As I read books like Lean In and contemplate what roles women should play on the world stage, I am discouraged to learn that for every step forward, women are also taking a step backward. Take, for example, the reversal of fortune for women in Australia. After ousting Julia Gillard as prime minster, her successor, Tony Abbott, a man whom Gillard described as “the definition of misogyny,” has announced plans to abolish the carbon and mining taxes instituted by Gillard to protect the environment and has reduced the number of women in the cabinet from 6 to 1. As Jake Niall writes in The Age, what has occurred is “a sharp swing from estrogen to testosterone.” (“The men are in charge once more,” by Jake Niall, excerpted from The Age by The Week, 12/27/13, pg. 14.) Given that Abbott, a former boxer, doesn’t shrink from being photographed in his Speedo, (Ibid pg. 14) one is inclined to agree with Niall about a sudden surge in testosterone. But the wonder isn’t that social services may be curtailed – education and health care, for example. What boggles the mind is that a lot of women must have voted for him.
Events here at home don’t give women much hope, either. A recent survey reveals that the number of females employed in technology fields has declined from 30% in 1990 to 27% today. When asked why they left the arena, women replied the environment had become sexist. Or as Ann Friedman writes in NYMag.com, the “’Bros’ are the puerile, self-absorbed privileged white guys who are turning the tech world into a giant frat house where women aren’t welcome. ( Ibid, pg. 14)
If the frat boy mentality were limited to Silicon Valley, it might be tolerated, but it permeates all aspects of society. During the recent talks between Vladimir Putin and Barrack Obama, the media turned the accord on Syria’s poison gas into a cock fight, debating among themselves about who was the winner and who the loser. What these frat boys missed was that a compromise was reached and the planet could breathe easier, literally.
The world really can’t afford much more testosterone. There ought to be a tax on it like carbon emissions. Certainly, when women do get a chance to take a leadership role, the rest of us ought to get behind them. Sex does matter. Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor and one of Europe’s most powerful leaders, shows us a feminine style, one that doesn’t seek to butt heads but soothes, cajoles and armed with reason usually succeeds, not for the good of her ego but for the good of her people.
(Tony Abbott courtesy of www.brw.com.au)