The New York Times
Washington- It is about time Britain was led by a “bloody difficult woman,” as the new leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, Theresa May, was described by a Tory grandee.
The term “boys’ club” seems to have been coined for men who led Britain so clumsily to Brexit, without predicting the results, thinking through the consequences or mapping out a plan.
Their résumés are studded with all the hallmarks of privilege: Eton College, Oxford University and the Bullingdon Club, the secretive student dining society, notorious for its right-wing politics and legendary debauches.
The former Prime Minister David Cameron, the former mayor of London Boris Johnson and the former chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne were all members.
One Old Etonian told a tabloid newspaper that on the occasions women were admitted to club events — only for drinks, not formal dinners — they were treated “like fillies.”
Not prized as thoroughbreds, he said: “We would make them get down on all fours like a horse, whinny, and bring out hunting horns and whips.”
However, if anyone is getting whipped now, it’s the Bullingdon boys.
Their political gambles and jousting have led to the Brexit vote, financial turmoil, economic uncertainty, a divided country and the prospect of a long, arduous withdrawal from Europe.
Now, women are coming in, not to crawl or neigh but to sort out the chaos.
As Britain’s business minister, Anna Soubry, told the BBC, “We’ve had enough of these boys messing about.”
May won the leadership after her chief rival, the energy minister, Andrea Leadsom, dropped out of the race.
The new prime minister, the first woman to hold the office since Margaret Thatcher’s resignation in 1990, will negotiate constitutional arrangements after Brexit with Scotland’s and Northern Ireland’s first female ministers, Nicola Sturgeon and Arlene Foster, respectively.
A Conservative member of the House of Lords, Anne Jenkin, said it was a relief that two women had vied for the leadership: “I think there is a feeling of, ‘Yes, Nanny, please come and tell us what to do.’”
She welcomed the prospect of leadership with “a bit less testosterone in their approach.”
Stereotypes even decided, in some sense, the leadership contest itself, after Leadsom gave an interview to The Times of London in which she suggested that she would make a better leader because “being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country.” (May had earlier given an interview in which she said that having kids “just didn’t happen” for her.)
There followed the sound of millions of women smacking their palms against their foreheads.
Leadsom apologized, but the outcry was immediate. Within moments, the hashtag #AsAMother sprang up, along with a torrent of sarcastic tweets, along the lines of: “I can make my child behave himself without shouting at him. Can I be prime minister?”
To be sure, we need for it to be easier for women to have children and work as parliamentarians.
Women who make it to the upper echelons of power often have few or no children.
In 2012, a study of British members of Parliament found that more women than men were childless (45 percent to 28 percent); when women did have children, they had fewer than the men (1.2 compared with 1.9); and that an eldest child was,
on average, four years older at the time one of her parents became a parliamentarian if it was her mother as opposed to her father.
Given that many women struggle to balance the weight of domestic responsibilities with their career or public role; isn’t it a bit much to be asked to do the housework in politics, too?
Must we really shift only from crawling on the floor to mopping it?