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12th December 2020

Annie Dabb on Biden’s all-female cabinet: Someone’s been paying attention

Annie Dabb shows that Biden’s choice to appoint an all female press team shows an increasing appreciation for women in politics
Annie Dabb on Biden’s all-female cabinet: Someone’s been paying attention
A Minnesotans for Biden-Harris campaign sign in support of Joe Biden for President and Kamala Harris for Vice President ahead of the 2020 general election in a front yard in Hibbing, Minnesota. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It’s unfortunate that Biden’s victory in the recent US elections is overshadowed by the global relief at Trump’s consequential loss of presidential power. But that hasn’t stopped the triumphant Democratic politician from staking his claim by appointing the “first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women”. It’s understandable why Biden sees women as his friends. In a way, they were the enemy of his enemy, although I’m not sure ‘pussy-grabbing’ is a common combat tactic. Maybe that’s where Trump was going wrong. 

It’s nothing short of a disappointment that we are almost in 2021 and we still see Biden giving this much power to women as a bold move. Nevertheless, I’ll take my victories where I can find them, thank you very much. I still consider this partial fracturing of the ‘glass ceiling’ to be a far better result than the thankfully unneeded preparations for the smashing up of shop windows in New York’s Times Square, after the announcement of this year’s election result. 

It’s also a shame that in trying to build a diverse administration that reflects the country, women have been brought into politics in such an overt way that almost makes it seem like Biden is trying to fill a gender quota. Ironically, in putting women in charge of his every move, it could be argued that the new US president is exposing his own incompetence for the role and shying away from his responsibilities behind an appointed political cabinet; One that is crucially only one middle-class white man away from being slandered by the press as a matriarchy. I can already see the headlines if anything goes wrong: ‘Women – can’t live with ’em, can’t live without em, am I right?’

That being said, it’ll be a nice change from an all-male cabinet making decisions about women’s bodies and abortion rights. Maybe this year we’ll be seeing photos of a room full of women signing on the dotted line of a bill on paternity laws or men’s right to a vasectomy…

It’s no wonder really that Biden has chosen an all-female press team, especially given the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic. One could argue that his decision actually shows he has been paying attention this year; all the countries who’ve dealt with coronavirus best in terms of the lowest number of deaths (with the exceptions of Czech-Republic and Greece) are female-led. 

In Taiwan, for example, Tsai Ingwen was the first to implement proactive measures against Covid-19 which has resulted in only 6 recorded deaths. In Finland, Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest head of government, appointed at the age of 34, instituted an early partial lockdown that meant infection rates remained among the lowest in Europe. 

In New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern imposed a lockdown long before cases began to uncontrollably rise, asserting in March that it was time to “go hard and go early”. It’s a shame that men seem to have no problem following this advice in the bedroom, yet when it comes to politics, they take their sweet time. 

Germany’s leader Angela Merkel told her country to ‘take it seriously’ and they did. Showing that contrary to entrenched patriarchal belief, women do not need to be sheltered from harsh realities, nor is our purpose to soften the blow of bad news with womanly nurturing and affection. Rather we ought to be allowed to occupy positions of power which enable us to take control of situations and lessen the quantity of bad news in the first place – prevent rather than cure. 

A rather heart warming example of the excellent handling of the frightening situation by female leadership is that of the Norwegian leader Erna Solberg who dedicated a no-adult press conference to children, in which she responded to questions from kids all across the country and explained why it was ok to feel scared. 

Perhaps we may take from Solberg’s approach, is that it is not always necessary to act macho, behaving as if everything can be defeated with threats of war and physical violence. After all, it’s difficult to resolve a situation with a fist fight if you can’t get within two metres of each other.  

Especially given the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, perhaps a lot of leaders could simply benefit themselves and their nations through learning to express and share their fears with one another as a form of comfort. 

Thus, the evidence does suggest that women make for better, more compassionate leaders, which statistics clearly emphasised in the midst of the pandemic. However, maybe it’s understandable why the UK may be sceptical about this, even after the repeated incompetency of Boris Johnson, given that our track record so far has seen one female leader attack the miners’ affiliation with trade unions and the other attack minors’ future affiliation with the European Union. 

The fact that Biden himself describes his appointed cabinet as an all-female press team who will keep America “safe and secure” does convey heroic imagery. It could certainly be argued that the damage caused by Trump needs avenging. 

Furthermore, the irony is not lost on me that the population sector who once had to campaign for their right to vote, now sit almost at the very top of the political hierarchy in one of the most powerful nations in the world. It’s a shame it took a pandemic to get us here, but ‘every cloud’, right?

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