Monday, May 5, 2008

Why Women Should Rule the World by Dee Dee Myers

iconiconNote: The image links to the bargain book at B&N, where you can get the paperback for $4.48.  This price won't last forever, though, so get it while it's still there!

I just finished reading Why Women Should Rule the World, by Dee Dee Myers. I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would, primarily because I don't agree with many of Myers's arguments. (I did keep reading until the end, though, as I felt like I shouldn't stop reading it just because I disagreed.)

I most definitely consider myself a feminist, and a pretty strong one. However, this book was a good reminder that not all feminist ideas were created equally. Myers's main argument is based on the idea of biological differences between men and women, a hypothesis that I don't agree with at all.

Myers argues that women are more suited for politics because of their unique "women's" styles of leadership. Essentially she is continuing the Victorian argument of "separate spheres," where women were confined to the home because they were believed to be better suited for this "women's work." Myers's argument includes politics and leadership in the list of "women's work," but it's pretty much the same argument.

Like I said, Myers argument is based on the theory that men and women have a biological basis for their difference. She disregards the theory that the differences are taught by society, arguing that her daughter and son were fundamentally different from the day of their respective births (therefore every other boy and girl must be?).

I don't believe that at all. I don't believe there is a gene that instructs boys to play with trucks and girls with dolls — and if there was, how would you explain the popularity of G.I. Joe dolls?

I also think that the blanket statement "Women are more empathetic, therefore they make better leaders" does a lot of injustice to both women and men. Reading through a lot of her examples of women leaders and their reactions to situations, I kept wondering if I really would handle it the same way just because I'm a woman — and most of the time I didn't think I would. So does that mean that there's something wrong with me as a woman — or that there's something wrong with the theory?

Of course, I prefer to believe the latter.

I won't get into a full-fledged rant here about my feminist views, but suffice it to say that I don't think that leadership is "women's work" because of some set of feminine traits. In fact, I think it does many of the women in the world a huge disservice to try to make that argument. I do think that women should fill more high-level positions, whether leading a company or the country, but not because we're "naturally empathetic" or anything like that — because we deserve the same opportunities as any man.

Finally, I have to say that I think this book contained a lot of subtle propoganda for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign — in fact, I kind of wonder if that was the point: if "Why Women Should Rule the World" actually translates to "Why You Should Vote for Hillary." That amuses me, because I don't think Hillary comes across as particularly feminine or empathetic. Maybe that's an image that is carefully crafted in order to help her compete in a man's world, but even so, if Myers hadn't specifically talked about Hillary I would never have thought, "We should elect Hillary because women are more empathetic leaders."

I guess that's probably enough of a rant on this book. Although I think it's worthwhile to flip through and check out the arguments, at the same time I personally don't support them, so I don't feel comfortable seriously recommending this book.

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