So, it's 2012, and we're letting ladies be in charge of stuff now (I mean, some stuff, in some places). We've got the vote, we're allowed to have jobs that aren't strictly mop-related, and we sometimes even get elected to political office, so you know what that means—time to CANCEL FEMINISM! Just kidding, obviously. There's one area in which women haven't yet managed to achieve equality, and that's being a corrupt, bribe-taking dickhead crony. Something to aspire to, ladies.
Conventional wisdom holds that women in power are measurably less corrupt than their male counterparts, and that governing bodies actually become less corrupt when they acquire female members. But why? What's the deal? And is that even true? Well, yes and no and maybe.
It is not that women are purer than men or immune to the pull of greed. Rather, the link appears to be that women are more likely to rise to positions of power in open and democratic political systems, and such societies are generally more intolerant of wrongdoing, including the abuse of power and siphoning off of public money.
So, right off the bat, this doesn't have anything to do with women's inherent goodness as a gender. Which is fine, because, in my opinion, "inherent goodness" is a paternalistic crock of shit. The idea that women are somehow naturally noble and virtuous ties into the same flawed power structure that kept us from voting for centuries ("But the rough-and-tumble politics will taint her!") keeps us from being taken seriously in politics today ("But what if she's in her delicate lady-time when the red phone rings!?"). Even if there are small quantifiable differences in men's and women's natural virtuousness—because of, I don't know, maternal instincts? Oxytocin?—I'd happily sacrifice a few congratulatory high-fives for the sake of unfettered opportunity.
In the grand scheme of things, women are relatively new to modern politics. And resistance to female governance—or, really, any minority intrusion into the comfy old boys' clubs—is a tough nut to crack. So it follows that 1) Women who do manage to make it in politics need to appear (or, hopefully, be) visibly more competent and virtuous than their opponents; 2) The societies that elect women to positions of power are typically more progressive and transparent to begin with; and 3) Since women are so new to politics, and have been excluded for so long, they're simply not set up to inherit the keys to massive, entrenched systems of corruption.
Helen Clark, who served nine years as prime minister of New Zealand, said there is no specific proof that women are any less corrupt than men. Instead, integrity may be more a function of opportunity and the way society operates than of gender, she said.
"There is a growing body of evidence that corruption operates in specific political and social networks to which women do not usually have access - particularly when women are new to positions of power," said Clark, who is the first woman to head the U.N. Development Program.
In other words, women have the potential to be corrupt (and, I'm sure—CAVEATS R US—a number of them are, just like a number of men aren't), but they've been excluded from the avenues of corruption just like they've been excluded from everything else. But what about, say, Sarah Palin? She faked her way into an important but undervalued job, then took about 14 seconds to become just as big an opportunistic idiot as her male counterparts. Was it because the Republican party welcomed her in rather than excluding her from their male space? Because they needed her as a token—because of her gender, not in spite of it?
I have no idea. I'm just spitballing here. But in a perverted, backwards way, it'd be liberating for women to have the opportunity to be as corrupt as men. I want the chance to be a corrupt monster!!! You know, for equality!
Except, of course, I don't want that. The world is a better place without corruption, and it is not sad that women haven't yet gotten to internalize the arrogance that comes with unchallenged power. For now, maybe, we still are delicate, virtuous lady-flowers.
Image via electra/Shutterstock.