I never knew much about Priti Patel until she came up in the news recently regarding the allegations of her bullying civil servants within the Cabinet offices. Some of the accusations sound, on paper, very unpleasant. Her staff seem to have had a rough time working for her. If I look at it from the other side, the side we don’t hear about because it’s not sensationalist enough, Ms Patel is a woman, an Indian woman, who has worked hard within a role that I certainly wouldn’t choose to do. She would have had to prove herself in a predominantly masculine world over and over again.
Women throughout history have had to take the harder road in order to show they are equal. Queen Elizabeth the First had to prove herself back in Tudor times, male succession to the Throne was the norm and a woman had to work twice as hard to confirm her existence and her right. She established Protestantism; defeated the Spanish Armada; maintained peace in a previously divided country and with her feminine side encouraged the Arts. All of this would have been against the male naysayers. The Pankhurst women fought for what they believe in, they felt that women should have a say in who ran the country, so they began a movement to win the vote for women. It seems ludicrous to us now that only men had that power. Moving on a few decades, Margaret Thatcher, love her or loathe her, as our first female Prime Minister, took on the unions; the junta led by General Galtieri, she was our longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th Century and she deregulated the banks.
These women would have been called ‘ball breakers’; ‘bullies’; ‘bossy’; ‘harridans’, mostly by men. There are no terms for men who are in powerful positions, which are as derisory. Men are called ‘ruthless’; ‘ambitious’; ‘dynamic’ and ‘visionary’. None of these words are put-downs, they just describe strong and dominant men. All of these women were dominant, but that’s always seen as a negative in the female sex.
We think we’ve come so far. We’ve got the vote, we get a say and we’re allowed to be MP’s if we choose. We can do any job we like, pretty much. There are female sports teams, cricket, football, rugby, you name it we can play and probably better than men, but have we really come as far as we think? The perception of men is still that of Jerry Hall’s infamous quote: ‘A woman must be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom’.
So much for Sisterhood.