Where Are the Women?

By Chisholm, Kate | The Spectator, January 13, 2007 | Go to article overview

Where Are the Women?


Chisholm, Kate, The Spectator


Those pictures of Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker in the House of Representatives in Washington, celebrating her accession to power surrounded by her husband, children and grandchildren were mightily encouraging. She may have used her husband's money to climb the greasy political ladder, and her Charles Jourdan stilettoes and startlingly colourful pant-suits have no doubt come in handy when she wished to intimidate her rivals, but she's still keenly aware of the significance of her domestic role, and she wants to reassure her colleagues, and her Democrat supporters, that she has not yet been completely brutalised by politics.

Pelosi has been quoted as saying that 'it'll take a woman to clean House', and she intends to bring her experience of bringing up five children and running a family home into the political arena, introducing a nononsense but highly practical approach to the affairs of state. It's a refreshing new direction for women -- Pelosi is not intimidated by her male colleagues, but she's not embarrassed to be a wife and mother, either -- and one that would have been welcomed by Mary Wollstonecraft. In her trailblazing 1792 essay A Vindication of the Rights of Woman she castigates women who 'argue in the same track as men and adopt the sentiments that brutalise them'.

I've just been rereading Wollstonecraft and so Pelosi's triumph resonated more powerfully with me than perhaps it might otherwise have done. My right-on female antennae have been poised to tremble at the slightest whiff of the maleocracy wielding their prejudices. And there they were on Radio Four in not just one but several programmes, talking about issues that concern everyone but with not a single representative of the monstrous regiment to be heard. Decision Time, the Wednesdaynight series presented by the BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, last week looked at the critical question of Iran's nuclear capability and what we should be doing about it. Robinson was trying to discover how the government comes to such difficult policy decisions. The former foreign and defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, 'our man at the UN' Sir Jeremy Greenstock, a former CIA specialist on the Middle East and the Sun's political editor were all given air time to suggest that it is highly likely that the military option will be exercised against Iran before the end of George W. Bush's presidency.

This was such a strange and disturbingly theoretical discussion of something that may well have an enormous, if not terminal, impact on us all. …

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