Perks for Powerful Women?

As Hillary Clinton approaches the plum power position of the western world, even of the entire world, it has occurred to me to wonder what the perks of power are for a woman. Does anybody know?

It’s not hard to list the perks of power for a man. Number one on the list has always been what people refer to as “women”. It really means a powerful man takes the right to seduce and/or coerce women into sex. This was well-demonstrated by the previous Clinton president.

Are we ever going to find Hillary in a compromising position, with some young intern kneeling in front of her, pleasuring her? No, somehow I don’t think so.

What else do men get? Money, obviously. Hillary has already gained that through the power positions she has already occupied. The important question is what do they do with the money? Again, number one on the list of objects of consumption for men is women. That applies whether they pay money to professionals, or whether they give “gifts” to greedy, gullible or opportunistic young women. They buy status symbols – suits with the very best labels, and cars. Toys. Men buy toys with their money.

I don’t think toys are important to women. We’re not the ones buying gigantic television screens and stereo systems that can deafen people at a mile.

Men buys the symbols of status. And it’s here that we find how intertwined male ambition is with the very basic tenets of patriarchy. Patriarchy is all about the competition for status, and the display of a man’s status ranking. Men can show their status by the women they control, the cars they drive, the toys they own and the clubs they belong to. Men of power join clubs where they play golf and tennis. These are the status sports. In the old days hunting was another. They’re all, of course, games in which men can display their ability to win, which gives them even more status.

It’s a cliché, right, that if you need to find a male doctor when he’s not at his office, go to his golf club? Has there been an American president who has not played some game or other?

Can anyone imagine having to trek out to a golf course to find Hillary? A tennis club? I don’t think so. Powerful women don’t have time to play the games that reflect and reify their power. Do they even have the inclination? Under patriarchy, in all its pathetic forms, women have not been the players in the status competitions. Not directly – there have always been women who have striven for status by marrying or otherwise allying themselves with powerful men, but that’s the status of a prized object, not of an agent who has pitted her skills against others and come out on top.

What does Hillary do to relax? Sit back with a bourbon and cigar (both labelled for status)? I don’t think so. She’s more likely to do non-paying work in her spare time, the kind of work that women do – like grandmothering, which is an active, service-oriented occupation.

I don’t think there are serious, hardcore perks for women who achieve power. I do remember years ago the wife of the Philipino president, Imelda Marcos, was chastised for owning several hundreds of pairs of shoes. But that’s pretty tame compared to having paid several hundred prostitutes to suck your dick.

I read not that long ago that there are many more women in U.S. politics now specifically because they were encouraged and recruited after the Anita Hill debacle. I’m betting there weren’t more women politicians partly because women don’t chase power and status as singlemindedly as men do. They were recruited so they could serve. If you want a woman to pursue a position of leadership, you have to persuade her of the benefit to others. You have to tell her how much her service as leader is needed. Some few men do see leadership as an act of service to others, but the majority see leadership as the right to be served by others.

There’s a real push on to make young women more competitive. Most women’s sports teams and women athletes now have male coaches, almost certainly as a way of leveraging patriarchal aspirations onto women. If they don’t really crave the rewards of winning (which are pretty paltry for women athletes), at least they can be maneuvering into wanting “daddy’s” approval.

I also think that only a man can validate another man’s status, and that’s one reason that men don’t take women seriously so often. For men, a woman is not competition, she’s not a “daddy” who needs to be pleased, she’s not a follower who recognizes the higher-status male. She’s pretty much purely a perk, a reward to the winner in the man-against-man sweepstakes.

What does a woman gain by achieving power? Nothing that really matters to her, I’d say. If she achieves power it’s because she’s trying really hard to help. Her reward is to have made a difference.

There’s one other perk I haven’t mentioned. When men achieve power, they get the ability to abuse that power. And I guess that’s a question we can ask about women in power. Once in power, can we expect Hillary to abuse her position?

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