A while ago, I was watching a Youtube video by ML Studios titled ‘Can a Woman be the PM of Malaysia?’. While the video was informative as it explained the legality of it from the aspect of Malaysian Constitution, the responses under the comment section was rather amusing to me. Such reactions were not new. I’ve seen it on Twitter few years back with the same internalized sexism and misogynistic undertones. I think such reactions are a manifestation of the patriarchal system which is still prevalent within the cultural mindset of most Malaysians. A response to such reactions would be some counterarguments coming from the proponents of female empowerment and gender equality. However, both sides of the argument are often simplistic.
While an equal political participation for both men and women denotes a democracy, the discourse surrounding which gender would best (or worst) to lead a country is often one dimensional and simplistic. It is one dimensional in the sense that what we look at is the psychology and emotional behaviour of the gender. It is as if that factor alone determines the success of a country be it in political or economic aspect. The usual counter-argument to this would usually be to give examples of successful countries whereby a woman is the head of government and giving examples of less successful countries where a man is the head of the government. The definition of successful countries here is to based it on the country’s ranking in the latest Democracy Index, Economic Ranking (Nominal GDP), and Human Development Index. Although there is an adequate amount of examples to give to support such arguments based on these world rankings, it is often one dimensional. They don’t take into account of several factors that would make such and such countries successful or worse.
The current country that holds the number one rank based on Democracy Index 2019 and Human Development Index 2019 would be Norway which currently has a female Prime Minister – Erna Sohlberg. As for the current country that holds the number one rank based on Nominal GDP would be United States which currently has a male president – Donald Trump. The country that holds the last ranking in Democracy Index 2019 is North Korea which is led by a man – Kim Jong Un. As for the last in Economic Ranking, it is South Sudan which has a male head of government – Salva Kiir Maryadit. The last country to rank in Human Development Index 2019 is Niger which has a male president – Mahamadou Issoufou. What do we make of these rankings and the gender of the leader of the countries? It seems like men are dominating the countries that ranked last in the 3 world rankings. However, it is simplistic to conclude that because men are ruling these countries therefore men are not good at being leaders. This logic is a false cause fallacy because we do not take into account of other factors that may have caused them to be in the last position. North Korea ranks the last because of its authoritarian political system and South Sudan ranks the lowest in terms of nominal GDP because nowadays, the country depends heavily on agriculture with the majority living in rural areas, but violence, the lack of food, and inefficient water supply often cause famine and illnesses . As for Norway, their rise toward the top in Democracy Index 2019 and Human Development Index 2019 is an accumulation of years of strategic human development planning and the philosophy of ‘live within its means’ . Within those previous years, there has been one female and several male prime ministers. So, to look at it in another perspective, does this conclude that because Norway has been led by men for most of the years, therefore men are good at being leaders? Again, this is simplistic and a false cause fallacy.
Either way we look at it, gender-focused discourse about who would be the best or worst to be the head of government is often one dimensional and simplistic. Arguments based on the psychology and emotional behaviour of a gender don’t do justice to arguments that requires multifaceted analysis. Online discourse often oppose or support whichever side by analyzing the success (or failure) of a country based on one’s gender and set that as a standard. If such types of discourse continue, it will result in faulty conclusions because there is no correlation between the gender of the head of government and the country’s success or failures.
|Picture from The Economic Times|
1) Human Development Index 2019 – link
2) Democracy Index 2019 – link
3) Economic Ranking 2020 – link