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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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Ladies of the House, and the Senate

Uploaded: Oct 21, 2013
One of the media narratives making rounds after the most Recent Unpleasantmess ascribed a special role in its resolution to the Senators and Reps who are women. There's both more and less to that 'new' phenomenon than meets the casual eye.

The War of the Sexes has always been a popular theme. The classical Greek playwright Aristophanes, in his wonderful "Lysistrada," had the women of Athens and Sparta allying to end the Peloponnesian War by withholding themselves from their menfolk on both sides. Hilarity ensued – and it worked, at least on-stage. Many other examples could be cited, from the Taming of the Shrew to Adam's Rib.

In my own experience, I entered law school when the graduating class was 5% women, and left with the entering class pushing 40%. The earlier women complained that if they missed class, their absences were conspicuous in a sea of male faces; their later counterparts sometimes missed class because the building's plumbing was designed for a 95/5 gender split. The workplace later evolved, as well, during that era, as women became colleagues as well as staff within the corporate hierarchy.

To be sure, there were contrasts and growing pains. The first woman to head Procurement in my company deep-sixed the onerous novella of a Purchase Order form that had accreted over generations of male tinkering to handle minute contingencies, and close illusory loopholes. She replaced it with a one-pager that reflected what the company would actually do; it was a big improvement.

I also recall the patrician chief lobbyist who organized an 'educational meeting' with female state legislators to explain (read: condescend) to them about a bill that The Company favored, and get them into line. He was immediately put to rout, and we all ended-up talking about why (in the world) DuPont wasn't providing corporate daycare.

There has been an accompanying mystique, as if that second X chromosome contains some manner of sorcery. In the shutdown debacle, the 20 female Senators (not all of either Party: 16D-4R) have been credited with leading the way to a bill that could end the testosterone-and-ego-addled stand-off. John McCain lauded the group's apparent collaboration, opining "think what they could do if there were 50 of them!" While that was intended to be admiring, his statement also betrayed the sexist notion that they are fungible, uniform, and a breed apart: The Women. And that's nonsense.

To be sure, if you control for gender and measure any number of characteristics, you will come up with different bell-curve distributions. But those are population statistics, and each individual occupies a single point on the curve. Men's negotiating style, for example, is more often "competitive" and women's "cooperative," according to the research. But that doesn't mean that the single toughest negotiator in the world isn't a woman (indeed, she is – I was once married to her. And don't worry, she'll take it as a compliment).

And each of those Congressional women is a different point on every bell curve you can construct; the range is dramatic – from Boxer to Bachmann. To treat them as uniform or fungible is a ridiculous mistake, as their XY colleagues will learn at their peril.

So, if The Women aren't all the same, what Can be said about them as a group?

I think that The Women are a healthy influence on the Congress, just like they are in any organization. The diversity they add is a good thing for the country, not as a matter of charitable inclusion, but as a matter of strength. There are issues that sail right past any homogenous group. Those can be dealt-with better when more perspectives are included. Let's not forget, for example, that the US Supreme Court, when it was Nine Old Men, was able to convince itself that pregnancy discrimination was not covered by the gender-bias laws. That curious conclusion would be laughable today, at least to most of them. Where you come-out on an issue has a lot to do with where you came in, and in organizational diversity there is strength.

As a group The Women do share perspectives and common issues – they just don't move in lock-step on all issues. They are best considered a caucus (collaborative or raucous by turns, no doubt), that comes together around some issues of substantive common interest. There's an Ag caucus, and a Black caucus, and various others. They are good things, too, and not mystical. We will have matured as a nation when that Last Olde Boys' Club, the Senate, finally brings itself to treat them not as a curiosity – The Lady Senators -- but as Senators.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Mainstream, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:07 am

Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was a great Senator, soft-spoken and classy. When she became a lawyer, there were no women lawyers in Texas, so she had to start as secretary in the law firm. She was well respected by all in the Senate and the women's caucus. She served the country well for around 18 years. It's only been months but she is sorely missed. Tea Parier Ted Cruz is now a Texas Senator. Republican primaries, you know.
Enough said!

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:49 am

Oh, so now Tom knows about women.

Tell us all about it Tom. Enlighten us.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

Yup. And I\'ve got References to that effect, too!

