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April 10, 2008

Oh how she cracked the whip…

How many of you read that headline and thought about a woman whipping a man? Mention the phrase whip-cracking-woman and the imagery is usually sexual, S&M and what not. If I were to expand that description to include gun-toting-murderer as well, at best most would think Demi Moore from Charlie's Angels. Somehow the association of power and women is either always sexual or clad in silk stockings and garter belts. Is it any wonder then that this world has NEVER seen a woman with absolute power over her people? Not a single female dictator. Don't women love/ want ABSOLUTE power? Do women lack the basic insensitivity (or skills?) needed to go from 'mere' politician to dictator and tyrant… Or is it because they can neither command the kind of fear nor generate the control needed to be a dictator?

I started thinking women and power and tyranny owing to a conversation I had last Thursday at a party. The question was, "Who do you root for in the US presidential elections?" Well honestly no one since I am rather interested in the next Prime Minister for my country, but instead I answered with, "Hillary Clinton, would be interesting to have a woman in power just to shake things up a bit." My answer was met with some incredulous stares. But perhaps Mrs Clinton is not the answer, what with her trading her 'soft' locks for a 'boy' cut and skirts for pant suits for her presidential campaign. The closest the world has ever had to a female despot was India's Indira Gandhi… and now Filipino president Gloria Arroyo seems to be following in her footsteps as well.

Perhaps it can be said that since most dictators have either had links to the Army – an allegiance from men with guns is usually a prerequisite – or been seasoned political players. Women-in-armed-forces has been a recent development in most nations and even there, women rising to positions of power (and not just higher designations) is rare. As for political participation, there's been much debate and discussion on the representation of the "fairer sex" in politics. Few women have risen to positions of command and some of the prominent ones who have, have not been 'liked' at all. But then dictatorship is not about being "likeable"; it's about having absolute power with a complete disregard for opinions other than your own… And for lives other than those you can use. And somewhere, it is also the ability to have others follow your command and fear you: Can a woman EVER do that? Genocide, ruthlessly thwarting opponents, suppressing freedom of speech or any other freedom that threatens her?

Yes we have had cases of women who have been remorseless and acted “like men” when it comes to murder or ruthlessness, but are women capable of it on a larger scale? Someone said that women HAVE enjoyed absolute power albeit using the man/men in their lives as a front, there have been women monarchs who have exercised control and we have all heard the oft-repeated “many a war has been fought over women”. But beyond collecting diamonds (Mayawati) and sarees (Jayalalithaa) and getting real-estate deals for her son (Sheila Dikshit), can women CONTROL and effectively subjugate?

Of course, there are enough opinions and case studies against dictators, but for the sake of argument I would be mighty interested in seeing if a woman ever 'rises' to the occasion. And if I could make an uneducated guess (I am no pro in matters political), I'd say the Indian subcontinent could well be the one to give the world its first female dictator… Look at the political scenario today, women are steadily growing in number and in power and I don't just mean your Information and Broadcast or Social Justice portfolios…

Sonia Gandhi heads the Congress, Sheila Dikshit rules over Delhi, Jayalalithaa is enough of a pain down under and even Aishwarya Rai is making tentative forays into politicaldom. Those who laugh at Mrs Rai-Bachchan, please watch things carefully: From a swimsuit debut in movies, to winning a crown, to changing into the perfect example of the Indian Bahu, Ash seems to be making some VERY studied moves… With her campaigning for Samajwadi Party’s Amar Singh (some would say that’s a family friend and all), I will be the least surprised if Aishwarya were to make a political foray: Beautiful, articulate and extremely scheming is how I see her. Much before new Mrs Bachchan though, there is someone else who has been shaking things up in the political field.

As I consider the whole woman-on-top scenario, my thought process freezes at certain posters. Posters that stare down at me from hoardings at the busiest of intersections, posters that deface road signs as directions are obscured behind congratulatory party messages, posters that share common space with dribbling spit and piss on walls that also declare, "Dekho yahan gadha moot raha hai." (Look, an ass is pissing here).

