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Two Sides of the Same Coin

Lisa Hanna, former Miss World and current Minister of Youth and Culture in Jamaica was on August 20, 2013 voted in the top ten of the world’s worst politicians, in effect Jamaica’s worst performing cabinet minister. Hanna’s slide to this rather dubious ‘top ten’ spot stands in stark contrast to her former number one as Miss World in 1993. How does a former beauty queen turned politician become the world’s fourth worst politician? The authors of the website (WorldTopTen) are of the view that Hanna’s ranking comes as a result of her “failure to protect Jamaica’s youth.” In fact her tenure as Minister has been marked by a number of troubling revelations and near disasters as it relates to children in state care, especially because so many of these children are girls who are not necessarily in conflict with the law, but have been deemed ‘uncontrollable’ by their parents who have voluntarily, in some cases, handed them over to the authorities. Additionally, she is accused of having failed to inspire trust with the nation’s youth. So even as Jamaica faces another troubling set of economic circumstances and as the youth unemployment rate rises to troubling heights with young people becoming more disenchanted with the government she faces yet another, it would seem, insurmountable hurdle.

Despite Hanna’s shortcomings and her obvious failure to inspire trust in the nation’s youth, and despite her lack of political savvy on the troubling matter of children in state care or children in trouble with the law, I find unfair and obviously biased her placement on the list of the world’s top ten worst politicians. Jamaica’s political history is replete with stories of men who for decades turned a blind eye to the plight of children in conflict with the law. In fact the signal incident, which stands as a permanent stain on the history and conscience of this island, the Armadale Fire , did not inspire as decisive a demarcation for the government or the Cabinet Minister who at the time administered this portfolio. Additionally, the truth of Jamaican politics and its deadly associations with guns and violence is what inspired Jamaica’s oldest daily newspaper to write an editorial series titled ‘The Gangs of Gordon House’. And even as we try to understand and historicize the troubled and tribalized identity of Jamaican partisan politics so often we look at those who we have celebrated and made into national heroes and wonder about the truth of their service.
Two women made it on that list, Julia Gillard of Australia and of course Ms. Hanna. I cannot help but wonder if the inclusion of the two women on the list is directly related to the sexist, masculine stereotype which insists that women have no business in leadership and in particular political leadership. Julia Gillard who began her tenure as Australian Prime Minister with a commitment to not complain about sexism even if she experienced it had to go back on that commitment. It was just a couple months before that she delivered a scathing presentation in her country’s parliament which spoke to the deliberate and vindictive sexism she has had to battle since assuming leadership of the country. Both women are lined up with male political leaders who have been accused and sometimes found guilty of everything from theft, to rape and in some cases near murder. The fact that women are not held to the same standards as men in leadership is quite evident, the man who was listed at number six, for example, was caught watching porn on his phone in the Indian Assembly; both women were also deemed worse than the Honolulu Councilman who was charged with twenty-six counts of theft. In fact Lisa Hanna ranks just above the Palestinian politician who is accused of using violence to maintain his hold on power and is also accused of having an illegal armed wing and is involved in drugs, extortion and land theft. Whereas a man has to break the law or engage in embarrassing and publicly inappropriate behaviour to make it on the list, all the women have to do is not inspire trust as in Lisa Hanna’s case or with Julia Gillard be accused of creating ‘a sense of national drift and financial pressure.’
Women have a far way to go in really removing the proverbial ‘glass ceiling’ in political leadership. The truth is, when women enter representative politics they are entering a domain that is still considered the sole preserve of men. While I believe that in some cases women like men fail to deliver on their promises and fail to live up to our expectations as a citizenry, I fully appreciate that men are allowed to get away with far more than a woman could even contemplate.
Finally, the double standards make it clear that women have a higher standard that they have to meet. Women who aspire to political leadership have to be guided by this even as they carry out what they see as their mandate. Lisa Hanna might well learn a lesson or two from Ms. Gillard who finally woke up to the realization that even as she tried to not earn the ire of the male status quo she was becoming its agent. Women who enter political leadership are often accused of taking on male leadership traits and also of walking far from a feminist agenda because they do not want to be labeled as possessing a female bias. The truth is all a woman needs to do to be labeled and treated unfairly is show up. Women literally change the ‘body politics’ and we live in a world that is still very hostile to women’s physical presence in boardrooms and meeting spaces that were built on women’s exclusion. This website and its rather biased claims are no exception. I look forward to a world where men and women are seen and treated as equals but until then as women we need to recognize that what is ‘good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.”

