When I look at the lists of women heads of state and women heads of government since World War Two, I see more warrior queens—Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi—than I do motherly social reformers.
The problem with women leaders in a male-dominated society is that, in order to be respected by men, they often repress the so-called feminine weaknesses of compassion and empathy and emphasize the so-called masculine virtues of combativeness and unsentimental moral pragmatism.
I don’t know whether Hillary Clinton became a war hawk in order to earn the respect of powerful men, or whether she had the respect of powerful men because she already was a war hawk, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be a respected part of the political establishment if she were an advocate for peace. The problem is that a war hawk is not what is needed now.
I think black leaders in a white-majority society have a parallel but different problem. Black men often have to hold back their natural assertiveness and aggressiveness in order to not seem threatening to white people. Barack Obama owes his political success not just to his eloquence and political skills, but to the fact that he seeks to be a conciliator and consensus-builder. Sadly these were not the qualities needed when he took office in 2009.
I hope and believe these factors will become less important as we get used to seeing women and people of color in positions of authority.
Margaret Thatcher and Her Sisters on To Put It Bluntly.
How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk by Mark Landler for the New York Times Magazine.