March 9, 2022 - 5:01pm

“No two countries run by women would ever go to war,” Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of meta, and proponent of the Lean In brand of corporate feminism stated in a Cartier-sponsored Dubai speech on International Women’s Day.

This is a rather peculiar claim. It was, after all, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great who organised the death of her husband and the extension of her empire by 200,000 square miles. Did she realise how badly this would reflect on 21st century corporate feminism? It wasn’t just Catherine either: Boudica made a point of cutting Roman citizens in half; Cleopatra took great delight in warring against the ascendent young Octavian; and it was Elizabeth I who told her army at Tilbury:

I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too […] rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general…
- Elizabeth I

From the ancient world to the contemporary, evidence abounds of women being eminently capable at military command, political manoeuvring, and bloodlust. One only needs to look as far back as Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher for confirmation of this.

Stateswomen, much like statesmen, understand that war is sometimes a necessary evil. They too understand that war can be beneficial, thrilling, or politically popular. Statistically, in fact, women have been more likely to go to war than men.

This line of thinking — that women are somehow not susceptible to the same desires and emotions as men — has spread elsewhere too; it was only eight years ago when the-then ECB chief Christine Lagarde claimed that “it would be a different world” if Lehman brothers was “Lehman sisters”.

Women are not an amorphous blob of girlboss empowerment or vessels of noble, peaceful, liberal statecraft. Some women conquer territory, others run banks. They are, after all, human, and as such suffer all the multidimensional complex desires and fears that make up the human condition. The idea that having 400 ng/dl less testosterone would prevent women from understanding the ‘need’ for war, or the will to undertake it, is a fantasy.

Can women not feel the same call to war that men do? Must they always be its victim rather than its master? It is patronising to think this way. Women go to war. And, believe it or not, some enjoy it too.

Katherine Bayford is a doctoral researcher in politics and international relations at the University of Nottingham.