PJ Media

Stereotypes in the News

It seems that the media is focusing this week on dominant women in the news. First, I read a href=”http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19713567/wid/11915773″that women are now the queens of their castles/a and men are just agreeing to whatever their spouse wants:br /br /blockquoteMen might throw their weight around at the office, but at home, women are the bosses. br /br /A study, which was just released, finds that wives have more power than their husbands in making decisions and dominating discussions….br /br /Wives were more demanding — asking for changes in the relationship or in their partner — and were more likely to get their way than the husbands. This held regardless of who had chosen the issue. br /br /The women were not just talking more than their husbands. br /br /”It wasn’t just that the women were bringing up issues that weren’t being responded to, but that the men were actually going along with what they said,” Vogel explained. “[Women] were communicating more powerful messages, and men were responding to those messages by agreeing or giving in.” /blockquotebr /br /Then, a reader a href=”http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/sometimes-there-is-just-no-denying-it-8230/2007/07/11/1183833598450.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1″emailed me this article /afrom today’s emSydney Morning Herald /emon the desperate need for female leaders:br /br /blockquoteIf ever there was a time in history that cried out for women’s leadership, that time is now. Terrorism, random acts of violence, famine, poverty and corporate greed are all signs that our world is slowly decaying. The historian Arnold Toynbee once suggested that societies that see an early decline are those where the people who have the power no longer know how to use it effectively, yet they won’t share it with those who might help.br /br /And who is in power around the globe? With few exceptions, men. They are at the helm of the majority of businesses, financial institutions, governments and institutions of higher learning.br /br /Is this to say women make better leaders than men? No, they make different leaders. From corporations to governing bodies, there are simply not enough women’s voices at the table to help solve the world’s most pressing problems.br /br /Ironically, through a combination of nature and nurture, women have honed the quintessential skills necessary for leadership in this day and age. The traditional masculine style of “command and control” leadership is dead. When a boss says “jump” the response is no longer “how high?” The response is “why?”….br /br /If you doubt women have what it takes, consider this. Any woman who ever had to get three different children to three different events on a Saturday, do the grocery shopping, pick up the laundry, visit an elderly parent, go back and pick up the children and prepare dinner for guests – all on the same day – knows how to be strategic and tactical. Women know how to influence without authority because they’ve spent their lives having to do so./blockquotebr /br /So, basically, what I hear the first article saying is that the stereotype that women nag and demand that spouses change is alive and well and husbands give in to keep the peace. This is interpreted in the article as “power.” br /br /In the second article, women are all fuzzy and nurturing and the only way they have “honed their experience” as leaders is to have had experience with children, shopping and cooking dinner. Women do not command any authority, so they have to influence without it–rather than learn how to command authority, the writer of this article seems to think that women don’t need it–they can lead “from a core that focuses on values, not power. They build interdependent teams, praise rather than punish, and gain loyalty by focusing on the human being, not the human doing. This is what generation X and the Millennials want and this is precisely what women leaders give them.”br /br /If these articles were trying to make a case against female leadership, they could not have done a better job–the stereotypes of women as demanding nags who are described as “queens” at home without any authority in the public sphere are hardly a ringing endorsement for female leadership. Can you really lead simply by praising people and focusing on “values” rather than merit? It sounds like a recipe for disaster, kind of like some of our worse public schools systems. Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on women gaining authority, working to change the public perception of women in authority, and learning to use power in appropriate ways if it is necessary. Women are effective leaders, but it will be harder for a woman to get elected if the media portrays women in such a stereotypical light. It feeds people’s worst fears of what a female leader would be like–the queen bee they know at home or the boss at work who leads like she is running a character education class rather than the boardroom or the country.