How do I begin? Women are evil. That is my thesis.
Right now, millions of South Koreans are calling for the resignation of their first female president, Park Geun-hye. The scandal centers on Ms. Park’s close friend Choi Soon-sil, who has been arrested for accusations of meddling in state affairs and soliciting business donations for a non-profit under her control.
While Ms. Park is constitutionally protected from criminal indictment, public trust and her approval ratings have plummeted to an unprecedented low in South Korea’s history, with enormous rallies calling for her resignation or impeachment. Part of the scandal is due to its religious implications: Ms. Choi’s father, Choi Tae-min, was the founder of an obscure sect called the Church of Eternal Life. Although there is no evidence that either Ms. Choi or Ms. Park were involved in religious activities, the indirect connection has caused South Koreans to claim that their country is being run by a “puppet” president controlled by the “shaman.”
In and of itself, this scandal is unconcerning. After all, corruption in South Korea is nothing spectacular. Each of the three presidents that came before Ms. Park were embroiled in family corruption scandals that sent multiple government officials to jail and led one president to commit suicide.
What is truly concerning about this story of downfall is the implication it has for future women leaders. Conservative politicians slander Ms. Choi as a “housewife” and men joke that new female presidents will now be farfetched.
Though the specific details are different, the parallels between the scandal in South Korea and current events here in the US are stark. In America, the defeat of first viable woman candidate for president defeat has been punctuated by chants calling for our new president-elect to “lock her up.”
The narrative is the same: Hillary is crooked. Hillary represents Wall Street and elite double standards. Hillary is a criminal. She had the audacity to use a private email server, and Americans couldn’t get enough of this one detail. This single point swallowed her entire platform, and at one point, 92% of Americans were convinced that Clinton had committed a crime or was at least guilty of poor judgement. Even Hillary supporters can’t resist qualifying themselves with a weakly smiling, “Yeah, she’s messed up a few things, but...” Never mind the fact that the FBI has cleared Hillary Clinton twice. Never mind the fact that locking up political opponents is the job of dictatorships instead of democracies.
What is most disturbing about all this is not that one of the most qualified and honest modern presidential candidates was villainized, but rather that Hillary’s downfall is neither surprising nor uncommon.
When women are allowed to lead, they are landmarks, exceptions, perhaps even experiments. Their victory is a victory for womankind, but it is also a heavy burden to bear. Their mistakes, their scandals, and their failures define not only their career, but also the entire concept and image of women leadership. When a woman blunders, she mars the face of all womankind.
Yet this idea of generalizability applies only to women, not to men. We see men as individuals rather than a species—individuals whose failures and scandals represent only themselves. And sometimes, we even give them second chances because we understand that men are not angels.
But neither are women. The precedents set by Hillary Clinton, Park Geun-hye, Dilma Rousseff, and Cristina Kirchner, among others, are precedents that should be taken with a grain of salt. Their accomplishments are great for the obstacles they faced and their failures are disappointing for the potential that was lost, but to think that the character traits and distinct fates of a handful of women can be generalized to half the population or that female leadership will have some distinct “style” is both ignorant and sexist.
Women are evil. That is my thesis. But so are men. As human beings, we can be corrupt, incompetent, emotional, and narrow-minded—but that says nothing about our gender. We can also be the greatest leaders the world has ever seen—because we are individuals. The assumption of variation and the privilege of second chances can’t be reserved for men. We can’t afford to cut the talent of the world in half when at the end of the day, our potentials for good and evil are all the same.
Elizabeth Y. Sun '19, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Eliot House.
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