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The Myth of the Peaceful Iron Lady

The film, The Iron Lady comes out tomorrow, raising issues of women and their roles in foreign policy making:

The myth of female peacefulness has penetrated no field as greatly as foreign policy. Though there has been a scattering of female wartime leaders over the centuries, this myth has retained its primacy as women are kept out of most foreign policy circles. Despite several examples of bellicose women leaders (Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Madeleine Albright) and qualitative and quantitative analysis refuting this myth, most people continue to believe that foreign policy and war making is men’s business. When women do penetrate this field, they face an insurmountable burden of proof. Proof that they can make informed decisions as well as men, proof that they can face enemies and cultivate allies as well as men, proof that their “feminine” personalities will not disrupt their ability to perform their jobs. Aggressive female foreign policy makers are usually given a nickname. Think Iron Lady for Margaret Thatcher. They are compared to the Amazons, mythical warriors who lived in all-female societies, engaging in battle with neighboring male tribes. They are compared to Valkyries, the female creatures who choose who is to be slain in battle. They are compared to the Furies, who are female deities of vengeance. Why can’t these women just be called by their titles-president, prime minister, secretary of state-just as their male predecessors and counterparts? Why must these ...