutions).
It seems that the women in my life have suffered from the fact that I was trying to take “masculine” behaviours, common, and more or less accepted, in the 1950’s, and apply them in the 70’s and 80’s.
Acclaimed author, Tim Winton, (The Guardian, Mon 9 Apr, 2018), brilliantly describes the inculcation of “machismo” in young males. I hope that he will excuse my use of his skills to enhance my message:
“There are a lot more girls in the water (the surf) these days, and hallellujah for that; I can’t tell you how heartening this is. But I want to focus on the boys for a moment. For what a mystery a boy is. Even to a grown man. Perhaps especially to a grown man. And how easy it is to forget what beautiful creatures they are. There’s so much about them and in them that’s lovely. Graceful. Dreamy. Vulnerable. Qualities we either don’t notice, or simply blind ourselves to. You see, there’s great native tenderness in children. In boys, as much as in girls. But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.
There’s a constant pressure to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army
Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. There’s a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism. And it grieves me to say it’s not just men pressing those kids into service.
These boys in the surf. The things they say to me! The stuff I hear them saying to their mates! Some of it makes you want to hug them. Some of it makes you want to cry. Some of it makes you ashamed to be a male. Especially the stuff they feel entitled or obliged to say about girls and women.
What I’ve come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting. Trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If it’s well-meant it’s often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men don’t always stick their necks out and make an effort.
In the absence of explicit, widely-shared and enriching rites of passage, young men in particular are forced to make themselves up as they go along. Which usually means they put themselves together from spare parts, and the stuff closest to hand tends to be cheap and defective. And that’s dangerous.
Toxic masculinity is a burden to men. I’m not for a moment suggesting men and women suffer equally from misogyny, because that’s clearly and fundamentally not true. And nobody needs to hear me mansplaining on the subject of the patriarchy. But I think we forget or simply don’t notice the ways in which men, too, are shackled by misogyny. It narrows their lives. Distorts them. And that sort of damage radiates; it travels, just as trauma is embedded and travels and metastasizes in families. Slavery should have taught us that. The Stolen Generations are still teaching us. Misogyny, like racism, is one of the great engines of intergenerational trauma.
A man in manacles doesn’t fully understand the threat he poses to others. Even as he’s raging against his bonds. Especially as he’s raging against his bonds. When you’re bred for mastery, when you’re trained to endure and fight and suppress empathy, how do you find your way in a world that cannot be mastered? How do you live a life in which all of us must eventually surrender and come to terms? Too many men are blunt instruments. Otherwise known, I guess, as tools. Because of poor training, they’re simply not fit for purpose. Because life is not a race, it’s not a game, and it’s not a fight.
Can we wean boys off machismo and misogyny? Will they ever relinquish the race, the game, the fight, and join the dance? I hope so. Because liberation – a process of disarmament, reflection and renewal – isn’t just desirable, it’s desperately necessary. In our homes, in business, and clearly, and most clearly of all, in our politics.
True, the blokes around me in the water are there, like me, for respite, to escape complexity and responsibility for an hour or two, to save themselves from going mad in their working lives, but their dignified silence in response to misogynistic trash talk allows other messages, other poisonous postures to flourish. Too often, in my experience, the ways of men to boys lack all conviction, they lack a sense of responsibility and gravity. And I think they lack the solidity and coherence of tradition. Sadly, modernity has failed to replace traditional codes with anything explicit, or coherent or benign. We’re left with values that are residual, fuzzy, accidental or sniggeringly conspiratorial.”
Bloody hell; I wish I could write like that!
In addition to other prejudicial and essentially misogynistic obstructions from “The (man made) System”, many women are heavily disadvantaged by their innate desire to become mothers. Not all women wish to have children, but for some it’s a biological imperative.
The fact that, under the current “system” it is virtually impossible to have a child without interrupting a career, has been used, by men especially, as a weapon with which to fight those women whom they see as threatening to their own positions of power.
Even in a basic commercial office situation, a woman who demonstrates management capability, poses a potential threat to the incumbent manager. In some cases, that manager may in fact be a woman, and it is not unknown for one woman to deliberately damage the career prospects of another.
The system needs to change and to change rapidly. Things are better now than they were 50 years ago, but the wheels have turned so slowly that the vital changes are still yet to occur.
Increased parental leave benefits and decreased child-care costs might be a good place to start. There are many skilled and capable people who are not career minded and who would be happy to work in temporary jobs whilst a mother, whose intention was to continue her career, took leave to establish or support her family.
There are women who would return to work sooner if it were not for the fact that they would effectively be working for nothing, by the time they had paid for increased child care. What incentive would there be to work an extra day per week if, after paying for the extra day’s child care, you were going to have $15.00 left from your day’s wage?
Political action could remedy both of these situations, so why doesn’t it happen?
Firstly, most politicians are male. (Please refer to arguments presented above).
Secondly, the relatively few female politicians are unlikely to rock the boat, since this will likely disadvantage them at some stage, because most politicians are male. (Please refer to arguments presented above).
If you see political action, from within governments, as a means to improve the leadership situation for women, don’t hold your breath. It will take something like a new “suffrage movement”, created and directed by women, to bring about significant, meaningful change.
Comprising more than 50% of the population, and with limitless capabilities, women have the potential to be the driving force in politics. They have little or no chance of breaking the male stranglehold on party politics, so they need to stand, and be elected, as independent candidates.
For this to happen, there has to be at least one plausible female candidate standing, in every electorate, in every election in the country.
Imagine the rapidity of change if women chose to vote only for women. It may be suggested that our female politicians would be, at best, inexperienced or, at worst, unqualified.
I would ask if it were possible for even the rawest newcomers to perform more poorly than those who have been in power for years?
Men rule the world by default, and we do a bloody miserable job of it.