You are exactly right Melissa. I was born right before Margaret Thatcher became the British Prime Minister and she remained so until I was nearly 11 years old. In my head, the word ‘Prime Minister’ was inherently gendered female and whenever, in fiction or historical context, the Prime Minister was referred to with the male pronouns he/him, it felt odd to me.
I think this was a really important lesson for a young white male to learn. Even now I sometimes have to put the idea out of my head that Mrs Thatcher is the ‘real’ Prime Minister and all the others were just play acting – a particularly worrisome feeling because I profoundly disagree with her politics.
And if that is how I feel about the transient office-holder of Prime Minister, imagine how the entire British public think of the monarchy. The vast majority of us have known nothing but a Queen and the gendered monarch’s Q is found in many places, such as the QC appended to lawyers’ names, to the national anthem ‘God Save The Queen’. When Elizabeth II dies the dissonance will be huge even though a King Charles III would represent a return to the long term status quo.
This is how the powerful remain so: their longevity makes them such a fact of life that our minds cannot imagine anything different. It is why the Clinton candidacy, the Obama Presidency are so important to everyone (including and perhaps especially for the white guys). It is also why fictional representations of diverse presidents, politicians, military, judicial and business leaders are so crucial (even on slightly ridiculous shows like 24 or Veep) because they break that mindset.