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Jewish World Review /Oct. 14, 1998 /24 Tishrei 5759

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Are powerful women different?

WHEN THE MODERN WOMEN'S MOVEMENT got started in the early 1960s, there was a great deal of haughty talk about how a world run by women would be so much less brutal than a world run by men. So, now that we have a female secretary of state, a female attorney general, millions of female business executives and a gender-integrated military, how are they doing? Are they bringing their distinctly feminine experience and worldview to their jobs?
Look at three of the four woman senators who won election in 1992, the Year of the Woman: Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, Patty Murray of Washington and Barbara Boxer of California. They were propelled into office by the Thomas/Hill hearings. If ever there was an issue that was defined as belonging to women, it was sexual harassment. Not only were women deemed to have special insight into the question, men were considered biologically benighted on the matter.

These three senators, with several female colleagues in the House, brought their expertise to bear upon Sen. Bob Packwood and forced him to resign his seat.

But today, in the face of the Lewinsky scandal, all three are revealed as hypocrites. Then, they said a powerful man must never, never so much as wink at a subordinate. Now, the word "consensual" drops easily from their lips.

Sen. Murray, who ran in 1992 with the slogan "Just a Mom in Tennis Shoes," has summoned all of her moral courage to say this about the Clinton scandal: "We must all lower our voices, end the media frenzy and get on with our work." Her opponent, Rep. Linda Smith, says Murray has traded in her tennis shoes for a pair of Hush Puppies. Boxer and Moseley-Braun must shop at the same shoe store.

Murray and the other woman senators are constrained from criticizing the president by the things that always weigh on the minds of politicians: fund-raising worries, the risk of alienating the president's staunch supporters and political loyalty.

There is nothing distinctly feminine about the way the Year of the Woman senators have performed their jobs. One, Moseley-Braun, has earned a reputation for corruption. All three have been standard-issue liberals whose voting records cannot be distinguished from Ted Kennedy's or Tom Harkin's.

As for the Cabinet members who are women: Has Attorney General Janet Reno shown a capacity for non-violent conflict resolution? The Waco disaster would not suggest so. Her handling of the campaign-finance allegations bears the marks of a partisan, but there is nothing distinctly feminine about that.

The same can be said of Madeleine Albright. Certainly, her femininity has not made American policy more tender toward the victims of war and genocide. We turned our backs on Bosnia and the Sudan on her watch, and her State Department has attempted to thwart legislation that would penalize nations that persecute religious minorities.

Some feminists have contended that women in power would be more solicitous of children's welfare than men. But consider the issue of reforming the child welfare system. For decades, social service agencies throughout the nation, in obedience to a federal law mandating "family preservation," had been returning even badly abused and neglected babies and children to their tormentors. More than 1,200 children were being murdered annually by their parents or guardians -- half of whom were already known to child welfare authorities. This was an issue that almost literally cried out for a woman's concern.

Yet the leaders of the effort to change the law tended to be men. There were a few women, like Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, an adoptive mom herself, who were very engaged. But, while the reform eventually passed, it did so without the help or passion of most of the woman members of Congress.

For better or worse, women are just as cautious, ideologically driven and hypocritical in politics as men. Both sexes have the capacity for greatness (Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan leap to mind), as well as for cowardice and cupidity. If women seek power -- and I'm not at all sure why they are so hot for it -- let them do so as qualified individuals, not as the voice of femininity.


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8/21/98: The unravelling
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8/17/98: Sex, honor and the presidency
8/12/98: Pro-choice extremist
8/10/98: Switch illuminates biology's role
8/05/98: The presumption of innocence and the American way
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7/29/98: Lock up those who need psychiatric care
7/24/98: Making the military more like us
7/22/98: The 'Net sex hoax... and us
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5/29/98: The truth about women and work
5/27/98: Romance in the '90s
5/25/98:Taxing smokers for fun and profit
5/19/98: China's friend in the White House
5/15/98: Look out feminists: here comes the true backlash
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4/1/98: Bill Clinton's African adventure
3/27/98: Understanding Arkansas
3/24/98: Jerry Springer's America
3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
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3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
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2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
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1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
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12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.