This six minutes is worth a watch just for its sheer comedic value as sort of a reductio ad absurdum of gender politics. MSNBC’s Morning Joe debated Kathleen Parker’s laudatory column on the idea of having a woman as President as a way to encourage hostile nations to reform themselves, both in the way they treat women and to become more peaceful in general. Panelist Donny Deutsch then did the unthinkable in asking whether that kind of gender influence might put the US at a disadvantage. After all, if the gender of a leader makes a difference, then there has to be negatives as well as positives to those differences, no? Mediaite captures the puzzlement and rebukes that this hypothesis provoked:
“There’s only one challenge in it,” Deutsch said. “Problem: we have a woman, but our enemies are still on the opposite side of the equation. I don’t think the al Qaedas of the world are going to be headed by women, so it falls apart a little bit. Women plus women equals a win to me. Women and still men on the other side of the table? Theoretically the world would be a better place with women running it. It doesn’t solve the problem.”
“Nobody is assuming women are going to parachute into Afghanistan,” Alex Wagner replied.
“If you have two women down to negotiate something, it’s going to get done without bullets,” Deutsch said. “On our side of the equation, we solve it, but there’s a world that’s still century behind in our evolutionary state or progressive state in how we feel about women.”
“I’m trying to decide whether to ask you to explain yourself,” Mika Brzezinski said.
“I’m talking in this idealistic utopian place of women getting together and making the world a better place, which I agree with,” Deutsch explaind. “The problem is what we’ve learned throughout history is unanswered aggression breeds more aggression. So we’re going to tack on this more maternal—”
“Be careful!” Wagner warned. “I would be careful with this idea she’s going to have a mammalian foreign policy.”
“Then there’s no story!” Deutsch said. “If you’re saying she’s this tough, this aggressive—what’s the difference? We’re assigning these gender values to people, which would make the world a better place, or not.”
Deutsch is right — in that there is no story, anyway. The view that America’s choice of leaders amounts to a global didactic seems more than a little self-centered and arrogant. Frankly, I think the idea that the world would reform itself if only a woman led the most powerful nation on Earth probably was disproven by Queen Elizabeth I about four hundred years ago. It should be noted that the English were among the more reluctant monarchies to allow queens regnant at that time, too, which is why her father was so desperate to have a legitimate son as heir.
The most humorous part about the scrum is Mike Barnicle putting Hillary Clinton on a pedestal in answer to Deutsch’s use of a generic woman leader. “No one is ever going to confuse her (Hillary) of being weak,” Barnicle says. Why not, after Benghazi, the flabby US foreign policy during her time as Secretary of State to the dangers of the Arab Spring in general (and perhaps specifically in Egypt), and the toadiness of the “reset button” with Russia? While one shouldn’t assume any woman in general would be a weak leader, isn’t it acceptable to reach that conclusion based on past performance — or is that a violation of some code as well?
Update: Commenters wisely add the examples of Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir, but one could also add Indira Gandhi, who battled Pakistan for years and was known for her ruthlessness as well as her determination to eschew the status of satellite to either Cold War superpower.