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News Opinion

Female vs. male senators

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. Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland also praised the Senate female population. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California 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, a Minnesota Republican. During her presidential run, Ms. 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.

"We're less on testosterone," Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California told Ms. 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, Republican of 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.

This double standard seems not only to apply to gender but also to race. Consider the disparaging things said about Tim Scott, the new senator from South Carolina, a replacement for the retired Jim DeMint. Mr. Scott is black, but his race does not endear him to liberals. He probably won't be embraced by the NAACP, whose president accused him of not believing in civil rights, having received an "F" on the NAACP's civil rights scorecard, which judges legislators on their votes on "civil rights" issues. In fact, Mr. Scott is just as much an example of the advancement of civil rights for blacks as those female senators are examples of progress for women.

In the end, it isn't about gender or race, 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, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, said that by nature women are "less confrontational." Really? Ms. 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 of Florida, is no shrinking violet.

I'm not betting on estrogen besting testosterone to "get things done," forge compromise and defuse confrontation, especially given the history of some very uncompromising female leaders like Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, underground railroad "conductor" Harriet Tubman, the late Rep. Bella Abzug of New York, or British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In fact, these women exhibited more testicular fortitude than some men, which, in the case of the conservative Ms. Thatcher, likely had a lot to do with why her male colleagues dumped her as party leader.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist. Readers may email him at tmseditors@tribune.com.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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