The ten worst stereotypes about powerful women according to Forbes

Forbes Magazine is always a good read. Inspiring, balanced and critical, I always find in there something that speaks to me or provokes me to think, whether or not I agree with the views expressed. Recently, the magazine published an article about ten of the worst stereotypes about powerful women.

It is my own view that twenty-first century post-feminism has had a damaging impact on the gains of the feminist movement of the last century. Feminism now carries a negative connotation, with many women, young and old, shying away from being labelled as such. Many fear that they will be perceived as cold and lonely if they associate themselves with the feminist movement.

Consequently, women continue to be judged more, even by other women. As an African woman, the third dimension of an entrenched patriarchical sub-culture and tradition adds its own texture to the challenge of being a modern career woman. For many African people, a woman’s place is in the home. Only in the last two decades were women recognized as having their own legal capacity in Zimbabwe. It is generally not considered an admirable feminine attribute for a Zimbabwean woman to be outspoken or to challenge the status quo – traits that are generally positive when espoused by men. I am yet to hear of a female chief. In addition, the legal world in Africa and abroad is mostly a boys’ club. There are no women on the Commercial Court bench in London and Lady Hale is the lone female justice of the United Kingdom Supreme Court. It remains a challenge, albeit interesting, to be female in today’s working world.

Against this background and drawing from the experiences of some of my own personal heroes (heroines?…whatever!) including Halley Bock, Olivia Fox Cabane, Jill Abramson, Laura Chinchilla, Carol Bartz and Christine Lagarde, Forbes highlighted the following as the ten most hated and pervasive stereotypes of powerful women which we continue to allow to seep into the collective subconscious:

  1. Ice Queen.
  2. Single and Lonely.
  3. Tough.
  4. Weak.
  5. Masculine.
  6. Conniving.
  7. Emotional.
  8. Angry.
  9. A Token – to fulfil diversity requirements.
  10. A Cheerleader – not a coach or a quarterback.

I could not agree more with Forbes: while male leaders are allowed to have complex personalities, powerful women are often summed up by hackneyed stereotypes that undermine them and their power.

Ode to the women who nonetheless build their ranks as heads of state, corporate leaders and media executives in spite of these stereotypes.

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It’s not every generation that an African woman wins a Nobel Peace Prize ~ RIP Wangari Maathai

Maathai was a true force of nature – an environmentalist, feminist, politician, professor, rabble-rouser, human rights advocate and head of the Green Belt Movement. She will be fondly remembered for her contribution to sustainable development and human rights on the African continent. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

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“African women in general need to know that it’s OK for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.”

Wangari Maathai

“If my critics saw me walking over the Thames they would say it was because I couldn’t swim”

Whether it’s a career choice, a life choice, a decision to drink or not to drink, a religious choice, a new partner, a different hairdo or even a facebook status – far too often, we worry about what people think of our lives. We forget that, at the end of the day, people’s opinions are irrelevant. The secret lies in fighting for our dreams, for even if we don’t follow them, people will still criticise us. Happiness lies not in people’s perception of one but in the peace of knowing that you are pursuing your own dreams, your own wishes and the lifestyle you choose – in your own way, shape and style. And so, dream big. Dream outside the box. Dream fearlessly. Dream, dream, dream!

Margaret Thatcher knew this all too well. Blocking her ears to her critics, she retorted thus, “If my critics saw me walking over the Thames they would say it was because I couldn’t swim.”

This thought chimes true for many a dreamer…

“Obama has no spine and no balls” – Why Hillary Clinton should have been President

Margaret Thatcher was well ahead of her time. In a male-dominated world, she became a powerful political figure in twentieth century Britain. Even today, Thatcherism continues to have a significant influence on the political landscape of the world. Thatcher was Britain’s first female Prime Minister. The absence of any other female Prime Minister in Britain since demonstrates that her ascendancy to the helm of Britain was unique. It was a feat that may take a while to repeat.

In 2008, it was hoped by many that the Thatcher moment had arrived in the United States. No woman had ever been nominated by a major party for President of the United States. Hillary Clinton had been preparing for a potential candidacy for United States President since at least early 2003. However, she was outshone by the silver-plated smoothness of Barack Obama.

Fast forward to 2011.

As Barack Obama’s first term of office draws to a close, many ask, “What if Hillary Clinton had become President?” Nobody knows for sure what the answer to this hypothesis is although many argue that Hillary Clinton had superior experience in the world of politics and would arguably have been more adept at understanding and managing the vast right wing conspiracy.

According to Newsweek, there is an angry chorus of frustration among Democrats about Obama’s perceived weaknesses. Many  are furious and heartbroken at how ineffectual he seemed in dealing with Republican opponents over the debt ceiling and liberals are particularly incensed by what they see as his ‘capitulation to conservatives on fundamental liberal principles.’

“Obama has no spine and no balls” asserted a 67-year old New Yorker.

The ephemeral excitement over the suave Harvard law graduate has been replaced with criticism and disappointment.

Perhaps they judge him harshly. However, it is clear that in order to survive Obama must re-invent himself like Madonna. Obama may have mastered the art of winning an election but running a government as intricate as that of the United States is where the true battle lies.

In the meanwhile, as noted by the host on Real Time With Bill Maher, liberals may be having “buyer’s remorse” about Obama. It is opined that Hillary Clinton may have been a better President. No, not because she is a woman but because she is a tough negotiator, a seasoned politician and balances eloquence with substance.

Sadly, the Thatcher moment does not come round every generation.

If only.