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Senator Diane Feinstein and the “E” word

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) speaks next to a display of assault weapons during a news conference January 24, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Feinstein announced that she will introduce a bill to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magaz
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) speaks next to a display of assault weapons during a news conference January 24, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Feinstein announced that she will introduce a bill to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazPhoto by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Since when did “emotional” become a four letter word? When used to describe a female it’s been considered disrespectful for some time; and after Michael Hayden’s comments on “Fox News Sunday” last week it appears to have made it all the way to dirty slur.

When The Senate Intelligence Committee which is chaired by Senator Diane Feinstein released the results of its investigation on torture, Feinstein stated that they "wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American brutal program of detention interrogation would never again be considered or permitted." Mr. Hayden’s response on Fox was to say that “motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator, but I don't think it leads you to an objective report."

Almost immediately afterwards the fireworks started as Mr. Hayden was accused of stereotyping, being a sexist, having a good old boy mentality, and of applying a double standard to the Senator because she is a woman, and an accomplished and powerful one at that. Hayden’s critics, both women and men, have been insisting the Senator is as smart and tough as any man and should not be judged unfairly due to her sex. Fair enough- but why can’t a tough, intelligent woman who holds strong emotional feelings about something also be correct in her assessment and handling of it? Aren’t both sides guilty of parochial thinking here- one by suggesting it’s impossible to have strong feelings yet remain clear headed and pragmatic and the other essentially agreeing through their negative reaction to the “E” word that somehow these traits are mutually exclusive?

Many women possess strong intuition, maternal instincts and a great capacity for empathy and compassion. When did these qualities become undesirable and would we want to live in a world without them? Even if Ms. Feinstein was born with a strong helping of each of these does that then render her incapable of being every bit as smart and tough as the next “guy?”

The next time a woman of power is involved in a sensitive and controversial issue like torture- it may just be her keen intuition, empathy and strong emotional response that leads her and her colleagues to the most workable, pragmatic and well thought out solution possible.