What If Women Ruled the World?

A surrealist segue from Yael Bartana’s performance piece might ask, how would the audience design a war room from scratch? The product designer Ayse Birsel says you can deconstruct and reconstruct anything and in this production’s reconstruction of a war room, female leadership lies front and centre.  

The performance is structured through an opening re-enactment of the end of Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr Strangelove; a performative re-imagining of a future where – as in the film – women outnumber men 10 to 1, though in Bartana’s scenario this ratio has granted the women de facto leadership. The large circular table, central to the design of the film’s war room, is replicated here, though now it’s furnished by adroitly hanging ferns. World-renowned female thinkers and doers discuss the structure and governance of this new world order in the second half.

There are numerous precedents where female leadership has provided a rebalance on proceedings.  Companies with women on their board significantly outperformed those with male only boards when the global downturn came through in 2008. Angela Merkel took action where no male counterpart would, opening the borders to 1 million refugees fleeing war and displacement,

The five female experts each chose a point of contention for structural change in the new world order:

  • Irena Sabic, human rights lawyer, emphasizes empathy screening and training for people in power
  • Kate Raworth, economist, wants a new focus to and implementation of climate change recommendations
  • Lisa Ling, security expert, advocates stopping drone warfare which disassociates the killing of innocent bystanders from the people dropping bombs
  • Mariam Ibrahim Yusuf, refugee campaigner, encourages borderless countries
  • Holly Kilroy, internet specialist, leads on Information Freedom

They also challenge the status quo. The minority male population is represented by Carl, a buff man in the skimpiest of outfits asked to bring the tea.  Given ultimate power, some of the women in the room start to question why he has been put into that position, and go on to question the empathy of the women who would do so, before asking him to sit in on the conversation whilst they broach the topic of having no male signatories to the convention.

In the 20th century, it could be argued that a key innovation in conflict transformation was to elevate nonviolent resistance into mass action through the work of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.  In the 21st century, might female leadership present another opportunity for mass action and innovation in the sphere of governance? What implications are there for the prevention of global emergencies if the governance of nations and companies had 50-60% female leadership?

The performance ends with a doomsday countdown as threatening as what is at stake. If the war room is not reconstructed then global emergencies, war/disaster, continue. Another unknown soldier is tragically lost in a foreign land, another young woman is raped by people who have killed her friends and family and millions more displaced people will face a future they had no part in creating. 

How would you reconstruct the war room? (RY)

- Reina Yaidoo


What If Women Ruled the World? - MIF

“Our lives are our biggest projects” - Creating Your Own Original Life


Shares of Companies with Women Directors Outperform Men-Only Boards

If All the Avengers Posed Like Black Widow

The Refugee Project