Are “Bad” Female Leaders Still A Good Thing For Women?
10:00 am, December 27th | by Hillary Reinsberg
With the Margaret Thatcher biopic starring Meryl Streep coming to theaters at the start of the new year, feminists are suddenly looking back on Thatcher and thinking about what she did for women. Though Thatcher wasn’t at all a bad leader, talking about her decades later is forcing us to question whether a bad female leader can be a bad thing.
Allow us to explain, and first, back up. Thatcher was a stern and powerful woman, but in her time, she wasn’t particularly a feminist. She wasn’t particularly pro-women, but she did do some pretty unbelievable things. As The Daily puts it, “She saved her country from bankruptcy, won a war and contributed to the Soviet Union’s downfall.” Not so shabby.
The point here is, she was a fantastic leader, better than most, but she wasn’t a feminist champion of women’s causes. In my opinion, that’s very much a good thing. Female leaders don’t need to conform to causes prescribed to them given their gender. If they wish to focus on economics or military, that’s fantastic, as long as they’re good leaders. By the same logic, not every politician belonging to a minority group need be first and foremost a champion of civil rights. In fact, the more a female leader shows her aptitude at working on non-women’s issues, the more she does to prove the point that women in power are capable of whatever they choose. Thatcher, in effect, broadened people’s ideas of what a female leader could look like.
But once you start thinking about that, an op-ed in The Daily points out, you wonder: can all female leaders in some way broaden people’s ideas of what a female leader can be? Are “bad” female leaders in a way, good? I’ll do my best to remain nonpartisan here, but it’s fair to say many people consider Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann to be subpar leaders. Palin famously said Russia was visible from her backyard (George W. Bush may have said dumber things, but the point stands). And when it comes to women’s issues, Bachmann staunchly opposes abortion. Most importantly, many people don’t like them.
But if you think about it, they do show that female leaders — for lack of a better phrase — come in all shapes in sizes. Not everyone can be Margaret Thatcher.