Are women better leaders?

Jacinda Ardern as a feminist icon in the contemporary world

Source: ThePrint

The world knows Jacinda Ardern as the current Prime Minister of New Zealand and as the youngest head of government in the world. Her governance has been widely praised across the world – be it the compassionate handling of the 2019 Christchurch attacks or successfully leading her country through the COVID-19 pandemic or her recent APEC diplomacy that brought Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, and Joe Biden together on the same video call.

However, behind all this, who is Jacinda Ardern? – well, in her own words, she is a working mom who is using the age-old trick of multitasking to manage her work along with raising a child. In doing so, she has set an inspiring example for leaders and women alike – be it taking her child along with her to the UN when she was a breastfeeding mother or doing a Facebook live from her bedroom to give updates on the pandemic, just after putting her baby to sleep.

While Ardern is aware that she is a role model for many young girls, she does not deter from presenting herself as someone who is neither perfect nor flawless; as someone who is human just like the rest of us. When asked by a British TV host to comment on Michelle Obama’s “women can’t have it all” statement, Ardern agreed with it and said –

“we should not expect women to be superhuman….I can’t physically do the job of being the Prime Minister and a mother by myself. I’m not a superwoman. We shouldn’t pretend that we are. That does a disservice to all women. It raises expectations that no one can meet.”

Ardern is not an ideal character in a movie or in a fairy tale who seems to have all the stars and moons handed to her at the perfect time. The patriarchal world wants us to believe that women have superpowers and are supposed to manage both their job and the domestic chores in the most efficient way. However, people forget that vaginas don’t come with superpowers. Women are also human beings and they are allowed to have their flaws and limitations. Ever since women have joined the workforce, they have been struggling to meet unreal expectations and live up to the perfect image created by the society.

This is exactly the kind of image that Ardern is trying to shatter. Because here we have a woman in the real world, a woman as human and as flawed as all of us, who admits that she is not a superwoman, that she is struggling like the rest of us.

Source: CNN

As a girl, Ardern never grew up believing that her gender would stand in the way of her achieving whatever she wanted in life. And one of the reasons for this was her role model – former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke.

Ardern describes herself as a social democrat, a progressive, a republican and a feminist. Upon taking office as the PM for the first time in 2017, Ardern said that her government would be “focused, empathetic and strong”

Even before formally entering politics, Ardern had at several points in her life, stood up publicly for what she believed in.  

At 14, she managed to convince her school officials to allow girls to wear pants – which was otherwise considered a male attire in the 1980s – 90s.

In her early 20s, she left the Mormon church because it was homophobic. She explained her departure by saying: “I lived in a flat with three gay friends and I was still going to church every so often and I just remember thinking ‘this is really inconsistent – I’m either doing a disservice to the church or my friends’.

Source: The Guardian

Even after becoming the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has held onto advocating LGBTQ rights. In 2018, she became the first New Zealand Prime Minister to march in a pride parade. In November 2020, she also introduced a new cabinet that has been described as ‘incredibly diverse and inclusive’. The cabinet includes 3 members of the LGBTQ community. This constitutes of Grants Robertson, who is the first gay deputy prime minister.

Ever since Jacinda Ardern was elected as the Prime Minister of New Zealand in 2017, she has passed a lot of women centric laws that have contributed in the upliftment of the social condition of women in various ways.

In July 2018, Ardern announced the start of her government’s flagship Families Package. Among its provisions, the package gradually increased paid parental leave to 26 weeks and paid $60-a-week to low and middle-income families with young children.

She has also initiated the provision of free menstrual hygiene products in schools

Ardern supported liberalising abortion law by removing abortion from the Crimes Act 1961. In March 2020, she voted for the Abortion Legislation Act that amends the law to decriminalise abortion.

Since the rates of domestic violence are high in New Zealand and women sometimes tend to stay in relationships because they can’t afford to go through the process of separation, Ardern’s government introduced the Right to Paid Leave if someone is coping with getting out of a domestic relationship

She is also very focussed on the issue of maternity leave. She sees it as a health issue and emphasises that women need time to recover.

Jacinda Ardern is the Second Prime Minister in the history of the world, after former Pakistan Prime Minister late Benazir Bhutto, to deliver a baby while in office – establishing that a person’s personal and professional life are separate and one should not be affected by the other.

