You Go, Girl!

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE -

SO IT’S all done and dusted. Theresa May has be­come the new Prime Min­is­ter of the United King­dom. And if Don­ald Trump keeps up his gaffe-a-day performance, Hil­lary Clin­ton is a dead cert for the White House. If you take in the fact that Ger­many al­ready has a fe­male Chan­cel­lor in An­gela Merkel, this will be the first time in history that we see a tri­umvi­rate of pow­er­ful women rul­ing the world (well, vast swathes of it, at any rate) at the same time.

At the risk of sound­ing sex­ist, I have to confess that I find this a rather thrilling prospect. A fe­male US Pres­i­dent, a fe­male UK Prime Min­is­ter and a fe­male Ger­man Chan­cel­lor. What are the odds of this ever hap­pen­ing again – at least in my life­time? So, even though I can see some of you (mostly those with that Y chro­mo­some) shak­ing your heads and tut-tut­ting at my naïveté, I refuse to curb my en­thu­si­asm.

When­ever I ex­press these views – both in real life and in so­cial me­dia – there are a few stock re­sponses that are in­vari­ably thrown at me. How does it mat­ter if these lead­ers are women? Surely, lead­ers should be cho­sen for their abil­i­ties and not their gen­der? abil­ity and tal­ent, they are eas­ily the equals of their male coun­ter­parts (though, frankly, it is far­ci­cal to com­pare Hil­lary Clin­ton to the abom­i­na­tion that is Don­ald Trump).

So then, we come to that old chest­nut: are women lead­ers any good for other women? Do they stand by the sis­ter­hood? Is the fem­i­nist cause bet­ter served by hav­ing a fe­male in a po­si­tion of power?

Well, by way of an­swer, all I have for you are two words: Barack Obama.

As Obama nears the end of his two terms as Amer­ica’s first African-Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent (well, okay, mixed race, if you want to get all pedan­tic about it), race re­la­tions in the USA are at an all-time low. Just over the last week, we had two young Black men – Al­ton Ster­ling in Louisiana and Phi­lando Castile in Min­nesota – shot and killed by po­lice in cir­cum­stances that would have earned most White folk a ticket or a cau­tion at the most. And they were just the lat­est in a long roll call of Black men who have died at the hands of the po­lice. Michael Brown, an un­armed teenager, was killed by a po­lice of­fi­cer in Fer­gu­son. Trayvon Martin, an­other un­armed teenager, was killed by a neigh­bour­hood watch vol­un­teer in Florida. Eric Garner, who was put in a choke hold by NYPD of­fi­cers, was heard say­ing ‘I can’t breathe’ over and over again be­fore he died. His dy­ing words be­came a ral­ly­ing cry for those protest­ing po­lice vi­o­lence against Blacks.

Ac­cord­ing to The Guardian, which runs a project to track po­lice killings in Amer­ica, at least 136 peo­ple have been killed by the po­lice in 2016 alone. And The Wash­ing­ton Post es­ti­mates that 258 Black peo­ple have died at the hands of the po­lice in 2015. Not sur­pris­ingly then, last week saw coun­try­wide demon­stra­tions in the USA against po­lice bru­tal­ity against Blacks (#Black­Lives­Mat­ter). And in Dal­las, the po­lice force it­self be­came the tar­get of an African-Amer­i­can sniper, who shot at a protest rally and killed five cops and in­jured many oth­ers.

All this, while the first Black Pres­i­dent of Amer­ica was still in the White House.

So, if the pres­ence of an African-Amer­i­can at the helm of af­fairs can’t make things bet­ter for Black peo­ple, why should we imag­ine that the pres­ence of a fe­male leader will make things bet­ter for women?

The sim­ple an­swer is that it is not so sim­ple at all. Elect­ing a Black Pres­i­dent or a fe­male Prime Min­is­ter does not mean that the prob­lems of those sec­tions of the com­mu­nity will mag­i­cally dis­ap­pear. No, that magic wand does not ex­ist, so no­body – what­ever their sex, colour, eth­nic­ity – can wield it to make our prob­lems van­ish.

Let’s take an ex­am­ple closer home. The BSP leader, Mayawati, who styles her­self as ‘Dalit ki beti’ has been the chief min­is­ter of UP four times over. But Dalit women con­tinue to be raped and Dalit men killed if they over­step the bounds set out for them.

But that doesn’t negate the sym­bolic value of hav­ing a Dalit woman at the helm of af­fairs. By her sheer pres­ence, she serves as a bea­con of hope, send­ing out glim­mers of pos­si­bil­ity to ev­ery Dalit girl study­ing in a re­mote pri­mary school that one day she too can at­tain those heights.

And it is that mes­sage that will hit home for young girls ev­ery­where when women do – quite lit­er­ally – take over the world. And I, for one, can’t wait to see that hap­pen.

When a tri­umvi­rate of fe­male lead­ers comes to power across the world, it in­spires young women ev­ery­where

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