If women had more power, would there be a difference? In an open forum called “What if Women Ruled the World?” Robin Garrett, the director of the Women’s Center, encouraged a small group to speak openly on issues concerning women, sexism and power. This was not an informational program. The Women’s Center set up was a forum for women to gather and discuss ideas pertaining to women and power.The “chat fest” began with a singular question: “What if Women Ruled the World?” At first, this program may sound like a feminist rant but the Women’s Center made the informal session feel more like talking with your best friends. The small gathering started from the beginning, before women’s rights.
In history, there has never been a female dominate society. By 1920, women gained the right to vote and inspired generations of independent women, but women still came in second to men even when they were able to prove their ability to stand on an even playing field. Garrett spoke to the group about Micro Lending, a policy dedicated to build up the economy in developing countries. Studies showed that when the money was lent to women it was used better and paid back sooner. When the money was lent to men, most of them used it to buy influence. Does this evidence prove that women would be better leaders? Jamaica, Germany and South Korea all put their faith in a female prime minister, but Americans don’t seem to hold the same beliefs. In a 2006 Gallup poll, 37 percent of Americans prefer a male boss to a female, while only 22 percent had trust in a woman. Sadly, it’s he women who put their faith in men, and this statistic did not shock many people. According to Garrett, “We live in a culture where we’re more comfortable with men in power.” There are not enough examples of women in power to ease the country’s fears.
The program also focused on what makes women unique. Participants offered opinions based on personal experiences. Some suggested that women would make excellent leaders because of their willingness to collaborate. Being a woman also means being emotional, and the program made a point to address the fact that the ability to show emotions is part of what makes women extraordinary. Women should be able to stand up and proudly say, “I’m a woman, I cry and I’m okay with that.”
Possible the most insightful part of the program was when we discussed the holes women dig themselves into. Many women who rise to power develop a queen bee syndrome. They achieve a level of control and forget about all the women who helped them earn their status. Garrett’s final topic dealt with internal sexism; women who use their looks to validate themselves. We discussed why women enter wet t-shirt contests or have one night stands. What’s the prize for putting your body on display? Yes, there’s money, but on the flip side, there’s no sense of self-worth. Just because women have power that does not mean they’ll use it in a more enlightened way.
What if women ruled the world? It’s not just the name of a program run by the Women’s Center but a real question without an answer. No matter what, it’s human nature to pick on someone else. Women have been easy targets for so long that maybe it’s hard for people to see past the stereotypes. Maybe there would be no difference, and maybe women would make things worse. It’s all a matter of opinion. There is no definite answer.
Many of the ideas expressed in this article are based on collaborative opinions. Anyone wishing to know more can drop by the Women’s Center in Lawrence.