Image: Boots in Odessa, Ukraine / Wikimedia Commons
Adolf Hitler. Joseph Stalin. Pol Pot. Saddam Hussein. Kim Jong Un. Bashar al-Assad. Vladimir Putin.
That the above names are some of the most monstrous dictators in known history is not exactly a controversial statement. The fact that they have caused untold human suffering is something they all have in common, regardless of the eras in which they lived.
They are also all men.
Think on that for a moment. The worst dictators in human history have all – and I mean almost all – been men. Why is that?
It’s a question worth pondering. While there have been some decidedly poor women leaders in history when it comes to human rights, such as the infamous Catherine the Great and – more recently – Margaret Thatcher, they have been few and far between.
Dictatorships are basically oppressive by definition. In almost every culture throughout history, women have been the victims of oppression – and thus know how terrible it is to be victimised. Could that be why so many female leaders tend to be far more open – and willing to compromise – than their male counterparts?
Take a look at the current US election. On the side of the Republicans, there’s Donald Trump, a man who – all his terribleness aside – does not compromise with anyone, ever. If he can’t get his way, no one can. He’s an intolerant bigot who seems convinced that he can do anything at any time he wants. Could those be some of the reasons why many people fear, if he should win, we may be looking at World War III?
Then there’s Hillary Clinton. Though she’s far from perfect, she at least knows how to work with other people – like she’s recently done in adjusting her policy positions to be more inclusive and tolerable to Bernie Sanders supporters. Though she’s criticised for lots of things, intolerance is not one of them.
We also have Angela Merkel. Though her policy of welcoming refugees and other migrants to Germany has been controversial – even among her own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) political party – she has a keen understanding of the need to work with others, and the need to make others feel included, in order to make the country she lives in a better place.
Some people might call compromising “weakness,” arguing that a strong leader would never do such a thing. But here’s another fact about dictatorships: they all eventually fall. And after they fall, chaos usually ensues – creating a power vacuum which makes the country easier to take over.
In other words, dictatorships actually make a country weaker, to say nothing of being terrible for the vast majority of people who are forced to live in them.
Dictators also often tend to cling to “traditional” values, and can be horrific misogynists. Women who lead tend to be more tolerant and open-minded, emphasising social development and education as key policy platforms. Guess which of the two nations – the “traditional” conservative one, or the progressive one – tends to adapt better to a changing world?
This isn’t to say women by definition make better leaders than men. Some of them – like Margaret Thatcher or Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko – can be pretty terrible, just like men.
But you know what? The same things that breed toxic masculinity – intolerance, entitlement, inflexibility and a need to control others through a rigid social system – are the things that breed dictatorships. I don’t know what “toxic feminism” might breed, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be a dictatorship.