By Dianne Post
Recently, several glass ceilings have been broken and others wacked hard. Internationally, women are 29% of the UN peacekeepers. Five women lead peacekeeping operations. Three completely female units are in Haiti, Liberia and DR Congo. The UN has found that the presence of women helps reduce conflict and confrontation, protects local women and helps lift their status, and makes the peacekeepers more approachable.
On the political side, Theresa Mary May just became the second woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party. Margaret Thatcher was the first woman Prime Minster from 1979 to 1990 and leader of the Conservative Party. Angela Dorothea Merkel, a former research scientist, is the longest serving woman leader. She has been the Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and the leader of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000. When Hillary Clinton is elected, three of the top four most powerful countries in the world will have women leaders. China will be the outlier.
In 2014, twenty-two women world leaders represented a new high. The longest serving is Merkel in Germany with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, president of Liberia, close behind since 2006 and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina since 2007. The newest were the appointed president Simonetta Somaruga in Switzerland and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic elected in Croatia in 2015. The countries where women rule range from European (6) and Eastern European countries (5) to Central and South American (5) to Africa (3), Asia (2) and the Mid-East (1). North America is conspicuously missing.
In Congress on July 13, 2016, the Senate confirmed the first Black and the first woman, Carla Hayden, as the 14th Librarian of Congress.
Closer to home, on July 2016, Phoenix named Jeri Williams its new police chief. A former assistant police chief in Phoenix, with 28 years of experience, she will be the first female chief in the city’s history when she takes over in October. Williams is not the first female chief to serve in the Phoenix area. Debora Black has led Glendale’s police force since mid-2013 after being named interim chief in March 2012. Black spent more than 20 years with the Phoenix Police Department before joining Glendale in 2006. In March 2016, Tempe named Sylvia Moir its chief. A California native, Moir was the Chief of the El Cerrito Police Department from 2010 until her appointment as the Police Chief in Tempe.
The valley also has a woman fire chief. A native Phoenician, Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner joined the Phoenix Fire Department in 1985 and has spent over 30 years of service there. As Fire Chief, Chief Kalkbrenner is one of only six female Fire Chiefs of large metropolitan fire departments in the country.
Over a hundred years ago, one argument against women’s right to vote was that they were just too frail and gentle to navigate in the tough world of politics. The same argument has been made over and over whenever women push forward one more step. This argument has especially been made in law enforcement, the military and as commander in chief i.e. the countries leader. However, recent research shows that women are actually better at it than men.
Katherine Spillar, the Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation and overseer of the National Center for Women and Policing wrote in the Washington Post on July 2, 2015, “In fact, over the last 40 years, studies have shown that female officers are less authoritarian in their approach to policing, less reliant on physical force and are more effective communicators. Most importantly, female officers are better at defusing potentially violent confrontations before those encounters turn deadly.”
In a 1988 article in the Journal of Police Science and Administration, researcher Joseph Balkin reviewed the U.S. and international research spanning fourteen years on the involvement of women in police work. He found uniformly that women not only perform the job of policing effectively, but are better able to defuse potentially violent situations: “Policemen see police work as involving control through authority,” he wrote, “while police women see it as a public service.”
As reported by the Christopher Commission on the LAPD in 1992 after the Rodney King beating, “Many officers, both male and female,believe female officers are less personally challenged by defiant suspects and feel less need to deal with defiance with immediate force or confrontational language.” It is obvious that one solution to the rash of violent police and confrontation with members of the minority community is to replace the male officers with women. At one recent community meeting on police abuse, an African American man said just that – if he’s stopped by a woman officer, he’s immediately relieved and not worried that she will kill him.
In December 2015, the military opened up all combat jobs to women. In an article in Mother Jones on January 11, 2016, “Soldiers Blow Up Five Myths About Women in Combat,” Samantha Michaels laid to rest the fiction that women were not tough enough. It is men’s fears, not women’s abilities, on parade. Eighty-five percent of men surveyed from US Special Operations Command said they opposed allowing women into their specialties, according to a Pentagon report. “It’s a slap in the face telling us that chicks can do our jobs,” one insecure soldier wrote. When you have the Republican presidential nominee talking about the size of his hands, you know the “size matters” meme still harmfully infects the male population.
Women and men in the military have to pass the same physical tests. Some of both don’t make it. Before the new rule, women were frequently in combat situations without the training and weaponry and handled the mental stress as did the nurses who have over many wars treated men on the battlefield. Women also can talk to other women in country, which is a very welcome added source of intelligence.
Periods and PMS no more get in the way of service than do men’s monthly cycles. Yes, they have them. Testosterone poisoning often makes men behave in unpredictable and violent ways. Reflex erection is a common problem when men are in combat and frightened. Service time lost to pregnancy is half that of time lost by males for discipline issues and addiction.
The integration of women in many militaries, including the highly regarded Israeli forces, has shown that it does not harm cohesion or morale. In other countries, notably Norway, men and women have no difficulty sharing facilities. “The idea that special-forces men can act professionally but can’t share a toilet with a woman is sort of absurd,” says McKenzie who has studied militaries across the world. The problem is the behavior of men – sexual harassment and rape – not the behavior of women.
Does it matter that more women are in positions of power and influence? Consistently, countries with low gender equality scores, low enrollment of girls in secondary schools and low reproductive health and rights scores have high physical and sexual intimate partner violence, and countries with high gender equality scores, high enrollment of girls in secondary schools and high reproductive health and rights scores have much lower physical and sexual intimate partner violence. (World Health Organization; International Violence Against Women Survey; Demographic and Health Surveys [DHS] and the World Bank Domestic Violence Dataset) When women have equal power, violence against women declines.
But just having women in politics is not the answer. Arizona has one of the highest percentages of women in the legislature in the country. In Arizona, women are 33% of our Congressional representatives; 43.3% of our state senators (the largest in the nation); 31.7% of state representatives; 35.6% of the total state legislature; and 30% of statewide executive office. Arizona is in the top third of states with women representatives but there has been no improvement since 2004.
Yet our state legislature year after year passes anti-woman bills attacking reproductive health, support for women and children, workers rights including minimum wage when the majority of minimum wage earners are women etc.. So being a woman is not enough, one has to also care about women.
The original argument against women voting, being in politics, working in public, being in law enforcement or the military has always been the old shibboleth that women are weak and need someone to protect us. But who do we need protection from? Men. Therein lies the answer. If men were not engorged with their power, if they didn’t become unhinged with rage, if they didn’t exhibit violence as their main emotion, we wouldn’t need protection from them.
James Baldwin had it right when he said, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” Men fear that if they let their hatred of women go, they will have to deal with the pain. Most men will say they do not fear or hate women but in fact love them and want to protect them. The brother of Qandeel Baloch who murdered her in a so-called “honor killing” said just that, “…girls are born to stay home.”
Girls and women will not stay home. We will take our own place in the world as we see fit. We don’t need men’s protection; we need equality.