They’re definitely “not a sorority,” as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) insisted. And yet the 20 women lawmakers who sat down for a group interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that aired on January 3 did seem to form a chummy, sisterly club as they celebrated the milestone of one-fifth female representation in the U.S. Senate.
There was lots of “you-go-girl” nodding, as senator after senator extolled the virtues of female cooperation, collaboration, and can-do workmanship. (“Workwomanship?” It’s a word, perhaps, whose time has come.) They agreed that, had women been running the show, there would have been no “fiscal cliff” drama. “We don’t believe in the culture of delay,” said Barbara Mikulski, (D-MD.)
Sidestepping partisanship (by neatly avoiding mention of which party does or does not support women’s reproductive rights), they jointly expressed frustration with their male colleagues’ obsession with abortion. “Can’t you just leave that alone?” asked an exasperated Patty Murray (D-WA, and pro-choice.)
The only smidgeon of a sign of barely possible disagreement came when the newly-elected Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) interrupted a comment from Susan Collins (R-ME) on how politicians should focus on the economy, health care, education and foreign policy and not reproductive issues to interject that in fact access to birth control was still very much an issue – a perhaps too self-assertive gesture that left the colleagues seated around her momentarily unsmiling.
But never mind. Now is not the time to wonder if women reached a level of political participation commensurate to their representation in the voting population (which would give them a majority, not mere parity in government), and if their numbers were more or less evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, they wouldn’t find themselves in as much gridlock, with as much conflict and partisan grandstanding as their majority-male colleagues. (“More Women in Senate Likely to Result in Higher Taxes, Bigger Govt, Less Freedom,” was the headline of a statement from the conservative Independent Women’s Forum published in the Weekly Standard just hours before Sawyer’s interview.)
Thoughts of this kind can wait a few more election cycles, when, one hopes, a female majority will become something other than a dream. In the short-term, as the women of the Senate would say, there’s no time for more namby-pamby dilly-dallying. Or as Senator Mikulski put it last night, “Square your shoulders, put your lipstick on and fight the revolution.”