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  • Reverend James Squire

Why Can't a Man Be More Like a Woman?

I haven’t seen any feature story in the news that indicates that two young women, Monica Lewinsky, and Cassidy Hutchinson, spoke truth to power and held two presidents accountable for their immoral actions at such a young age. I watched in awe as I witnessed Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony during the recent January 6 Commission meeting. Her testimony was the most revealing to date of the criminal issues of Trump’s behavior that led up to and became manifest at the January 6 Insurrection.

I am a student of gender studies and taught that discipline in my ethics classes for understanding how women and men generally speaking have different ways of communicating and addressing a problem. Liz Cheney possesses both male and female communication skills, and it is possible for some of the members of the January Commission such as Adam Kinzinger to possess both male and female communication characteristics as well. These styles are not fixed in males and females. They develop in our culture from birth to present day. They can be overt as well as covert.

I think that we may be better off having more women in elective office than men based on how men and women have different ways of solving a problem with different communication skills.

Deborah Tannen, Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown, is an expert in the field of gender studies. She has done extensive research in the field.

Most men want closure when confronting a problem, and THE QUICKER THE BETTER. We are less concerned with the unintended consequences of what we say and depend on reason first and emotion second. We just want to get it done. The other issue that Tannen’s research shows is that we men use status as our modus operandi in our speech. We are constantly interested in competition in communication. We are always thinking in our talk how we can match or have a better example or answer to a problem than someone else. This use to fit well into top-down hierarchical leadership that still exists in Washington and the military. The result can be division and others feeling that they are not included.

The communication patterns of women tend to balance reason and emotion, but emotion is a bigger player. They seek intimacy and consensus building in their style which ironically is the new style of leadership with an emphasis on team building. They want to talk things through with the basic idea that “two heads are better than one.” The President or leader of various sectors of government agencies have the final say on what should be done. However, women don’t mind different ways of how the problem should be solved. As I mentioned in a recent post that Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book, A Team of Rivals, reflects why many regard Lincoln as the greatest president. He understood the value of different opinions in communication before he had to make a decision. Feeling included in the process even though it didn’t go your way was vital to his success during a similar age of partisan differences, but during his time it was the north and the south.

Let me give you an example that I saw first-hand when teaching ethics to hormone driven adolescents who were dating. When a problem arose, women wanted to talk about it, and men wanted to just get to the answer. The more the men wanted closure, the more women wanted to talk about it and this became a never-ending cycle. Talk created closure which created more talk. But Tannen points out that the women’s approach contains a more “depth” of understanding of the unintended consequences of actions. They explored any problem from more vantage points. My students would laugh out loud as they would comment that this is so true for both men and women. I heard many comments like: “That is exactly what my boyfriend/girlfriend does.” They would chuckle at this new insight.

Males can have female communication styles and females can have male communication styles.

Let’s take a look at how this applies to politics in general and the recent overturning of Roe V. Wade in particular. What brings about many decisions and certainly the overturning of Roe V. Wade is the status nature of male communications. Recall how quickly Mitch McConnell, Trump, and Republicans acted on the addition of the conservative members of the court. McConnell pulled the ultimate status move by not allowing President Obama have his duly elected role of determining his Supreme Court nominee. Status is another way of expressing power in political relationships. Justice, a pillar of ethics, is about the distribution of power.

There has been an absence of conversation among women to build some form of consensus in the overturning of Roe V. Wade. Both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for that. We know that male communication and top- down decision making was in the works to the exclusion of the majority of the nation. We know this because we are currently living with the nightmare and chaos of unintended consequences. Closure was the goal. How it affected others was not. Keep in mind the key statement that may make for the downfall of Trump that was cited by Cassidy Hutchinson at the last January 6 Committee hearing. “Just say that the election was corrupt, and the Republicans in Congress and I will take it from there.“ The ultimate example of status and closure.

There is irony here. Chief Justice Roberts who saw the unintended consequences of this too quick decision where the conservative voices were exercising their status and wanted a win. They wanted closure. Roberts was the perfect example of when male and female communication styles and decision-making tactics are perfectly blend. He wanted a gradual transition.

Recently GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming received a warm welcome while speaking as part of a “Time for Choosing” speaker series held by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. She said, “There are no bystanders in a constitutional republic and let me say this to the little girls and young women watching tonight, these days, for the most part, men are running the world, and it is really not going well,” she said to cheers and applause. She articulated the opposite side of that famous phrase from My Fair Lady: “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

“Why can’t a man be more like a woman?” I couldn’t agree more with Liz Cheney. She is talking Deborah Tannen’s language!

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