As the son of a woman, the husband of a woman and the father of daughters and granddaughters, I celebrate the record number of females who are now United States senators. However, I do see some differences in the way these and other women are treated, depending on their party, policies and beliefs.
Diane Sawyer broadcast a celebratory report last week on ABC’s “World News Tonight” on which she gushed about the “record number” of 20 female senators. Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., also praised the Senate female population. Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she won’t be satisfied until there are 50 female senators.
In the Senate, the ratio of female Democrats to Republicans is 16 to 4. Would media approval for these women be different if the ratio were reversed? Consider how conservative females are treated, most notably Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. During her presidential run, Bachmann was labeled a religious fanatic and anti-woman for being pro-life. Her husband Marcus was criticized because of his Christian counseling clinic that some allege focuses on converting gays to heterosexuality, a charge he vehemently denies.
The media mostly ignore other Republican women, like Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico – at least for now.
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“We’re less on testosterone,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told Sawyer. “We don’t have that need to always be confrontational. And I think we’re problem solvers, and I think that’s what this country needs.” Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, agreed.
So testosterone is to blame for the fact that male senators are so combative and that Congress continues to founder? Imagine a male suggesting that estrogen hampers women from performing well at their jobs. You don’t have to imagine. Some men have said that and worse, to their shame, and society and ultimately history itself was right to denounce them.
But after all the talk about female bonding and how women and men have different approaches to solving problems, what does that mean? Does it mean that a Democratic female senator who is pro-choice on abortion and favors same-sex marriage, bigger roles for government, more spending and higher taxes will be able to find common ground with a Republican female senator who takes the opposite positions? I doubt it.
In the end, it isn’t about gender, but ideology. When they speak of “women’s issues,” for example, the left seems to think that all women think alike, or should. The same for African-Americans and civil rights. I think the right correctly sees content of character and ideas as superior to gender and skin color.
In the interview with Diane Sawyer, Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said that by nature women are “less confrontational.” Really? McCaskill must never have met the leaders of the women’s movement whose disciples are among her colleagues. The chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., is no shrinking violet.
I’m not betting on estrogen besting testosterone to “get things done,” forge compromise and diffuse confrontation, especially given the history of some very uncompromising female leaders like Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, underground railroad “conductor” Harriet Tubman, the late Bella Abzug, D-NY., or British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In fact, these women exhibited more testicular fortitude than some men, which, in the case of the conservative Thatcher, likely had a lot to do with why her male colleagues dumped her as party leader.
Contact Thomas, a syndicated columnist, at email@example.com.