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Shouldn’t We Just Get Rid Of The Ideas Of Femininity And Masculinity?

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I looked up Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful people.  Two out of the first twenty were women. Two. Only. Two. We are talking about a ten percent here, whereas women are 52 percent of the world’s population. Why is the world led by MEN? Why is power seen as masculine?

As Emma Watson said in her speech for the HeForShe campaign: „I was confused at being called bossy because I wanted to direct the play we put on for our parents, but the boys were not“, our society has a problem with powerful women.

Emma Watson said she was called “bossy” because she wanted to do the same things boys were expected to do, only without being criticized. Leadership is simply associated with men, and women who act like men are considered to be bad and dangerous. What starts off with a drama group at age 8 becomes a huge problem once we grow up and start our careers. Luckily, Emma Watson made it to the top, but she’s only one woman out of millions.

Power is seen as manly because it is associated with being smart, determined, strong, and all things that are, sadly, considered as  masculine.  

The problem is not that Emma couldn’t direct the play, although I am sure she would have done a great job. The problem is that, at a young age, girls are blamed for wanting to lead. For even asking for it. How can a society that actively tells young girls to follow, not to lead, complain about having more men than women leading the world? How can these people, who shut down girls, claim that they are saving the world with a quota?

Even though masculinity is sometimes purely defined as the opposite of femininity, I don’t think that power is seen as manly because it is unladylike. Power is seen as manly because it is associated with being smart, determined, strong, and all things that are, sadly, considered as  masculine.

So women are denied power because it is a label of masculinity? That’s not what power is about, is it?

Maybe it used to be exactly that. When I lived in Russia, all my life was surrounded by Russian history, and I remember standing in a museum admiring Catherine the Great (before being told about the wars she fought and the terrible things that happened to the Russians and Ukrainians during her reign). It was a dream come true: finally a woman who changed things, things that influenced my daily life, centuries later.

A woman who was not remembered as a wife or a mother….. sadly, she was labelled and remembered as a slut. My teachers in school and the guides in the museum agreed with what I found in every book I read about her: she slept with many men and had illegitimate children. This is a fact, so there’s nothing bad about telling it, the problem is that this was the only thing that was paid attention to – maybe it would have been a good idea to talk about education, the wars her armies fought, or about the cities she had built. But no. The one and only thing that matters is that she slept with many men, and somehow, this is used as an argument against her, as if it were bad to do (though, of course, we know men do that too).

A few years before her,  French had a king called Louis XIV. He is also known for having illegitimate children and sleeping with many women. That was well known at his time, and no one blamed him. It was even seen as something particularly manly and he was even respected for that. Still, when I think about Louis XIV, I think about the castle he built, about absolutism and the population that suffered under his reign. His love affairs come last if I think about them at all.

Catherine II and Louis XIV had similar leadership styles and similar private lives. While the former was blamed for it and is still considered a slut today, the latter one was respected for it and today we care about his politics, not his love affairs.

So men being respected and women being blamed for doing the same thing are not new. But after so many years why are there still significantly more men in power than women?

One of the reasons why women are denied of power is that they have, will have, or could have kids. I have some great news: fathers are parents too. If we gave fathers and mothers the same respect, no one would be afraid of giving mothers power, since nobody is afraid of giving fathers power.

Another reason why women are often denied of power is that we supposedly have an emotional leadership style. Now this is some bullshit. First of all, I strongly suspect that men also have feelings. (If not, it is even worse).

Women certainly don’t feel more than men; the difference is that women are seen as very emotional while men are encouraged to shut down emotions. And so they do.

But something we shouldn’t forget either is that having feelings won’t keep us from being smart and taking good decisions; yet, there are attacks on women, too.

Later on in her speech, Emma Watson explains she started being sexualized by the press at fourteen.

Of course, if women are still seen as sex objects, it’s hardly imaginable to give them power. Would you want to be led (which is generally pretty active) by an object (by definition passive)?

The solution is simple: get rid of the ideas of femininity and masculinity – be yourself!  

Clearly, power and masculinity are linked in our society.

To get rid of this, we shouldn’t have powerful women become these stereotyped men (but, of course, if these characteristics that are seen as manly are already theirs, then that’s not a bad thing). Separating the concepts of power and manliness is an idea, but looking at the most powerful people today, it doesn’t seem realistic. The solution is simple: get rid of the ideas of femininity and masculinity – be yourself! Anyone who doesn’t accept that isn’t worth being led by you.


Isa Zehetner
(Isa) Zehetner is fourteen years old and lives in Germany at the moment. She has lived in Austria, Ukraine, Russia and the Netherlands, traveling around Europe because of her father’s job. She is a member of the Young Greens in Germany (Youth Organization of the Green Party), where she enjoys learning more about politics and participating in building the future of her country. She has always had the problem that is sexism in her life, like so many other girls. Unlike the others, though, she decided to do something about it and is now a feminist.

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