Posters that have one unsmiling face – unless a smirk that does not reach the eyes can be called a smile – and for once it's not Sonia Gandhi or Sheila Dikshit (perhaps because the Congress has a better sense of where they want to flash their party president's face). It's behen Mayawati, the Chief Minister of one of India's most lawless state, Uttar Pradesh (literally means 'northern state'). Mayawati, or behenji as she is called, who grew in political stature mouthing equality for Dalits and the ‘downtrodden’ while amassing Rs 52 crore (and more) as personal wealth (in diamonds and real estate that grew by 400% in three years). She who nearly sold off the Taj Mahal's backside and converted it into a shopping mall, she who won by a whopping majority in a male dominated state (like which state isn't!) and she who might just become the only other woman after the late Indira Gandhi to squeeze India by her balls.

It could be NDTV’s Barkha Dutt too (grin).I would be very interested in seeing HOW a woman “commands and rules”…in absolute terms.

PS: Would I like to be under a woman's dictatorship? Er, no, not unless I was either her primary aide or advisor, or for the sake of argument, the dictator. And of course I won’t ban blogs.

PS2: Partner who happened to read the earlier PS says, “Ask me, I am already suffering.” Point proven: The mere idea of a woman dictator gives nightmares to men. (Wink)

24 comments:

Crimson Feet said...

women rule... either way ;)

Mystique said...

hmm. India? Dictatorial Women? Really??
Ok, hmm, the way you put it, maybe possible.....
But do you really think that Madame Rai-Bachchan (spelling error?) could be the next big thing in politics?
hm. hmmm.
for one, I think women dictators could be worse than males. I don't know why.....it's just that if a woman ever hardens her heart enough to actually get to that position.....well......
huh.

Maxine said...

hmm.nice post.
Joan of Arc, Queen Elizebeth =absolute power?

Women are more emotional than men.Emotional in the sense they can only be extremes,from being loving,nurturing etc to the bitch...whatever,etc.Its in the hands of men to keep that loving nature in them intact.If he misbehaves then poof...gone.Like some of the ancient figurines depict women having several arms and carrying flower as well as a sword.

"Domestic roles haven't changed much even now and women who do those don't make history"(Read that somewhere.Not the exact lines though)And that quote had counter arguments too.I'll just skip that :D

Hillary Clinton is gonna loose.Its just bad timing for her.And I wonder, if she lose,will she finally say good bye to her hubby?This power crave was the reason why she stayed with him even after whatever he did,isnt it.

And aiswarya,(she doesnt deserve a capital 'a')did play her role in real life well,until now.What if she goes through the same kinda situation as the Clintons,will she still stay by her man?For a political good image n career?haha...nevmind.

To your PS2...every man I know has spoken that divine line.hmm and I'm not liking it.So Adam,before we start boiling you here,go n do something extra nice for our Eve.Get her a Harry Potter T-shirt or something.
:) Takecare guys.

Eve* aka jb said...

Mystique ---> somehow Aishwarya's 'growth' over the years has been more than just another Bollywood actress. While there have been scandals and controversies around her, she has always come out unscathed. Her alliances in Bollywood and outside have all been with the rich and powerful, more so the powerful. Despite having alleged romantic ties with Viveik and Salman, she settled for Abhishek and effectively became the unofficial first lady of India. She is not just another 'bahu'..she is the perfect mix -- or promotes herself -- as beauty, brains, culture etc. She is already an embassador to the country outside and would be perfect to take it a step further. Amar Singh and by extension the Samajwadi Party is already eating out of her hands. Amitabh will not foray into politics directly, Abhi will maintain his Bollywood character, Mrs Jaya Bachchan is anyway nowhere in the picture... Aishwarya is perfectly positioned to first campaign and then get a ticket thru the party. Will she be accepted? Might just be with her head-covered, good girl act. And i reiterate, she is bloody shrewd. Let's see, but i have a very strong feeling she will...theres' only that long she wil last as an actress,given that she really cannot act and beauty can be preserved for only that long...

Eve* aka jb said...

Maxine ---> Thats what i am wondering, can women rise above their emotions and ambitions being linked to men to go BEYOND? Of course women can be ruthless and scheming, but it's usually short term and man-related. It would be interesting to see whether without a man in the equation can a woman's ambition rise to control all? Somehow, ambition in most women has also been linked to men... If she has a heartbreak she will concentrate on her career otherwise most women are only to happy to have a home and then a secondary career. What say?

Eve* aka jb said...

Vibhash---> Sure jayalalithaa has been around but somewhere her interest is 'local' and relegated to ruling her corner of south India for small, petty gains. Mayawati seems adept at being able to play both sides of the coin. For a politician who rose as a mouthpiece for the Dalits -- dalit ke beti and what not -- she won by majority votes in 2007 by wooing the upper class as well. That's no small feat, a 'low class' leader who has the upper classes eating out of her hands as well. Also, Behenji does not come across as someone who will be happy sticking only to UP or a national portfolio, she wants it all. And frankly, the only other contender I see who could challenge Behenji -- and vice versa -- is Narendra Modi. Things will get interesting...

