The women in the Senate and the House were not “facilitators” of the process that broke through the impasse over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling crisis, as most accounts relate. They were the “leaders,” insists Amy Davidson, hitting the ball out of the park in her New Yorker blog.
This notion that the friendliness and cheerful sacrifice of women Senators broke the fever in Washington, as though they were nursemaids who stepped in to put a firm but gentle hand on a raving person’s shoulder, has become part of the narrative of the debt-ceiling crisis. It is correct in one respect: women, in both chambers of Congress, did play a crucial, definitive role. And they do seem, on average, saner than the men. But there are some obvious cracks. For one thing, Republicans never did find their way out of a “stalemate” through compromise; they were checkmated, and got nothing. For another, it misses what those women legislators accomplished, and how.
It may be self-protective, or just tactically wise, for women themselves to act as though their only role was bringing everyone together; it can be more comfortable for men to think so. But enough of that. Can we stop talking as though women’s only strength is as facilitators? There are other words for what they are: one of them is leaders.
“The women are taking over,” said Arizona Republican Senator John McCain. The men are beginning to find that out.