Love is Progressive Part 30: Can Women Bring More Love to Politics?
Women have participated in greater ratios over time in politics. It wasn't very long ago, historically speaking, that women were not even able to vote in the United States, and surely in many other nations as well. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_women's_suffrage). Now, increasing numbers of women are going into politics; many nations have or have had woman leaders, and citizens of the United States increasingly are anticipating the election of a female President. Here is a recent Wikipedia entry on the growing representation of women as politicians worldwide (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_government). Note that the United States ranks only 78th worldwide, and lags behind other English speaking nations in this regard. With the election of Barack Obama, the bars have come off the political prison cell of white male privilege, and opened the doors to women and minorities all the way to the highest level of government, the presidency.
The more meaningful issue, though, is how having women politicians will change politics. (The same can be said of non-white politicians here in the U.S.) If women politicians act the same as their male counterparts, then all we would see is really just a change of face and not of policy. There is a real danger of that happening, too; in fact, female politicians often seem to be products of, and vetted by, the old boys network, giving us more of the same. This is a product of the insidiousness of the established system.
Does that mean that in general, however, women politicians will imitate the male ones in all aspects of politics? No, it definitely does not. There are at least a couple of factors which ensure that this will not happen. First, women are people just as men are, and they bring their own viewpoints and experiences into office, no matter how the system might work to inculcate them with prevailing political practices. Women simply tend to have a different world view than men. (Again, the same applies to non-white politicians; in fact, both women and minorities occupy the Progressive Caucus in Congress at much greater rates than their overall representation in Congress. Although gender and ethnicity are not mentioned, it is apparent that this is the case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congressional_Progressive_Caucus) Secondly, women politicians have pressure on them to be advocates for women's rights and the feminine world view. This is what voters want and expect of them. They don't typically vote women into office over men these days, simply to have women in office. That might be a factor, but also, people hope for and expect women in political office to act like women and give the public policies from their perspective, rather than more of the same.
Is there evidence that female politicians are different from their male counterparts? Yes, there is. Aside from the aforementioned greater representation of women among progressive politiicians, women are more likely to be progressive voters than are men, and there is more. Researchers have asked the question of whether women politicians are as curruptible as men politicians, and discovered that the answer in general is "no." Women are indeed less likely to behave in a corrupted manner while in office (http://swampland.time.com/2013/09/13/women-in-politics-less-likely-to-be-corrupt-study-says/; http://corruptionresearchnetwork.org/resources/frontpage-articles/gender-and-corruption). Although these articles do not differentiate by type of corruption, it seems likely that womenare far less likely to have sex scandals than men, and also less likely to engage in other corrupt practices such as financial malfeasance or nepotism. This is of huge importance in the modern world with its money corrupted politics. Women simply appear to be less corruptible than men, and thus having women in charge would likely help alleviate the corruption that we face in politics around the world. It would not eliminate all corruption, but if women are true to their trend of sticking to their principles better than men, it should be of great help. The only caveat to this finding is that it does not apply well to anti-democratic (non-voting, auttocratic) societies, which tend to be deeply corrupt; thus, the democratic process is crucial to bringing uncorrupt women into leadership positions so that corruption can be reduced.
The female perspective itself is also relevant. Women tend to be more relationship oriented than men, and place more importance on emotional factors such as love. Women tend to be more nurturing and empathetic than men. In other words, the female perspective is more about love and nurturance, while the male one is more about security and obedience to the law. This relates to Carol Gilligan's theory of moral development, in which women develop a care perspective focusing on love and nurturance, while men develop a justice perspective focusing on law and order primarily, or higher principles of justice. Thus, the more that women participate in politics, especially as politicians, the more the political agenda and narrative will tend to focus on issues regarding humanitarianism and proper, caring human relations.
Again, we must be careful not to vote for women just because they are women, and to recognize that there are many good poltiticians who are men (or white men for that matter), and we also must be careful not to promote women who have managed to fit in with men politicians by acting identically with them. However, with the potential of women to transform politics in a positive way in mind, as discussed above, I say, "Bring on the women politicians. Let them bring more love to politics!"