Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Feminizing World Power: A New Constellation of Women in Politics?

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Feminizing World Power: A New Constellation of Women in Politics?

Article excerpt

It is an interesting time in world politics. Neoliberal globalization seems on the back foot especially after an unexpected Brexit. Europe faces the prospect of realigning itself after the UK vote to leave the EU. The UK suffering from an immediate economic effect of Brexit has to renegotiate its international relations and trading agreements. The EU faces what seem insuperable problems: its Mediterranean economies are in bad shape and the EU is still recovering from the Great Recession of 2007-8. Meanwhile the Middle East is a boiling cauldron of regional, religious and ethnic conflicts involving a new round of US-Russia politics and strategic action over Assad's regime and larger regional bloc conflicts. The Syrian civil war is in its seventh year and refugees from Syrian have made up one of the largest migration crises mainly from displaced refugees in the Middle East since WWII with strong eco- nomic, social and security consequences for the EU. ISIL continues to grow and extend its influence in the Levant. Militant Islam with all its splinter groups continues to conduct its suicide and car bombing attacks on European civil society. There are also new crises brewing in the South China Seas with China's imperial ambitions as well as international difficulties with so-called "rogue states" like Korea. The likelihood of nuclear proliferation is probably greater at this point historically than any time since the end of WWII.

At the same time the specter of Donald Trump grows larger as the US November elections approach and the rhetoric that spills forth from him on issues of NATO, Russia, and China scare most mainstream foreign policy specialists. His threatened withdrawal of major partnerships and international treaties including the recent Paris environmental agreement poses a real cause for alarm.

The world leadership problems and issues confronting heads of state are probably more complex and intrinsically more difficult than at any time in the past. At the same time it appears that the emergence of women leaders currently in power is the highest it has ever been with the election or appointment of some twenty-two female heads of state and leaders in 2015.1 Caroline Howard and Michael K. Ozanian (2012) named "The 100 Most Powerful Women" beginning with Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Dilma Rousseff, Melinda Gates, Jill Abramson, Sonia Ghandi, Michelle Obama, Christine Lagarde, Janet Napolitano, and Sheryl Sandberg under the following description:

There's official power, which comes in the form of a head of state or CEO, and then there's the transformational force of impact, stemming from magnitude of reach and influence. Here are entrepreneurs and early adapters, celebrity role models, activist billionaires and the philanthropists who are healing the world - all ranked by dollars, media presence and impact.

Yet as Swanee Hunt (2007), in an article "Let Women Rule" in Foreign Affairs, reminds us, the progress toward leadership and equal power for women has not been easy or straightforward:

Women have made significant strides in most societies over the last century, but the trend line has not been straight. In recent interviews with hundreds of female leaders in over 30 countries, I have discovered that where women have taken leadership roles, it has been as social reformers and entrepreneurs, not as politicians or government officials. This is unfortunate, because the world needs women's perspectives and particular talents in top positions.

She refers to Francis Fukuyama's 1998 article in Foreign Affairs "Women and the Evolution of World Politics" that speculates women's political leadership would bring about a more cooperative and less conflict-prone world of World Politics. She concludes that Fukuyama's promise has yet to be fulfilled. Hunt (2007) suggests that the shift of women from civil society into government will help to develop a healthier political culture and highlights "the advantages women have over men's brawny style of governance, whether because of biology, social roles, or a cascading combination of the two. …

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