Source: Elle

What draws me to her is the fact that she is using the platform that she has to talk about issues like maternity leave, difference between personal and professional life, sexual harassment, gender pay gap etc – issues that actually matter a lot in the real world.

She is advocating everything that she stands for both by talking about it on public platforms and passing laws on it. So, she is basically working towards the causes she believes in, in whatever capacity she can and isn’t that who a feminist is? – someone who believes in the equality of all genders and who translates this belief into their everyday lives by acting upon it in whatever capacity they can.

Source: CGTN Africa

I’ve heard and read so many times that women make for better leaders, but to be honest I’m not very sure. We’ve seen quite a few female leaders around the world who could make us question that. However, what I do know is that the path that we are heading towards right now, with our current leaders, does not look very promising; and we need a change. A change that replaces the current cis-male leadership of the world with not just women, but leaders of varied genders, sexualities and origins.

Leave the worry behind

Source: Pinterest

Uncertainty forces us into realms that our rational mind would not. We want to know what’s going to happen next. We want to know if things will turn out in our favor. We are so desperate to soothe our concerns about the future that we forget to live in the present. Worry becomes our water and anticipation our air.

Where does this leave us? Even after scrutinizing our horoscope every day, looking for signs from the universe or even going to the extent of consulting astrologists, we still don’t know the future. We never can.

Once during my school days, a friend told me the divine interference behind the common mynah – a bird found very commonly in Delhi. If you see a single mynah, it’s bad luck. If you see two, it’s good luck. The 12-year-old me believed this myth religiously. Even today, almost 10 years later, after having developed what I believe is a rational faculty, when I see that bird the first reflex that my mind takes is – good luck/bad luck. I have to consciously remind myself that a bird cannot determine how my day or my week or my life is going to be.

I often wondered where this phenomena of foreshadowing the future events of one’s life emerged from. The answer that I have come to settle upon is somehow derived by Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret in which she explains The Law of Attraction. According to this concept if I have conditioned my mind to believe that one bird means bad luck, then that is the ‘frequency’ I am putting out. If I carry the thought that something negative or unpleasant is going to happen with me, then even if nothing of the sort happens, I will make it so that it happens. I will try to find the negative in everything and that is the vibe that I will be carrying.

On the other hand, if I see 2 birds the ‘frequency’ that I will be putting out will be positive. I will try to find the good in everything and even if there are any minor inconveniences, I will believe that after all, I had a good day.

Source: Pinterest

We have often heard that what happens in our lives if of little consequence, what matters is our reaction to it. Our reaction is determined by our mental state. So, instead of worrying and checking horoscopes, it would be better if we just stay in the present and take on challenges one step at a time. Instead of trying to find a hidden meaning behind birds, it would be better if we looked at what they are trying to show us directly, the ability to fly high if one is willing enough to do it.

Tamasha – a lesson to carve your own story

Tamasha Photos
Source: filmibeat.com

“How are you? – Jab janna nhi hota to poochte kyun ho?”

What do you do when the voice of your heart is in contradiction with societal norms? Do you give wings to that voice? Or do you bury it in a place where even you can’t find it?

Tamasha, a Bollywood film directed by Imtiaz Ali, beautifully captures this juxtaposition by calling out the dreamer that rests somewhere in the depths of our hearts. With Tara and Ved acting as the narrators of their own stories, the opening scene captures the essence of the whole film – you are the writer of your own story.

The audience instantly relates to Ved’s story. Remember how as children we were allowed to leave discipline at home while going for vacation? But once back at home and snap! Back to the monotonous routines. Have we translated this practice into our adulthood also?

Tara is the voice of Ved’s heart personified. The voice that he didn’t even remember existed. The voice that finally woke him up from his slumber and made him question the direction his life was taking.

Why do we always forget that we don’t have to fit in? If each person is different, then wouldn’t their stories also be different? A beautiful rendition of this is when the old storyteller makes us realize that even our epics aren’t always performed in the same way. Each time we see Mahabharata or Ramayana, we notice some tiny exclusive detail which makes the performance ‘original’ and ‘special’.

Shouldn’t we then, people who are so different from each other, celebrate our own original stories? Why do we strive so hard to be mediocre in someone else’s story when we can be the winner in ours?

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