Wanted: A feminine female prime minister?!
Somebody said people hoped that Theresa May would be different as the new prime minister. She would bring femininity into the much controversial British politics. That she would be different to Margaret Thatcher who ruled ‘more man-like in a man’s world of ruthless politics.’
I wondered why she should be different on those lines of masculinity Vs femininity. Such hopes, I said, were typical expectations aligned with gender stereotypes. I argued that Theresa May should simply lead. As a leader with democratic values of good governance. Not as a woman or a man politician but as a leader with vision and awareness of the ground realities. That a woman must show her feminine qualities in the highly competitive and deceiving world of politics and governance is a reaffirmation of gendered roles. Roles of women as care takers, givers, soft, motherly, and as symbol of peace and balance are gendered expectations. There is some masculinity and femininity in both males and females.
A colleague, when I was working in the human development sector, once commented about our division head who was a female. He said she had adopted a particular masculine-style of walking and some such behaviours as a result of being in that responsible leadership role. Interestingly, although women held most leadership positions in that organisation this colleague made a comment about this particular woman. I just thought she walked and moved around the way she did because she was almost six-foot tall and big. Most women around her looked petite. I thought that colleague preferred a stereotypical image of a feminine female.
What about all those women, generally, who don’t have ‘typical’ feminine bodies, soft and gently flowing voice, and a motherly/nurturing look on their face? I have seen men responding to ‘such’ women with stern faces, unfriendly, using formal voice, showing authority and power (unnecessarily), being dismissive, disrespectful, and less tolerant. I have seen women calling ‘such’ women manly and not charming, showing them less respect, excluding, labelling and spiteful.
What about those very few female leaders of this modern world of politics who have led or leading governance? There have been ugly comments about their personhood, their personal looks, their marital status, not having children and so on. The attitude towards a ‘feminine’ female continues to be astonishingly stereotypical. The beliefs surrounding a ‘female’ image are unashamedly so orthodox. The trap of masculinity and femininity is abysmal.
Let Prime Minister Theresa May’s governance demonstrate something good for her country so that people are happier and healthier. Not as a female prime minister but just as a strong democratic leader.