Rachel Allison explores the latest trend of political power posing and asks what it means that our politicians think they must be superheroes…
There has been a lot of talk about ‘power-posing’ this week. The new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, decided to power pose outside the Home Office for photos after his appointment. Standing with his legs slightly too far apart, the aim seemed to be to imitate a heavyweight boxing champion. The consensus seemed to be that he didn’t really pull it off and just reminded everyone George Osborne at the 2015 Conservative Party Conference.
I, myself, prefer a superwoman power pose – but only in the privacy of the toilet cubicle for a pre-meeting confidence boost. Power poses do have some great benefits, especially for women, as Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy and her colleagues explore in their paper and TED talk. Try it.
However, I would argue that the public power posing of high profile politicians is a cause for concern
Besides making politicians look a bit odd, power posing is a type of body language designed to say: I am strong, powerful and mighty. It propagates the idea that politicians should be super human, all powerful beings who are going to change the world. It makes us believe that they have the power and confidence to do things which are not humanly possible and can sometimes make us less forgiving of them when they make mistakes.
It is easy to get frustrated when you get an automated reply to a handwritten letter, or your MP won’t get on board with your very reasonable request for world peace by end of play tomorrow. But behind that slightly short response to your complaint is an over worked and often underappreciated human being. Someone who is constantly being told that they have to get it right all the time, be strong and not show weakness. We should expect our politicians to be remarkable, but we cannot expect them to be perfect.
As Christians we have a responsibility to care for our MPs and local councillors, to not just demand things from them but also encourage them in the good work that they do.
We also have a responsibility to advocate for a different kind of leadership, like the leadership shown by Jesus. A leadership which is grounded in humility, integrity and, compassion.
True strength does not come through a superwoman pose. Power and strength come through accepting that as people we are flawed, we mess up and we need a helping hand sometimes. A big part of leadership is being able to admit when you are wrong, saying sorry and trying better next time. When we perpetuate the myth that MPs are super humans we don’t allow them the space to do that.
So next time you write to your MP remember that they are just like you and I. They probably got involved in politics to make the world better. They are probably trying their best and they are definitely, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu says: ‘made for goodness’.
If you’re living in an area with local elections this week why not send your newly elected Councillors a welcome letter.
You could send your MP a letter thanking them for their hard work or even send them a box of chocolates.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must all remember to continually hold our elected representatives in our prayers. Let us pray for their wellbeing, and let us pray that they might make decisions which work towards the common good.