Jacinda Ardern’s Victory Is The Triumph Of The New Class Of Anti-Trumps
She punches above her weight. A leader of a nation with a population less than that of most metropolises, the fact that we are even talking about her speaks volumes about her larger than life image. It is not as if New Zealand did not elect female Prime Ministers before. Jenny Shipley in the 1990s and Helen Clark in the early 2000s were women too. But none had her warm and ingratiating touch. Her leadership style has unanimously been described as extremely compassionate.
While It is true that in the three years she has been in power, there were no remarkable achievements of her government. Yet her handling of the covid-19 crisis was lauded all around the world. Granted that it is physically isolated and has a population half the size of London, but New Zealand was the only country which managed to completely get rid of the virus. And the country seems to have rewarded her well for her efforts. Yesterday, the Labour party claimed a landslide victory, garnering a total of 49% of the vote. In what was a subtle jibe aimed towards the unruly elections taking place in the United States, she said that elections need not be divisive. People must learn to tolerate each other’s views, especially in a country as small as New Zealand.
New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote in 1893. We have come a long way since then but keep in mind that female enfranchisement is only a hundred or so years old. Democracy is not a new concept. Greek states such as Athens had it and before it became the Roman Empire, Rome was a republic. Not everyone could vote obviously. Only the male propertied class could.
Writers and philosophers of yore claim that since Nature has designed men and women differently, they are meant to adopt contrasting roles, with the male serving as a the protector and the provider and the female as a means to bring forth the men’s progeny and nurture them. A view such as this would be considered obnoxious in any modern society, yet before the suffragette demanded their voices to be heard, it was accepted as a norm. Granted there are a few examples throughout history where women assumed the mantle of leadership, not least in Islamic polities, but they are very few and far between.
It may be that the reason for women’s historical subservience is cultural rather than biological. Since men have always been in power, they have forced a consensus whereby until a hundred years ago, women were looked upon as lesser beings. Yet, what is the reason for men’s dominance? It is clear that it stems from his physical strength, from his greater upper body musculature which when farming was very useful for ploughing. Before that, in hunter-gatherer times, the male skills of agility and strength came in handy when hunting prey to provide food for the tribe.
The industrial revolution changed this dynamic. Machines slowly and steadily replaced manpower. The whole edifice of patriarchy was established on man’s greater relative physical strength which precipitously translated into illusions of man’s greater intellectual and political strength too. As soon as machines started replacing men and societies started urbanizing more with women finding out that they had the same capacity for work and thinking as men did, their demand for equal rights assumed greater force.
We are in a post-industrial world, or at least most countries are, where physical vigour is only useful in the sporting arena. Ms Ardern is not the first female leader to be elected, neither will she be the last. Since her re-election was essentially a referendum on her handling of the covid-19 crisis and since the pandemic was and is a very clear barometer which tested leadership skills across countries, it is a testament to the female leader’s ability to lead and shatter the centuries old myth of only men being endowed with leadership potential. Studies, too, in the last couple of months have shown that countries with female leadership fared better during this pandemic. Perhaps, this is so because women rely less on brute aggression and more so on compassion when ruling. If true, then in the future we will witness less Trumps and more Anti-Trumps as the Vogue labelled this charismatic New Zealander.
The author works in alternative financing on Wall Street, and has a fascination with modern history and politics.