Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Height, gender, and tyranny


According to the latest despatches from the fantasy world inhabited by the UK’s Prime Criminal, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is all down to the gender of the president, Vladimir Putin. If only he’d been a woman all this unpleasantness could have been avoided. We don’t know much else about this imaginary female Russian president, although we might be better able to guess at Johnson’s assessment of her physical appearance if we knew whether she also had an imaginary husband who voted Conservative. We do know that, assuming Ms Putin turned out to be roughly the same size as Mr Putin, a shorter than average man would have become a taller than average woman, a fact which grows in importance when we learn from the Defence Secretary that Putin suffers from something called ‘small man syndrome’. It's a diagnosis which his former experience as a ski instructor and army officer clearly leave him entirely qualified to make. On the other hand, it could be his personal experience as a man only a few inches taller than Putin which gives him this amazing insight into Putin’s character; we can only guess. There is, of course, nothing new about disseminating derogatory information about the physical attributes of opponents; it can surely only be a matter of time before allegations about the imagined deficiencies of Putin’s assets in the genital department begin to circulate.

Exactly what the observations of Johnson (another not exactly giant of a man) and Wallace add to the sum total of human knowledge remains to be determined. There is an outside chance that ridiculing men who happen to be on the short size may rebound on its perpetrators which might bring some benefit in the form of light relief to observers of the UK political scene, although it could easily come at the expense of harm and hurt to innocent bystanders who also happen to be vertically challenged. And that is surely the danger in making overgeneralizations, whether they be about height or gender. 

There’s also a question about their accuracy. History tells us that some dictators and tyrants were short – we tend to think of Napoleon or Hitler – but it also tells us that some were tall. Peter the Great – one of Putin’s heroes, apparently – was 6 foot 4 inches; Syria’s al-Assad is 6 foot 2, and Saddam Hussein was 6 foot 1. And history can be misleading – most of those dictators who we tend to think of as being short were actually very close to male average height (5 foot 7) – a statement which applies to Hitler, Putin and Napoleon for instance. In truth, there is no correlation between height and propensity to tyranny observable in the world’s historical records, it’s all in the fevered imaginations of those who want to belittle (pun intended) their opponents.

So, returning to Johnson, does his suggestion that the problem is Putin’s gender bear any greater relationship with the truth? It’s certainly true that there have been fewer female tyrants than male ones, but any objective analysis ought to start by recognising that females have largely been excluded from leadership roles in most of the world for most of human history. A lack of opportunity to produce their fair share of dictators does not, in itself, prove a lack of propensity. It is, though, probably true that certain attributes are more common in males than in females – and vice versa. It is quite possible that the desire for war and conquest is more predominant amongst males than females, but greater prevalence isn’t at all the same thing as gender being an absolute determinant. It depends on the individual rather than simply on gender. To choose just two examples on daily display, being a woman doesn’t stop Liz Truss being one of the Cabinet's biggest warmongers, and being female doesn’t stop Priti Patel being probably the nastiest person ever to hold the office of Home Secretary. Whilst Johnson may be clutching at the germ of a sensible point, his innate misogyny and inability to apply any sort of subtlety to his analysis make it, ultimately, next to worthless. If Johnson had been female, would he still have become Prime Criminal - and would he still have performed even more badly than a reincarnated olive? It's one of those things which are unknowable.

1 comment:

Spirit of BME said...

When it comes to male aggression I also think - How can I say this?
The Boy Johnson is measuring the wrong thing.