The row that’s currently raging in Europe over migration shows that mellow words and mellifluous tones are not necessarily the preserve of female leaders, and sometimes not even them. (Click here, here, here and here for my previous pieces on female leadership.)
Take Giorgia Meloni. She’s picking fights with France and the European Union (EU) barely three weeks into her job as Italy’s first female prime minister. Her approach to France’s President Emmanuel Macron and the EU in general is striking in its pugnaciousness.
The current row is a familiar one; the words used not so much, or at least not so much at this stage of the contretemps. Ms Meloni has accused France of “incomprehensible and unjustified” aggression as the two countries fight over numbers of migrants and when and where to accept them. Italy recently refused entry to a charity rescue ship, the Ocean Viking, carrying 234 migrants picked up in the Mediterranean, and it was forced to dock in France.
Man or woman, it’s debatable if a leader is best served by pulling no verbal punches.
Make no mistake, Ms Meloni knows the power of language. Her office has announced that she wants to be addressed as “Il Presidente del Consiglio”, with the masculine “il” article, as opposed to the feminine “la”, preceding her job title.
The unusual nature of the request prompted Emiliana De Blasio, gender politics professor at Luiss University, to tell the ‘Financial Times’ that Ms Meloni is trying to position herself in opposition to a certain brand of leftwing feminism: “The message is: [masculine or feminine] doesn’t matter power is power. But words matter because they shape politics and our societies.”