Rattling the Cage: Ruling-class feminists

The two women in the Israeli cabinet are also the two most outstanding ministers.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
I was looking over the group photo of the new Israeli cabinet, and I decided that there were only two ministers out of the 25 whom I could get enthusiastic about - only two outstanding people in really critical jobs that suit them. Then I saw that there were only two women in the photo. And then I saw that the two outstanding ministers and the two women were the same people - Education Minister Yuli Tamir and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Does this say something about women in politics, or women in leadership positions in general? Does it say we need more of them? No, it doesn't. It says absolutely nothing at all about anything or anybody except Yuli Tamir and Tzipi Livni, who, by pure and utter coincidence as far as I'm concerned, happen to be the only two high-caliber people in the new cabinet who have crucially important jobs that seem to fit their abilities. I can think of so many other women politicians and women leaders of all sorts, in Israel and elsewhere, who would have done the world a huge favor if they'd only stayed in the kitchen, or maybe discovered the kitchen. I can't handle these feminists who go around saying that the world would be a more peaceful, happy place if only women, who have an instinct for cooperation and consensus, had more power and the men, who are so aggressive and ego-driven, had less. I call these women "ruling-class feminists." The actress Sharon Stone is one. When she was here a couple of months ago as a guest of the Peres Center for Peace, she said at a news conference: "It's time for women to be part of the negotiations, because they have a different language. Imagine [a woman head of state saying] 'I was considering going to war, let's discuss, let's consider the other angles.'" WHAT I imagined was myself at that news conference, asking her, "Did you know, Ms. Stone, that the Israeli prime minister who came closest to nuking another country, the most dogmatic, closed-minded leader Israel ever had, one who passed up chance after chance for peace until the Yom Kippur War blew up in everyone's face, also happened to be Israel's only woman prime minister?" (Then I imagined Sharon Stone's reply: "God, you're brilliant. Take me.") Anyway, where is the evidence that women handle power more modestly, less confrontationally than men? Margaret Thatcher? Limor Livnat? And don't think only of politicians - think of the people you work with. I've had lots of women bosses and lots of men bosses, and I've found that when it comes to being power-hungry, and when it comes to riding roughshod over other people's feelings, there's no division by gender. Women in power can be bitches just as easily as men in power can be sons of bitches. I do think, however, that there is something to the idea that women are, on the whole, more cooperative and less confrontational than men; it isn't just the "ol' boy network" that explains why men tend to be higher on the workplace totem pole than women. I also think that, on the whole, women are more inclined to peace and less inclined to war than men, and voting patterns in Israel, the US and no doubt other countries will bear this out. But these principles don't hold true, from what I've seen, for women who go into politics or business and thrive there, who move high up the ladder. People who attain serious power do so because they really wanted it, the women no less than the men, and the drive for that kind of power is inherently aggressive, even warlike. Women who've reached very high positions may have different styles of aggression than men, they may fight differently, they may have different ways of winning. But they are not oriented to working out disagreements to everyone's satisfaction - to making peace - any more than men in commanding positions are. HIGHLY-SUCCESSFUL, high-powered people, whatever their gender, are oriented to winning. That's how they got to where they are. Whether they busy themselves with winning the peace or with winning the war depends on their political views, and I haven't noticed that women in the upper reaches of political power tend to be more dovish than hawkish. Golda Meir was no peacenik. Neither is Condoleezza Rice. Neither is Hillary Clinton. I'd be very happy if Yuli Tamir or Tzipi Livni became prime minister, but I wouldn't want to cross either one of them. In fact, looking at the group photo of the cabinet ministers, I wouldn't want to cross any of those 25 piranhas. But the truth is that I'd rather tangle with any of them before I would with Sharon Stone; she stands up there smiling and talking about peace and brotherhood and sisterhood, and all I can think of is that ice pick.