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Dianne Feinstein Suggests "Less on Testosterone" Will Help Senate Deadlock, as Record Number of Women Take Office

The US Senate now has twenty women senators.
 
 
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Twenty women senators will take office today, a record-breaking number that inches the Capitol Hill closer to achieving gender equality.

In Diane Sawyer’s exclusive interview with the female senators, they emphasized that women’s cooperation and problem-solving skills will help alleviate the historically divided politics that currently plague Washington.

Both Democrats and Republicans said women were naturally “more collaborative” and “less confrontational”—traits that would help cut through the partisan deadlock on Capitol Hill.

"We're less on testosterone," California’s Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein said to 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."

Alaska’s Republican senator Lisa Murkowski agreed with Feinstein.

"Maybe it is the testosterone that you speak to, Dianne, or the ego that is attached there," Murkowski said.

President Obama has previously made similar comments, positing that more women in Capitol Hill would make the senate more effective. Last April, he said in a public speech: “Fewer than 20 percent of the seats in Congress are occupied by women. Is it possible that Congress would get more done if there were more women in congress?” he asked. “I think it’s fair to say: That is almost guaranteed.” Recently, he told New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that he would host the twenty female senators for dinner at the White House soon to talk about diffusing the senate’s partisan politics.

Last year’s senate was notoriously unproductive. According to a Huffington Post review of the 112 th senate’s legislative history, it was one of the least productive senates since the 1940s. The Democrats routinely blame the GOP for the dysfunction, highlighting the 115 filibuster threats the Republicans issued this past year alone.

The 20 women senators who are taking office today hope that to cut through this divide while still advocating fiercely for their constituents’ issues. During the interview with Diane Sawyer, the group emphasized the obvious point that their shared gender does not mean they all hold similar political views.

"That doesn't mean that we think alike, and it doesn't mean that we don't span the ideological spectrum," said Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins. 

The majority of the women senators are Democrats, and the four Republicans disagree with their female Democrat counterparts on many of the issues—including on the so-called “women’s issue” of reproductive rights.

Of course, the gender gap in Washington is still stark: 80 percent of senators are still men, showing that the United States still has a far way to go in promoting women politicians. The senators highlighted this continued disparity, with California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer expressing hope that the senate will have equal gender representation within her lifetime.

"I think that until we get to 50, we still have to fight because it's still a problem," Boxer said to Sawyer. "I think this class as you look around, Republicans and Democrats. ... I think that because of this new class and the caliber of the people coming and the quality of the people coming, I think that hopefully in my lifetime -- and I really do hope and pray this is the case -- we will see 50 percent. "

 

Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and the author of "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," forthcoming from Zuccotti Park Press.

 
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