The Unfortunate Logic of the ‘Wondrous Womanly’ Leader Narrative in the time of Covid-19


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misdiagnoses what’s actually going on. Yes, individuals do matter — certainly from a visibility and symbolism perspective — and that has real power.

And, for there to be the possibility of action and decision-making in service of goals different to our current societal priorities we need to shift to a paradigm that creates, sustains, and nurtures the conditions that make those decisions possible beyond individuals.

The gender binary as we know it is an unwinnable game. We need to undo its rules.

All women have a right to decision-making power even if they make mistakes, fail be awful at it, and maybe aren’t compassionate in every moment. Because being allowed to fail and mess up is what cis men get to do in leadership all the time.

All women have a right to participate in decision-making and leadership because. That’s the end of the sentence. They do because they do. Justifications for why they should, what benefits they may bring, or which specific ‘permissible’ women, are all diversionary tactics that not only waste our time but also as you’ll see above, have dangerous corollaries.

To do the work of shifting the paradigm, we need to be able to hold multiple ideas in our minds at once. People leading in alternative ways that center care and compassion are important. We do not need to endorse biologically essentialist narratives of gender to grant women access to decision-making power — no matter how positive the attributes. We should do everything we can to produce the systemic conditions that ensure that all those marginalized by an unequal distribution of power are afforded access to what is rightfully theirs. As well as ensuring that every one of us is actively geared to prioritizing collective-oriented courageous, compassionate decision-making.

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