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Ana Marta González González, Professor of Philosophy Moral of the University of Navarra and scientific coordinator of the Institute for Culture and Society

Women on the frontline

The author asserts that politics should take advantage of women's experience in social conflict resolution and mediation tasks, in which they are more involved than men.

Wed, 13 Mar 2019 13:08:00 +0000 Published in El Español

Hannah Arendt considered that politics was the place where, through their actions and words, individuals made themselves present and shone precisely as such; not simply as subjects of needs, more or less general, but as free subjects, capable of setting new things in motion. I do not know to what extent in a world like ours, progressively colonized by anonymous processes and marketing strategies, there is still room for this innovative exercise of individual freedom.

But what I would like to review here is the old prejudice according to which politics, as a supposedly privileged manifestation of individuality staff is above all a matter for men, rather than for women, who could perhaps perform public tasks, but always surrendering their individuality to the demands of their gender. Hence, for example, one could at most speak, as Georg Simmel did at the beginning of the 20th century, of a "feminine culture", generically qualified as such, while the main lines of culture would be defined by male individualities.

More than a century has passed since Simmel wrote his reflections on the subject, and since then we have been able to verify many times that there are not only feminine individualities that have made their way into the vast world of culture, but that there are also social redoubts prone to configure masculine cultural spaces, not precisely expressive of any individual creativity, but of generically masculine traits. In this context, however, what seems important to me is to recall the universal value of culture as such, in which each and every one of us is present at degree scroll individually on our own merits, to the extent that these are recognized as expressive of the universal human; for culture, as a shared symbolic space, is simply human.

Precisely for this reason, it must welcome male and female contributions equally; not with the aim of recreating masculine spaces on the one hand and feminine spaces on the other, much less assuming the identification of the feminine with the private and the masculine with the public, but creating the conditions for everyone, male or female, to be able to contribute the best of themselves. For whether or not we consider that there are generically masculine or feminine attributes that deserve to make their way as such in culture, the fact is that their bearers are always concrete individualities, with names and surnames, men or women. And what they bring to society is primarily the effectiveness of their active and visible presence.

However, thinking precisely in the field of politics, which for a simple question of visibility marks the guideline in many other fields, it is striking that the cases of women in the front line are counted on the fingers of one hand. If we look at our country, we will observe that the second positions have generally been more crowded. We might wonder why. One plausible explanation is that the competitive dynamics between the first and second places are more easily neutralized when the genders are different.

However, leadership is not a male privilege. Certainly, the leader must inspire security and confidence. But it is important not to confuse the world: while in the past it might have seemed reasonable to entrust one's own security to someone who possessed the qualities of a warrior, in societies like ours, diverse and changing, other qualities inspire confidence, because they are required for intelligent and effective government. Hence, ambition and courage, connatural to political life, must be combined with the flexibility and intelligence necessary to understand the cultural and social complexity of our times.

Actually, it is not easy to recognize this combination of qualities in the leaders who are currently the protagonists of Spanish political life. Rather, what we observe is a tension that lends itself to a not particularly subtle reading of gender. If zoological comparisons were not offensive, it would be a matter of using them here. However, considering the embarrassing spectacle of political leaders more occupied with reciprocal disqualification than with elaborating substantive proposals, it is natural to wonder whether the presence of women could modify the rules of the political game in any way: whether it would bring about something new that could compensate for so much stupidity, or whether it would merely reproduce or multiply the prevailing mediocrity and tension.

The truth is that looking at the women who to date have had a certain prominence in Spanish political life, we can find examples of both: of preparation, capacity for work and dialogue, but also of lightness and closed-mindedness; of brilliant oratory and linguistic stumbling... On its own the mere presence of women solves as little as the mere presence of men; but perhaps this is because, in general, women have had to adapt to rules that precede them and that in fact favor confrontation rather than partnership, competition rather than constructive dialogue. For whatever reason, in fact, we find more women than men involved in solving social problems, or performing mediation and communication tasks -something that diverse and plural societies such as ours are particularly in need of. However, this spirit is rarely placed at the forefront. We should ask ourselves why.

The saying goes that two do not quarrel if one does not want to; but the opposite is also true: two do not collaborate if one does not want to. I wonder what would happen if at the head of parties and governments we had women who were not mortgaged or contaminated by outdated political practices; if we had women capable of understanding and transferring to society the complexity of the problems we face, and leading collaborative practices between genders, between teams, between territories. I wonder if Spanish society is ready for this leadership class .