Saturday, December 16, 2017

Meet Empress Wu. Meet Hillary Clinton.

When I saw this tweet by Joe Walsh (we all love Joe, right?), I was reminded of the way later generations evaluated the reign of the only woman who ruled as an empress* in China:

I've been reading about empress Wu recently.  The later generations of Confucian critics disliked her reign intensely, probably at least partly, because Confucianism will not allow women to rule, and because she was seen as having grabbed power illegally.

Thus, all the cruel acts she has been accused of were used as evidence of the horrors that a petticoat rule creates, whereas the cruel acts of her predecessors and later emperors were not similarly interpreted.  And at least in the last book I read those parts of her reign and its policies which could be viewed as effective and beneficial were given alternative, narrowly selfish interpretations.

It's impossible to state anything much about a ruler who died more than two thousand 1300 years ago, of course.  But some of the accusations ring a faint bell when I think of the treatment of Hillary Clinton.  The right-wing smear campaign of her also accuses her of unusual depravity as a politician:  She is the most corrupt politician of the current era, empress Wu was the cruelest of all emperors.

And both were accused to have gained their power illegally, partly by marriage to a ruler.

Think of it this way.  We use a ruler (in inches, say) for measuring politicians' flaws.  The more flaws, the higher the inches-reading.  But the zero-point on that ruler is moved up by an inch or two when the politician is female.  This makes even smaller character flaws look glaringly large, becausewomenarenotsupposedto.


* Not as a consort, but as the ruler.