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On the passing of the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II, the entire world reflected on her reign, generally acknowledging that she loyally served her subjects and duties for an amazing span of seven decades.
More importantly, she managed to adapt and bend with the times – instead of aggressively seizing or holding territories like some tyrants still insist on doing, her nation oversaw the release of 20 formerly colonized countries from British rule. What can we learn from that example?
During Queen Elizabeth’s long reign the world witnessed many wars – but the United Kingdom rarely started them or attempted to invade other countries for the purpose of forcibly taking land and resources. That example, one among many, holds a potential lesson for the world – if we want wars of aggression to end, we need more women to lead.
When all mankind shall receive the same opportunity of education and the equality of men and women be realized, the foundations of war will be utterly destroyed. … Equality between men and women is conducive to the abolition of warfare for the reason that women will never be willing to sanction it.
Throughout history, men have been primarily responsible for war. Male leaders and military generals have initiated invasions, aggressive wars, and battles for land and treasure, while female leaders have usually restricted armed hostilities to the defense of home, property, or country.
Why do male leaders want to dominate others with the use of military force? We know that warfare has been waged between opposing tribes since the dawn of humankind – mostly over resources, like grazing lands, access to fresh water, abundant wildlife, even trees for firewood. But many wars have also been started by male chiefs and leaders with large egos, whose goal was to conquer territories, subjugate peoples, and gain power and glory for themselves.
The brutally aggressive Roman Empire, from 27 B.C. until A.D. 476, was led by generals with legions composed of male soldiers, governed by the whims and dictates of notorious male emperors like Nero and Caligula. It included large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe (even Britain and Scotland), North Africa, and Western Asia.
Genghis Khan, one of the worst warlords in history, merged hordes that conquered and established the largest contiguous empire the world has ever seen, with a reach that extended west into Poland, covered Eurasia and China, and went as far south as Gaza.
Unfortunately, the world has had primarily patriarchal civilizations for ages. Until the 1950s, men ruled governments in almost every nation, either as kings, dictators, or elected officials, even as democracies continued their rise to dominance. Under that predominantly male leadership, the world experienced two massive wars that killed tens of millions of soldiers, murdered millions of innocent civilians of all ages, and destroyed or obliterated entire cities. After World War II, the United Nations formed to bring nations closer, but the Cold War separated the superpowers, and nuclear capabilities made new ones. In response, nations formed alliances like NATO, then later the European Union and others. Still, men decided their government’s actions in almost every nation. In Paris, Abdu’l-Baha said “… war is made for the satisfaction of men’s ambition; for the sake of worldly gain to the few, terrible misery is brought to numberless homes, breaking the hearts of hundreds of men and women!”
But today things are changing.
Many countries now have female heads of state – New Zealand, Namibia, Nepal, Iceland, and Bangladesh, just to name a few. Twenty-six countries in the world are now run by women. The female percentage of elected and appointed governmental representatives in most countries has risen considerably in the past two decades, as well. The nations governed by women, for the most part, have proven to be peaceful, non-aggressive actors on the world stage. In Boston, Abdu’l-Baha advised everyone to:
… strive to show in the human world that women are most capable and efficient, that their hearts are more tender and susceptible than the hearts of men, that they are more philanthropic and responsive toward the needy and suffering, that they are inflexibly opposed to war and are lovers of peace. Strive that the ideal of international peace may become realized through the efforts of womankind, for man is more inclined to war than woman, and a real evidence of woman’s superiority will be her service and efficiency in the establishment of universal peace.
In a 2013 study of 10,000 American men and women, researchers confirmed what Abdu’l-Baha said when they found the majority of women have personality traits that are quite distinct from those of men, and vice versa. As a whole, men tend to be more dominant, forceful, and aggressive, while women in general tend to be more sensitive, warm, and attentive to others. These qualities, which result in an increased level of caring for the welfare of their loved ones, complement rather than oppose male traits. With a history of male aggression and warfare, we need more of these qualities in society to oppose war and bring about lasting peace.