The Gender Bias of Totalitarianism

Article excerpt

George Bernard Shaw once said that the trouble with women is that they aren't more like men. To which, anybody who has lived through the 20th century can only respond, thank God they aren't more like men.

This has been the century of idiot sovereigns like Czar Nicholas II, Kaiser Wilhelm and inhuman monsters like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Mussolini, Tito, Fidel Castro, Nicolae Ceausescu and Idi Amin - all men. What a gallery of totalitarian brutes - and not a single woman among them, a gender gap we rarely think of.

However, since the end of World War II we have noted a goodly number of women elected in their own right as heads of democratic governments - Sri Lanka, Israel, Norway, Canada, Phillipines, Nicaragua, Turkey, Great Britain, India, Pakistan. And if some male chauvinist mutters, how about Indira Gandhi, didn't she impose her own dictatorship on India? Please, where were the concentration camp networks, the mass executions?

In fact when one thinks of the totalitarian dictators, one can say that there are few, if any, women who can be listed as major participants in the crimes which enveloped the Soviet Union, Communist China, Germany, Italy, Cuba, Laos or Eastern Europe. Few women were appointed to top political posts, from Politburos on down in Communist countries. In terms of policy-making power, women were marginal. For example, Nikita S. Khrushchev put Ekaterina Furtseva of the USSR in charge of "culture," but she had little, if any, influence. The Romanian Communist Ana Pauker's power, which was considerable, was strictly derivative as was Madame Ceausescu's.

In fact, what can be said is that women were among the strongest intellectual opponents of Communist totalitarianism, women like Rosa Luxemberg, one of the post-revolutionary Lenin's earliest opponents, Angelica Balabanoff, Ruth Fischer, Yelena Bonner, Freda Utley, Anna Kethly, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Diana Trilling, Midge Decter, Anna Akhmatova, Evgenia Ginzberg.

One reason why there are almost no women in leadership positions in totalitarian states was that these dictatorships were militarist and almost totally dependent on the military and police for internal control and external aggression. Women were excluded from high military posts while those in the secret police were primarily recruited for their sexual attributes. …