By Thane Peterson My interview with Harvard's Swanee Hunt has generated hundreds of responses -- most of them critical -- from readers (see BW Online, 4/15/03, "What If Women Ran the World"). The mailbag filled to overflowing after the column was featured on Netscape.com's main news page on Apr. 24. Many readers are skeptical of the notion that female governmental leaders are any less warlike than men. And the idea that Hillary Rodham Clinton might one day become President upset many readers -- male and female. Here are edited excerpts from a selection of readers' comments:
Women who have the aspiration, intelligence, and drive to reach the top are probably not that much different from the men currently [in power]. Men and women who reach the top aren't typical of the average person.
-- Richard A. Schilhavy, Evansville, Ind.
I think we would be better off in this great country if we had two ladies running it. Our budget would be better off, too. I really think it would be hard to beat Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey if they hooked up and ran together.
-- Kenneth L., Independence, Mo.
Of all the great women in the U.S., why did you mention Hillary? Why reach to the most radical extreme for an example? Do you really think that people don't notice? It hurts your credibility as a thinker and writer. Hillary as President will never be acceptable to anyone who loves and cares about America.
-- T.J., a male reader in Wilder, Ky.
The main problem with all these stories is they start out with a good premise and wind up at Hillary Clinton. For this country to put a woman like Hillary in charge would be the death of democracy as we know it. Women are the backbone of our civilization and have always been the ones to step in and clean up the messes left by men. [However,] I simply can't understand how the people of this country can accept the corrupt morals of the Clintons as normal.
-- M.H., a male reader
PMS! This is why it would not be a good idea for women to run the world.
-- Marilyn Jean Edson Gates, Hillsboro, Ore.
I enjoyed your article but also found some of it tiring and frustrating. When are we ever going to get past this stuff? Why does it always have to be an "either or" situation based on sex, creed, religion, or whatever? When are we going to start dealing with the person and personality types, regardless of sex, creed, etc.? Blending personality types in the workforce, military, and any other forum is much more advantageous and beneficial to a logical and acceptable outcome.
-- Deborah A. Lindley, West Union, Ill.
I would prefer to see some empirical work on the subject rather than "educated guesses." I think that women and men exert control over others equally, but in different ways. Men use physical force more often, but women use connivance and backstabbing. My opinion is that the world might be quite different if run by women, but I'm not ready to buy an argument that it would be any better. In general, maybe less dangerous, but probably a lot more infuriating!
-- Mark Hall, Petersburg, Va.
It should be noted that, besides Mrs. Thatcher, other women in charge who have had their wars are [Israel's] Golda Meir and [India's] Indira Ghandi. But I do agree that women would be better leaders with fewer wars and more social progress.
-- Sid Bennett, Harwich, Mass.
Boy, you need some help with your research. Look at the British royalty, for example. Queens were as ruthless and as corrupt, or even as incompetent, as their male counterparts. Amazing how that didn't find it's way into your article.
-- Dennis Mansfield, Grayling, Mich.
I especially liked Swanee Hunt's comment that women think of themselves as less competent than they actually are, whereas men think of themselves as more competent than they actually are. I've observed the same situation among my friends and acquaintances. Women are capable of much more than they realize. I'd love to see them in power. Not only would the world be more peaceful. It would be a lot more fun.
-- Glynda-Lee Hoffmann, in Chico, Calif., author of The Secret Dowry of Eve: Woman's Role in the Development of Consciousness (Park Street Press), due out in July
[Irish] legend has it [that] in ancient times, Irish men and women typically went into battle together. However, at some battle a noted Irish king named Duffy sat on top of a hill and watched two women go at each other. Their viciousness disturbed him. He had never seen two warriors tear into each other with such voracity. It is said that after that day, he decreed that women would no longer be allowed to go into battle because they did not know how to show mercy or give quarter. The truth is, if women had ruled the world maybe we wouldn't be here.
-- Daniel McGillicuddy, Alpine, Calif.
If "real" women ran the world it would fast-forward us into The New Paradise -- one in which the powers of the masculine were not absent (as they were in the beginning of human evolution), but one in which they were honored and placed in proper relationship to the powers of the feminine. She would lead -- he would serve her gladly, for he would know that his happiness depended on making her happy. I'm speaking here primarily about an internal relationship between masculine and feminine -- but it would extrapolate out to external relationships as well.
When White Buffalo Woman came to the Native Americans, she came as a beautiful woman and revealed herself to two braves. One of them looked at her as a something to exploit -- to satisfy his sexual lust. She opened her robes to him and enfolded him in an embrace. When she reopened her robes his dry bones fell to the earth around her feet. The second brave was duly impressed and decided to respect her instead. He did her bidding and took her to his village where she was honored and listened to. She imparted great wisdom -- feminine wisdom -- much of which has been ignored as far as I can see.
That's my vision of what the world would be like if real women "ran" it. That is to say -- if the feminine were enthroned inside of everyone and the masculine listened to and acted on her wisdom and served her with humility.
-- Brenda Nelson, West Bath, Me.
What if...? Hmmm. Haven't women run the world for a few decades? A major example is the right to vote in the U.S. Women outnumber men. The result of every election in this country for at least the past 50 years has essentially been decided by women, either directly by vote or indirectly by choosing not to vote. True, the U.S. is not "the world," but our nation's leadership position should not be minimized. Overall, I don't think it's a significant question anymore.
-- Tom Liotta, Gig Harbor, Wash.
I feel that your article lets men off the hook as far as our being peaceful people. Boys will be boys. However, men should know better.
-- Andres Solar, Miami Beach, Fla.
To all my gentle readers, let me say: Go back and read the exploration of this subject with Ms. Hunt one more time. I think you'll see that many of the points you raise in your letters were explored in what I thought to be an informative, flowing conversation. I'm glad the interview got you to thinking. And thanks. Peterson is a contributing editor at BusinessWeek Online. Follow his weekly Moveable Feast column, only on BusinessWeek Online