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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Are Women Fit to Lead? Are Men Fit to Serve?

Are Women Fit to Lead? Are Men Fit to Serve?
Image © Austin Cline
Original Poster: National Archives
Click for full-sized Image

Amanda Marcotte linked to a post about Ben Domenech suggesting what sort of speech Fred Thompson should have made when he dropped out of the Republican presidential primaries. The recommended explanation for why the remaining candidates were inadequate was "Rudy Giuliani? Slick cheater. Mike Huckabee? Jesus freak. John McCain? Crazy. Mitt Romney? Woman." This reference to women is important because it says a lot about a basic attitude towards women among so many political and religious conservatives: leadership is a male prerogative. Women are unfit to lead and are only suited to follow.

Such an attitude is made more explicit in religion where conservative churches have been eager to inform members that women have a divinely-mandated obligation to submit to the men in their lives, namely husbands and fathers. I think this explicitness is motivated in part by the all-too-common belief that bigotry is acceptable when expressed in a religious context and couched in religious terminology. This does not prevent the same bigotry from being expressed in secular, political contexts, however, because the idea that women should not and cannot lead is not limited to just the church.

There are, of course, attempts to justify misogyny on secular or scientific grounds - such religious believers are never entirely confident that their religious reasons are sufficient - but they are inevitably weak rationalizations which even they must be able to see through. When religious doctrine is excluded and secular rationalizations fall apart, we are left with a simple truth. It is revealed in the statement above and is always behind the pious lies: these people are afflicted with an irrational hatred of women. They'll deny it, of course - they'll profess to "love" and "respect" women, but this love is expressed in a manner which is reminiscent of how slave owners "loved" and "respected" human chattel.

Isn't it curious how it never occurs to misogynists to "love" and "respect" other men in the same way (except when it comes to gay men)? Somehow I doubt that if they were put in such a position, they would feel very loved and respected. The idea that they should treat others in the way that they would like to be treated themselves completely disappears when it comes to how women should be treated - women are so "other" that the Golden Rule doesn't even apply to them, it seems. So much for the vaunted claims of Christian morality that we keep hearing from the Christian Right.

I'd like to point out that in order for a person to be be fit to lead, one of the things which matters most is not gender but their ability and willingness to serve. Many leadership roles are in fact service roles with a lot of extra responsibility attached - not to mention a target attached to the back in case things go wrong. People who seek to serve are the ones who are the best candidates for leadership; those who seek leadership for its own sake are just looking for power and are wholly unsuited for leadership.

What this suggests to me is that the misogynists who want to keep women in submissive positions and who denigrate the service roles which women are typically relegated to are the ones who shouldn't be leading us. Men who put themselves above half the human race simply because of what's dangling between their legs are the same men who will surely put themselves and their own personal interests above the people they are supposed to be serving.

It is or should be common knowledge that you can tell a lot about a person's true personality by observing how they treat people they encounter in service roles: waiters, waitresses, maids, etc. It's not a coincidence that most of those roles are filled by women, and you can also tell a lot about a person's true personality by observing their attitude towards women: do they regard women as having equal worth, dignity, and rights, or do they see women as subservient and fit only as cheap labor for supporting a privileged male lifestyle? I don't know about Fred Thompson, but I have some ideas about the author of the above.

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