But is that it, S-P? Is there Nobody else\'s work that you could plagiarize into these comments? Maybe consult with your friend Bob Royfills from San Francisco? Shirley there\'s something to be said that actually attacks the blog, and leaves the most humble blogger out of the discussion!

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I would never be foolish enough to provide comments (stolen or otherwise) on gender or race issues. Those topics are too toxic. Anything said can (and will) be misconstrued.

Case in point: That Oliver dude who accused you of being a racist. YOU of all people. YOU!! You probably have an Obama tattoo somewhere. Any you?re supposedly a racist? Geez.

No. I?m not going to say anything on this topic. I?m going to do what I do at home. I?m going to sit quietly with my head down and say, ?Yes dear. You are absolutely right.?

As for stealing other people?s comments and reposting them here, as I said, guilty as charged. And I will likely do it again. I?m a repeat offender. I have no shame. Like that joke about how liberals and conservatives would save the middle class from drowning. I didn?t make that up. I stole it. Duh. I would say 99% of the comments I?ve ever posted on your blog I stole from someone. Sorry. Did you think I have time to make all that stuff up, like ?Huh?? does? Give me a break. I have a life.

The good news is, 99% of the stuff I post is right. And it?s a damn good counterbalance to the nonsense you post.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I'm tempted to respond "Yes, dearheart, you're absolutely right" but there's some shame I'm just not willing to bear. You might want to extend that technique to the sage observations of brothers Huh? and Mr. Paine. If your post draws the former into this conversation, it'll be worth it -- I don't think Paine needs any invitation. I do appreciate their support out here in the cold, uncaring wilderness.

I didn't mind the exchange with Oliver, at all. It seems to me that it mostly went to the ideas in the blog, rather than being the more routine "you suck" type of comment. And I don't think he was calling me out as a "racist" so much as a "closet conservative." Now, while THAT's something at which I could take offense, it was still a cut well-above the norm for these things, and I appreciated it. I learned something, and we both got our points out into the community.

BTW, you may be spending more time looking for snappy comebacks (with links!) than you would composing your own thoughts. I just think you should cite your authorities, counselor.

And most of all, I wanna know this: who told you about my tattoo?

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I disagree. The only time citations matter is when appealing to authority.

For example, when you (incorrectly) said, ?Uh, I think Obamacare subsidies are available only for people who make up to $46,000 per year. But I don?t know for sure, as I have been too busy cheerleading for Obamacare to check it out.? And in response, I posted a link to the IRS website showing, once again, that you were wrong. The subsidies are available to the downtrodden who make a measly $94,200 per year, as clearly such poor people need government assistance in order to survive.

My providing a link to the IRS website was important so that the readers could know without a doubt that, yet again, you didn?t know what you were talking about.

On the other hand, if some random person posts a insightful comment on a blog somewhere, such as ?Obama can bite me,? and I happen to like that comment and think it accurately captures the essence of the situation, I am going to cut and paste that comment wherever I see fit. No attribution necessary.

What?s important is the concept that ?Obama can bite me,? NOT the fact that Joe Blow from Idaho said, ?Obama can bite me.?

Get it?

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Well, this is fun, too.

Here's what I get: I get that you're suitably embarrassed about having been discovered to be filching another man's work and posting it here as yours -- enough so that you are willing to invest five paragraphs (five!) trying to distinguish between alleged factual inaccuracy (bad), and theft (not-so-bad). The problem is that your legalistic not-so-brief runs afoul of Occam's preference for simple and straightforward explanations.

It also violates my fiancee's YoMama Maxim, by which she lives: if your explanation would convince yomama, then fine. But if you know that yomama would recognize it to be a barnyard load, then you probably ought not to do it. (It's best applied in advance, but it also has obvious relevance to after-the-fact rationalizations.) I'm trying to convince her to write it up as a guest blog here, but no luck yet. She IS a mama, however, and is available for consultations.

As you are a righty, I understand your relative preference for theft, but I prefer Occam -- and especially I'm partial to my fiancee.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Yes, I am embarrassed. But only because I was caught.

Next time, I will try to sufficiently re-arrange the wording so I stand a better chance of passing them off as my own.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm

I have faith.

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