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Wendyiscalm's picture

This is an important a

Your article is important, timely and serious. Here in America we have gone through the glass ceiling problem and others you are now experiencing. Former SOS and First Lady Hillary CLinton as well as the CEO of Facebook and others have achieved great equalness with men. In fact, they have gone above many men because in order for a woman to be equal she has to be BETTER to be noticed. No problem with that. In fact it is good. The problem and TRUTH is (And I won't be popular for saying this), for a woman to get to the top she has to be a "bitch" to get there. Then she can come back to being human. But I've seen it for decades. Things have changed a lot in America regarding this topic but make no mistake about it, women have to use the same tools as men use to get to the top. Men are called aggressive. Women are called "bitches". So, a woman has to know how to play the politics of life and believe me it IS politics not just to get ahead but to stay relevant. Doesn't mean you can't be nice, but nice isn't on the top ten list of survivors in the political arena of making change. Now I imagine I have alienated almost everyone. But I also know I am right.

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

olutosin's picture

Different opinion

I own a different opinion in this matter, because my mother always expected me to score 10 over 10 in class, if there are 10 bad things, women took 8 out of 18 and women got 2, I think I tis a pass mark. We cannot say that because w eare feminists, we must always expect the best from all women. Women are human being too, they make mistakes, tinking that no woman should be amongst the worst is asking for too much. Women came late to leadership, women make mistakes, women learn from their mistakes and they move forward.

We have had worst women politicians too and nobody will crucify them for being worse off, hmn, thinking that because they came first as beauty pageant, they should be the best politician will always cause calamities for these women, in Nigeria the present ambassador to Spain is a woman and one time most beautiful woman in Nigeria, I believe that before putting them or electing or selecting the for such position, we should think about their capabilities and abilities.

Even if it is 5 women and 5 men, I do not really bother my head, we are just starting and the world will wait till women become perfect, nobody can stop us anymore. They own their mouths, they are free to say anything, but women have arrived at the scene of leadership, taken their positions in the world no going back anymore. That's all. Thanks for touching on this important issue sister.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Wendyiscalm's picture

Olutosin, I LOVE your

Olutosin,

I LOVE your thoughts and the reasons for them. You really put the responsibility where it is. Your attitude should be made into a vaccine that we all can take to stop criticizing, blaming and just move forward with the force of women who KNOW we are heading for greatness.

Thank you.

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Nadz's picture

thanks

Trying to sort out the truth as I see it in my voice.

Life is just for living

Wendyiscalm's picture

Like your statement "Life is

Like your statement "Life is just for living". And if through our efforts we can pave the way for people to live it better, so much the better.

Keep up the great work.

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Nadz's picture

Thanks

Thank you Wendy.

Life is just for living

JaniceW's picture

Good points

Nadz, you have made a number of solid points and raised a number of questions in this well-thought out piece. And as you see, you have provoked emotional responses on different points.

I disagree with Wendy (as much as I respect her and her opinions) that you need to be a "bitch" to get ahead. That may be the case in the US but as a New Zealander, I have seen many women rise to the top in my country while staying true to their character and not trying to adopt aggressive business characteristics/tactics to succeed. Helen Clarke, our former Prime Minister and the longest serving Labour Party leader, is an example of such and is now the head of the UNDP. I do believe that we all (male and female) adapt to our environments and perhaps in the US, the climate is such that for women to be taken seriously they need to be more visibly stronger resulting in the labels that arise.

In relation to Hanna and Gillard, I do not know how credible the website is that listed the top ten worst politicians and how they judged the members of the list. Not meeting expectations is certainly not as terrible as being an abusive and corrupt despot. I think ultimately, a person will be remembered by their record not by their inclusion on a list and that applies to anyone in any field, female or male.

Nadz's picture

I agree

I support your point, but I hope you understand that for me it is not just about this particular article but it is about an observed principle that women and men are not judged the same way.
Thanks for your comments especially from your perspectives the universality of the point is clear whether New Zealand or Jamaica.

Life is just for living

JaniceW's picture

I agree

You are correct in that women and men are not judged the same way. I do think that they may never be, just as people of color will always, in general, be judged differently from white people. But in saying that, I do think that historically a person's record outlasts the snap judgments of character.

Zoepiliafas's picture

Holy molly! You article

Holy molly! You article really calls out the patriarchal oppression and unfair blaming/shaming placed on female leadership! I felt emboldened and empowered just reading it!

I can't wait to share this article and your perspective with my network. The point of being on the list of WORST when SO many male politicians have so clearly committed atrocities against humanity - thank you thank you for calling that out!!!

Regards,

Zoe

Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager
World Pulse

Nadz's picture

Thank you Zoe

Your response is heartfelt and sincere I am happy my story resonated with you.
Nadeen

Life is just for living

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