The Mythos of Female Leaders | Sarah Stook


There’s a common belief in some sections of society that women should rule the world. They say that they’d do a better job than men, that they’re smarter and more mature. 

That, my friends, is what we call a fantasy. Women aren’t better rulers than men. They aren’t worse either. Here’s why: 

The History of Women in the Lead

For most of history, female leaders were a rarity. Some societies were more egalitarian, whilst others would have been horrified by the idea of a woman in charge. As a general rule, women became leaders if there were no available men. We saw this with Mary I, Elizabeth I and Isabella II of Spain among others. For the royal families of the world, having sons was essential. Kings would remarry in the hopes of having a living son. 

In some societies, women could not become rulers. Salic Law prescribes that only a man can be King and that all Kings come from the patrilineal line. France subscribed to this rule and thus never had any queens regnant. Some daughters married cousins and other relations in order to become Queen consort. 

More recently, women have had equal succession rights to men. This isn’t always the case- the monarchs of Bahrain, Brunei, Cambodia (since 1993), Japan, Kuwait, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, the UAE and the Vatican have to be men. Women are totally excluded. In the republic of Iran, women are barred from serving as President.

Female Rulers

The first argument that dispels this myth is the women who have led or are leading.

Many of them have been fine women, some considered the greatest leaders of their countries. If we look at our own nation, we’ve produced Elizabeth I, Victoria and Elizabeth II. 

That’s not the case with all of them.

The idea that women will be more peaceful and gentle than male leaders is incorrect. In a world where men dominated politics, many queens were bloodthirsty and willing to fight for their position. They’ve started wars and won them. They’ve committed assassinations and executed the innocent. Women were not exempt from the violence of the world and are certainly not above acting upon it. 

  • Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba traded slaves
  • Mary I killed many Protestants
  • Elizabeth I killed many Catholics
  • Mary II overthrew her father 
  • Isabella of Castile established the Spanish Inquisition and exiled the Jews
  • Catherine the Great invaded other nations 
  • Ranavalona I of Madagascar was extremely cruel with torture and had Christians brutally executed 
  • Empress Wu Zetian killed her mother, other consorts and grandchildren 
  • Olga of Kiev set a whole city alight 

Some of these women are considered to be great leaders. Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great are revered to this day. Isabella of Castile helped unite Spain and turn it into a powerhouse. Olga of Kiev is a saint. 

This type of violence was far from uncommon in olden times. Sure, it’s not as popular today, but it also shows that women aren’t exactly peaceful and fair.

Leaders Today

Being a female leader in the past century also doesn’t mean greatness.

Park Geun-hye of South Korea and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil were both impeached on charges of corruption and financial irregularity. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina has a very sketchy legal record. India’s Indira Gandhi proclaimed a long state of emergency that suspended civil liberties and allowed atrocities to be committed. 

The Cult of Female Idealisation

Fundamentally, there’s a cult of idealising women as a whole. By declaring women to be automatically better suited for higher office, we’re pigeonholing them into a state of utter perfection. Women become virtuous and perfect and amazing in a similar vein to the Madonna-Whore complex. We’re an imperfect group. It’s infantilizing women somewhat. We’ve become unchallenged and unquestionable.

It’s doubtless that many who think women should rule would be the first to castigate Margaret Thatcher or Theresa May. It doesn’t matter to them that they’re trailblazers or even female leaders. They’re the wrong type of women. That’s fine, you don’t have to like them, but criticise them on ideology instead of being the wrong type of women. So many American women would be angry if the first female President was a Republican.

Look at the so-called ‘KHive.’ This online group are devoted fans of Vice President Kamala Harris. They’re always waiting to defend the Vice President and attack anyone who is negative about her, even if it’s a valid argument. Is the group so protective of her because she’s a woman in power? It’s certainly true. They cry racism and sexism at every turn. Sure, there are people who criticise Harris on racial and sex grounds, but it’s not the vast majority. 

Women aren’t purer and kinder and wiser than men. Sure, I often think men are stupid and immature, but it doesn’t mean I think women are any better. We’re not some idealised version built up by hardcore feminists. One campaign stated that we need to ‘vote like women.’ What happens when a woman voted for something you don’t like? 

Listen to women for a start. We’re not objects of your fascination or adoration. Yes, it’s going to be a long time before women become leaders as frequently as men. There are still countries where women cannot be leaders. I think we should push for that change to level the playing field. Don’t put us on a pedestal – let us fight our own way.


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