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Hawks and doves

History shows being a woman no guarantee of being a pacifist

By WITW Staff on February 9, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s victory in Iowa, the first time a woman has won the presidential caucuses there, has brought on a series of gender-based speculations about female candidates’ inherent pacifism, or their overcompensating hawkishness, compared to male candidates. But research concerning female rulers in the Middle Ages, a time when many women wielded power due to the circumstances of marriage or noble birth, finds that queens were 27 percent more likely than contemporary kings to wage foreign wars. This data, from an October 2015 paper released by Oeindrila Dube and S.P. Harish which tracked the activity of queens and kings in Europe between 1480 and 1913, has been used to contradict popular preconceptions about women’s “natural” pacifism.

But the real lesson to take from this history, argues Katrin E. Sjursen for The Atlantic, is that a leader’s gender does not predict whether they are more likely to engage war or avoid it. “Women can be bellicose, assertive, conciliatory, and so on,” Sjursen writes. “They are also not a homogenous group. There is nothing essential about being a woman — or a man — that determines how an individual will behave when faced with the threat of war.”

Read the full story at The Atlantic.