Welcome to the Queens Gallery for HISTORY KARDS: 50 GREATEST VILLAINS OF ALL TIME, where you can see the cards large enough to make out text and graphics. Klik "MORE ON THE QUEENS" below for additional info, or klik on any image to see it bigger.
The "big name" monsters of history are nearly all men, and it is male tyrants who have amassed the truly awe inspiring (if completely appalling) records of savagery. Whether we're talking about Genghis Khan eight hundred years ago, or the genocidal maniacs of the last century, no woman comes close—in terms of death and destruction directly attributable to her or her minions.
So women must, perforce, be judged by a different standard than men for purposes of the 50 GREATEST VILLAINS OF ALL TIME. For women, it's not so much the body count as the depravity and impact of their rule that became my criteria for inclusion here, particularly as this level.
When compiling the individuals to be included in HISTORY KARDS: THE 50 GREATEST VILLAINS OF ALL TIME, it quickly became apparent what should have been obvious to me at the start. To wit, that female monsters are few and far between as compared to men. Before starting the project, I'd just never consciously thought about it before.
Furthermore, the magnitude of the crimes of female rulers pales in comparison when stacked against the worst of the worst, all men. I suppose we should all be grateful. I for one would find it extremely depressing if women were mass murderers on the same scale as men. It's bad enough that we have one gender which not just seems capable of, but which seems to excel at and even revel in, large scale death and destruction.
I was also faced with a pragmatic problem: the rank of Queens. I couldn't assign men to this rank. It just wouldn't work.
(Well, I suppose a few of the more "flamboyant" (ahem) rulers in history might also qualify as "queens," but let's not quibble.)
Fortunately, if you can call it that, there are enough female villains in history to fill out the rank. They're just not there, generally speaking, because they killed tens of millions. They're there for reputations of total depravity, wanton cruelty and, to be clear, a fair amount of bloodshed.
All of this begs the question: Why haven't there been female rulers on the same level of evil as Hitler, Stalin and Mao?
I don't think there's a simple, succinct, easy answer. My sense of it is that there are many factors at play, including complex, interacting issues of society, gender and circumstance.
History's most powerful nations, whether they be empires or republics or dictatorships (or whatever) have tended to be run by men because most societies on earth are fundamentally patriarchal. Ironically, in those societies which are more "modern" and "progressive," women have tended to have less of voice in matters than perhaps even in times past.
For example, it took over a hundred years for women to get the right to vote in the supposed "freest country on earth;" the United States of America. In 2020, 240+ years after the nation's founding, women are still "second class citizens" in many ways. They're paid less than men, are continuously having to fight and refight battles for control of their own bodies, and have considerably less of a presence in leadership than their 51% of the population would suggest (though this may finally be changing for the better). In this regard, it can be argued that female nobility have had more of an impact on their respective societies than American women have had on theirs.
I don't know about you, but simply as a humanist, I find that to be a disturbing revelation—one which only came about because of this project.
Case in point, 2012 marked the Diamond Jubilee (60 years) of the rule of Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom. As we are only two years away from 2022 at this point, there's no reason to believe she won't make it her 70th anniversary. While the information age seems to have obviated the likelihood of real tyrants such as those we saw in the 20th century coming onto the scene again (and let us pray that this is so), imagine if England's Queen had been a tyrant like Hitler, Stalin or Mao. What would her DToll and DRate be across 60+ years? I shudder to think.
It is also true that the Queen of England's role in the modern age, under a constitutional monarchy, is mostly ceremonial. She probably couldn't become a tyrant of the type I'm talking about if she wanted to, and I don't think for a moment that she has any such desires. But the point remains. She has had over six decades on the throne; how many female leaders outside of the monarchical system have had 1/10th as long "in charge?" Not too many.
Communist doctrine holds that women are the equal of men, and numerous revolutions around the world have relied on women every bit as much as men. It just seems that, once these governments are established, the patriarchal forms reassert themselves. How many female heads of state did the Soviet Union or communist China produce? Answer: none. Hell, look at today's communist Chinese leadership. If there are any women among them, they seem to be in the distinct minority. So much for equal representation.
Generally speaking, women have had even less of a chance to be long-term leaders in supposedly "more advanced" eras than hundreds of years in the past.
The larger point being that, I think it's fair to say, women have not had the opportunity be monsters anywhere near the same degree as men. Women also tend to be considerably less violent than men. Which does not in any way suggest that women cannot be violent or cruel. That capacity resides in all of us.
I shudder to think what might have happened had Hitler elevated some of the sadistic and extremely violent female concentration camp guards to positions of even greater power (you know, the ladies who happily made lampshades and book covers out of the skins of women and children they'd murdered).
In a twisted sort of way, perhaps it is good that women have not had the same opportunities as men to be mass murderers.
In any event—and was a long and winding road to get here, for which I apologize—the four women which make up the Queens set deserve to be there. Two of them were actual Queens, in fact, and all were nobility—which, parenthetically, only reinforces the above argument.
It is unclear to me at the time I write this whether there will even be more women in the card deck outside of the Queens. I think there probably will be, but there is one thing I can guarantee. They will be in the distinct minority, and I, for one, am glad.