Thanks to Mrs Beyonce Giselle Carter, the new catch phrase on every young woman’s lips at the moment is Who Runs The World (Girls)(WRTW(G)). Her first single from her new album 4 has instantaneously become the new anthem for female empowerment. With other singles like ‘Single Ladies’ from her previous album, Survivor and Independent Woman from her earlier days with Destiny’s Child, Mrs Carter is known for being one of the pioneers of the modern day Girl Power Movement through song and lyrics.
Before her there was Aretha Franklin with R.E.S.P.E.C.T or Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves featuring Annie Lennox. Chaka Khan gave us I’m Every Woman which was later redone by Whitney Houston for the movie The Bodyguard. In more recent times, Alicia Keys blessed us with Super Woman and who can forget Christina Aguilera’s sassy rendition of Can’t Hold Us Down featuring L’Il Kim in 2007? There have been many others and there will be many more.
When I heard WRTW(G) for the first time, I found it uplifting and was incited to be a better version of myself. I quietly prayed that Mrs Carter, who I must add has gone down in the history books as one of the female music icons of our generation, would use the imminent music video to show a different side to her.
With lyrics like; “…How we’re smart enough to make these millions. Strong enough to bare the children. Then get back to business…” I wished for a video that highlighted our struggles as women, whilst also celebrating our triumphs. And then she continues; “… my persuasion can build a nation. Endless power. Our love we can devour…” At this point I envisaged a tribute to Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, Mary Robinson, Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, Madeline Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Christine Lagarde and Hillary Clinton.
I got excited thinking about these and a host of other women who have paved the way for us by shattering glass ceilings. It could have been the retro-feminist in me but I soon snapped out of it when I discovered that Mrs Carter had instead settled for the obvious and ubiquitous option of a video full of her usual saucy dance moves and sultry fashion. However, I assumed that between the horses and the lions and the dance battles with an army of men, we are supposed to derive some sort of symbolism of women standing up to and striving against adversity.
Listening to the song made me think. What if women indeed ruled the world? Because the sad reality is no matter how loudly we sing these girl power anthems or try to make ourselves believe the lyrics, it is quite simply NOT true. The question still remains, can we as women rule the world? Will we ever? Would we make better leaders? There are indeed five famous men who at different moments and in different ways have expressed why they believe so:
“Western women can come to the rescue of the world. Some people may call me a feminist. But we need more effort to promote basic human values, human compassion, human affection. And in that respect, females have more sensitivity for others’ pain and suffering.”
“Women should Rule the World. Some of the best initiatives are those that occur because women are involved… It is almost a tacit acknowledgement of the crucial role that women play in nurturing, nurturing life. This revolution… is the last, best chance for making this globe hospitable to peace, to make this globe hospitable to compassion, hospitable to generosity and caring.”
“I’ve said for years and I’m really serious about it, I think men should be barred from holding public office for a hundred years. They have been running the world for the last thousands of years and they’ve mucked up something awful. I built my business surrounding myself with women. I find women more superior to men in business.”
“World ruled by women would be a better place. I have a dream. I see a day when politics is feminised, where female values move into the public sphere in a way they haven’t quite done yet.”
“Men are ridiculous. Women are far better people. Much wiser (not difficult) and with a temperament to deal with life’s complexities and men’s abrasiveness… So I think it’s about time women took over. What they have to put up with is beyond belief. Pathetic, bullying men who throw their weight about (and there’s usually a lot of it) in a vain attempt to prove they’re superior when, in truth, they know they’re not.”
Women should be allowed equal opportunities to men, but I will never advocate on a woman’s behalf on the basis of her gender alone and nothing else. Instead, I would advocate for women to be given the same chances from a very early age so that the girl child too can grow up armed with the knowledge and experience necessary to make the right choices for a successful life. There is a cultural myth that still exists in many societies that the boy child is superior. This is especially prominent in families from impoverished backgrounds who would rather send their son to school instead of their daughter if they can’t afford to educate both. These are some of the issues that I believe feminists should concern themselves with. The emphasis should be on OPPORTUNITIES and not EQUAL alone.
I sincerely wish that inequality was not an issue and that we had a lot more women in high places than we do now. However, provided that there is a system that favours both genders as far as education is concerned, would the ideal not be a world wherein gender is not the issue and it was more about whoever is QUALIFIED for the job? It is true that men often see leadership as a means to caress their egos and exercise their machismo and gung-ho characteristics.
Many argue that women have emotional intelligence unlike men and are more likely to be trust worthy and open while putting an emphasis on collaboration, empowerment, interdependence, compassion and interpersonal relationships. Also, you are less likely to hear about women leaders being involved in some of the recent sex scandals that have made the news headlines. The question however remains, are these just sweeping stereotypical generalisations? Does gender really matter? Can we say categorically that one gender understands the true meaning and nature of leadership better than the other? Who is to say that Matriarchy is better than Patriarchy or vice versa? Especially since when most women speak about Matriarchy their understanding of it is that men and women should be equal. Surely it is more complex than that. Gender equality for me will be equal opportunities for CHANGE not equal opportunities for the status quo to remain but under a different gender.
John C Maxwell, an American evangelical author, defined a leader as; “one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” To a great extent I agree. However there is more. Leadership can be messy and is not always straightforward. The idea that there is a shortlist of specific characteristics set in stone, for a good leader is preposterous. This is because leadership encompasses various different scenarios from organisation to organisation, business to business and country to country. And there are certain characteristics that work better in some situations than they do in others.
When you are a leader, there are times that you have to make unpopular decisions. Like a friend once said; “To err is human, to forgive is NOT company policy.” So out goes the compassion! To pretend that leadership is all honky dory and positive and to wish the dreadful bits away is taking a huge step towards failure. We hope for change. We hope for a day that women with the same talents, qualifications and experiences as men would be given the same opportunities to prove themselves for the same salaries. However we can’t say that leadership belongs exclusively to one gender. As a matter of fact it is more a reality that women and men need to stop the power struggle and learn to be more interdependent.
There is so much that both genders could learn from each other. Both genders have the tools to be great leaders. Some strengths are better appreciated than others and some weaknesses may need to be compensated for. However all it takes is for both sides to discuss the elephant in the room and to understand what the true meaning of leadership is. And part of that involves accepting that leadership is not necessarily for everyone. It has become a common rhetoric that we must all strive to be leaders. What is the point of a shepherd with no flock?
It is important that we first of all embark on achieving excellence in all that we do and that does not always equate to leadership. As Anthony F Smith (Co-Founder and a Managing Director of Leadership Research Institute and author of The Taboos of Leadership: 10 Secrets No One Will Tell You about Leaders and What They Really Think) pointed out “We can’t forget that some of the greatest individuals in history had a significant impact in life without being a leader. We would be much better off if everyone believed that they can and should be a productive, wonderful, compassionate, loving human being.”
Written by Pamilerin Beckley