Sunday, November 05, 2006

machismo and peace keeping

Interesting article from openDemocracy regarding the prevalence of machismo in international diplomatic forums.

I can't help but think that testosterone incites the majority of diplomatic breakdowns. I remember a conversation I had with my MRes supervisor about endocrine disruption and whether or not the prevalence of xenoestrogens in the environment could benefit society by changing patterns of male behaviour. Certainly in societies with a patriarchal culture the unassailability of the male ego can simply halt the application of common sense to many of the challenges of peace-keeping.

Another interesting anecdote came from a family friend who was posted to Bosnia with the RAF. As an air-traffic director she had to liaise between the different local and international forces to manage access to the contested airspace, not to mention tiptoe around the variety of inflated male egos that inevitably dominate such conflicts with their petty territorial squabblings. I remember her recounting how she was deployed in many deadlocked situations as a conflict breaker as in the Balkan culture it is inconceivable that a women is superior in any way to a man. In such situations she was introduced to negotiations and then authorised to offer minor concessions to the opposing delegation- whose egos would not let them be outdone by a mere woman- and who would promptly attempt to outdo these concessions and subsequently engage in an escalation to the point where she could get them to dance naked on a table if she was so inclined!

Another example comes from my own country where it appears that the job of bailiff is being taken by more and more women (I think it was a BBC article but I can't find it, grrrr). It appears that many tense situations are dealt with in a far more diplomatic and less aggressive manner by the fairer sex, possibly because they come across as less threatening (?).

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