Crimson Feet said...

Everybody seems to have missed my immensely deep and cogitative psychotheosophical summarisation of the idea under deliberation!!

Women rule... and thats their style of ruling. If a woman tries to adopt a man's style, then she will be only as successful as a man trying to convince an opponent by fluttering his eyes!

Oh! is that so?

Right. Thats their power! They will miss the point and you'll still find them cute!


OK. No verbal bricks please. I was only kidding. What I actually think is that every ruler has a style, irrespective of their gender.

Shady said...

Hell hath no fury like a women scorned. Ummm the women dictator sewers in at 9. am I take the flight out one week in advance.

Eve* aka jb said...

Crimson ---? Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth, Condoleezza Rice, Indira Nooyi AND Mayawati usually do not flutter their lashes. They usually grab the situation by its balls and watch others (usually men) flutter their lashes in pain. With regards to your statement, in the cosmetic surgery post and this one, you have ended up sounding like any other typical man... "beauty is her tool" while a man uses his brains? And yet, women have been used by many a man to get their work done, albeit by getting someone else to flutter their lashes. The fluttering variety is usually seen in petty family dramas; we are talking domination and fear and fluttering lashes dont go together.

Your views on both occassions have been quite surprising... with or without that "wink". Your turn now!

Oedipa Maas said...

"Can a woman EVER do that? Genocide, ruthlessly thwarting opponents, suppressing freedom of speech or any other freedom that threatens her?" Yes. Ranavalona I, Queen of Madagascar (1782-1861). Attempted genocide of Christians. Vide wikipedia: "Some were trussed up like chickens and thrown from hilltops repeatedly until they died. Others were dressed in the bloody skins of animals and had hunting dogs set upon them. Some were yoked together like cattle and placed in the thick tangled jungles of Madagascar where they would break their necks trying to get free, or would get caught in the undergrowth and starve to death. One of Ranavalona's favorite methods of execution was to have a prisoner placed in a pit at the bottom of a hill and have her soldiers, at the top of the hill, tip over pots of boiling water; when the water reached the pit, it would slowly rise up and boil the prisoner alive."
On the flip side, Greatest ruler England ever had was a woman. Queen Elizabeth I. Refused to marry and share her power.
Hillary Clinton is the worst thing that could happen to women. So the only way a woman can be president is for her husband to do the job first, and then let her have a go when he's finished?
"male dominated state (like which state isn't)" West Bengal.
"Beauty is her TOOL while a man uses his BRAINS"!!!! Very nice Eve.
That's all for now.
W.A.S.T.E. We Await Silent Tristero's Empire.

Crimson Feet said...

My last three sentences were as follows -

OK. No verbal bricks please. I was only kidding. What I actually think is that every ruler has a style, irrespective of their gender.

Thats what I truly believe. The names that you have mentioned, are just leaders for me. Not Female Leaders! They stand in the same league as Gandhi, Bose, Lincoln, Iacocca, Welch, Rata Tata etc.

Having said that neither have I tried to ever sound like a non-typical man, nor do I have any qualms sounding like a typical one.

This is me. I appreciate people for their complexity and variety and also like girls who flutter their eyes!

Girls do look pretty when they flutter their eyes and one is bound to feel powerless.

Oedipa Maas said...

Powerless at the fluttering of a pretty pair of eyes! My, Crimson, what will you do if they actually smile at you?
Sorry to interrupt but Christopher Hitchens tells a story of how he met Margaret Thatcher at a party and she was unhappy with something he'd written. In the middle of a party full of dignitaries she leaned over conspiratorially, whispered "You naughty boy!" and spanked him gently on the ass.
Sex is always part of the equation, for men or women.
W.A.S.T.E.

Crimson Feet said...

Thank you very much Dear Oedipa! Thats a very insightful incident you shared there!

And boy oh boy! they do smile at me. One loves that feeling of light-headed light-footed powerlessness, especially when such smiles closely follow a flutter of the eyes!

