The Empathy of Women in Politics
Published on 16.08.2020 | By Ingrid Coram
Gender norms and stereotypes run rampant in the world of politics; women pursuing careers as politicians – or rather, careers in general – is a brand-new concept, and often unbelievable to traditional conservatives. Women have historically been labelled as nurturers, spending their days caring for children at home, or possibly working in other industries involving empathy and social work. Politics is far too cutthroat for weak, sensitive women; it requires the tough skin of a man and the ability to make cold-hearted, difficult decisions. However, an arguably overlooked aspect of politics is the inherent empathy that it can greatly benefit from.
In the turbulent modern world, more and more of the crises faced by civilians require the people in power to act as a calming voice and to quell their worries, as opposed to simply enacting impersonal legislation to solve a problem. Bushfire emergencies in Australia have led to people losing their homes, pets and even loved ones, but where is Scott Morrison’s empathy for his people? There are countless examples throughout the world’s governments; leaders are afraid to be human.
Instead of taking a traditional pragmatic approach, the world’s leaders need to turn to fundamental human instincts. If the historical perspective of women’s role in society bears any relation to the truth, then the world needs women in positions of political power more than ever. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister and the world’s youngest female head of government, made global news with her response to the devastating mosque shooting in Christchurch in early 2019. She seamlessly combined empathy with practicality by offering personal support and care to the victims and their families, and simultaneously enacting gun control legislation in a realistic effort to remove the threat.
The photo below went viral as it showed her display of affection that appeared very uncharacteristic for a person in such a high position of power. This is not the first time Jacinda Ardern has been openly nurturing; in 2018, she gave birth to her daughter Neve and became the first politician to do a number of things, such as bringing her baby to the UN general assembly meeting in late 2018. These displays of traditionally softer roles and actions have not inhibited her abilities as a leader; rather, they have strengthened her performance and gained her a plethora of respect.
Maybe if Scott Morrison shed a single tear for his burning country, he would face a similarly beneficial response.
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