Eve* aka jb said...

lol @ Margareth Thatcher slappin butt, perhaps the reason she really didnt rise and sustain.
for the record, that quote about beauty-brains is not mine, Oedipa. As for women rulers, I would like to see another other than a monarch, both examples you have quoted have been monarchs and if you notice the examples given in the post, monarchs have been avoided. As for Hillary, I would agree completely and have written above too that I would like to see a woman WITHOUT a man standin behind her or shielding her or acting as her front who would come to the fore.

Maxine said...

looking in that ankle,yea there is none.Its not Barkha,no no no no.Perhaps should try to bring up a lil girl,train and let rise on her own.And one day she sees a charming some party president and fall for him.OR at her old age will curse her trainers for not giving her a women's heart.
I'm ready to be one.But then,i'll be one of the cases you have mentioned here.linked with men type.so what?

Maxine said...

Should also train Mayawati to flutter her eyes.

Oedipa Maas said...

If you can't have monarchs I suspect you are right, Eve, and there have been none. One question which occurs is, have there been any female monarchs who didn't inherit their kingdom but conquered it for themselves? Dido is supposed to have founded the city-state of Carthage from nothing, but she isn't a good example since she supposedly threw it all away for the love of a man, Aeneas, and is probably mythical anyway.
As for men fluttering eyelashes, there are some quite alarming stories about Napoleon, that most macho of Frenchmen, behaving positively coquettishly at times.
W.A.S.T.E.

Vibhash Prakash Awasthi said...

why single out mayavati....even jayalalita has had the same terrorism and wealth in her state...as per ur gender argument...it has more to do with the individual thn a gender bieased theory..absolute power will ablosute corrupt...be it laloo or india gandhi

Never Mind!! said...

Yeah I agree, Puratchi Thalaivi (was considered the next India Gandhi at least in the south. Also I thought she was famous for her footwear and matching bullet proof vest collection more than Sarees. Its surprising that you don't mention Sonia Gandhi. Although she is not a ruthless dictator, she is definitely one of the most powerful people in India today.

sphinx said...

Quick point have we forgotten Indira Gandhi and the woman who was the inspiration for Godmother? We have already had women dictators in small ways I think :)

Silvara said...

We have just appointed our very first female Governor-General in the history of 107 years. Good stuff I think, but then they are saying it could be the last if Australia turns into a republic...so I'm thinking it almost is suspiciously like a "why not?" type of deal. Hope for her sake it isn't becaiuse she sounds brilliant.

Eve* aka jb said...

Yo Sphhinx...you're jumping lines when reading me thinks!

"The closest the world has ever had to a female despot was India's Indira Gandhi…"

As for the woman who inspired Godmother or for that matter Phoolan Devi...both were restricted to very small areas and were known to be criminals. If they were known as criminals AND grew into national leaders, perhaps we are talking. As for Phoolan, she was brutally gang raped. Are we saying no female dictators possible unless there is harm-at-the-hands-of-men involved? Again, Phoolan became what she did due to the treatment meted out to her.

Lemme make it clear here, there is nothing wrong with a woman having the support of her man/men to lead; what i am interested in knowing is if women LACK the basic ambition needed to overpower everyone else?

That all consuming passion to RULE /subjugate that men seem to possess?

Metaphysicist said...

"She's all states, and all princes I ;
Nothing else is ;
Princes do but play us"
---John Donne, The Sun Rising

"Come madam...
Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glittering,
But a far fairer world encompassing...
Licence my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O, my America, my Newfoundland,
My kingdom, safest when with one man mann'd."
---John Donne, Elegy XX: To His Mistress Gong To Bed

pugsieT said...

I am as aware of the world of politics as a goldfish..but ive been around (and heard enough) to know that Mayawati might just take India by the b**** and claw her way up to PM'ship..
and even though she's not somebody that i think best represents me as an Indian..but who am i really to DEFINE what constitues an Indian? considering we're all so different anyway...
The idea of a woman in power is probably great for Feminism but im not totally sure of how comfortable i'd be in a dictatorship...regardless of whose the dictator...
However, i dont really think i'd consider it a happy day for the Feminist movement if a woman comes to power BASED on her modelling herself in the masculine idea of power...
Why exactly do we have to BE like men again?
How about being fabulous, powerful and feminine..and by feminine i dont mean fluttering your lashes or donning saris...
i mean be what YOU are regardless of its construction by society..
wear pink or blue or orange...
Lets get BEYOND looks and focus on content shall we!!!
Women, i believe, have what it takes to manage the country...
and im pretty sure time will prove me right...(over and over again)