Now that we are 12 days into the government shutdown, I may not be able to tell you much as a woman and a mother but I can tell you a few things. This is not the way my country is supposed to work. Because a small yet energetic group of people in the U.S. House of Representatives decided they did not like the outcome on a hotly-debated public policy -- namely the Affordable Care Act, they brought the entire process of running America to a halt and stopped doing their jobs. The other thing I can say, with all due respect, is that even when my children are frustrated because they are not in control of everything they would like to be already, I don’t tolerate bickering then give them their way. Think emotions are not playing a role in the crisis? Think again. Even Dennis Ross, a Republican representative from Florida, admits that the shutdown is all about Republican “pride.”
What is perhaps most interesting about the shutdown is the news that women Republicans are among the individuals working most diligently to bridge the divide that has Washington in gridlock.
On Oct. 11, in their MSNBC.com article titled, "Republican women drive the deal," Suzy Khimm and Jessica Taylor report,
“’For women,’ says Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, ‘it’s much less about ego and much more about problem-solving.’
“Stabenow doesn’t think it’s a surprise that women are trying to lead the way out of this fiscal mess. ‘We’re all used to balancing family budgets and dealing with children that are bullies and misbehave,’ she said. ‘And so sometimes that comes in handy.’”
Khimm and Taylor write that last week, “the women of the Senate had a potluck dinner at Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s apartment—a bipartisan gathering that happens every six weeks.”
There is no denying that social capital can play a powerful role in resolving disputes and making for stronger communities. The research, in fact, supports that women may be particularly well-suited to nurturing the kind of relationships that could make the difference in getting government back up and running in less time than it would take if no women were working behind the scenes here.
What is social capital? It is the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.
There is one other element to credit the women involved in building the social capital that might lead to an agreement in Washington, popularity. Well, this may be oversimplifying the issue, but research also shows that women tend to care more about the notion of popularity.
The “Self-in-Relation Theory (or Relational-Cultural Theory), developed at the Stone Centers at Wellesley, emphasizes health, growth and courage, and points to a new understanding of human and individual strength: strength in relationship, not strength in isolation. Isolation is seen as the source of most suffering, while the process of creating mutual empathy and mutual empowerment is seen as the route out of isolation. This theory offers an alternate perspective to traditional ways of viewing the notion of human development. Many traditional theories value the ideals of individuation, separation, autonomy and generally honor the concept of the “self.”
In addition to the works from the Stone Centers, Carol Gilligan’s research has had tremendous impact on the new perspectives of the psychological development of women and how it is different from the development of men. Gilligan’s work in 1982, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development, suggests that women’s sense of self and of morality revolves around issues of responsibility for, care of, and inclusion of other people. This perspective is rooted in the experience and construction of the female self. A woman’s sense of self becomes very much organized around being able to make and then to maintain affiliation and relationships. Thus for women, the primary experience of self is relational. Gilligan has written of the importance of women finding their own voice in order to describe “ourselves to ourselves” and has indicated that women’s experiences of connectedness to others leads to enlarged conceptions of self and morality .
On Oct. 9, Peter Z. Scheer, contributor to Truthdig.com, reported,
“Only 28 percent of those polled had a favorable view of Republicans—that’s down 10 points from last month.”
While a favorable opinion of the Republican Party falls to this all-time low, as a result of the government shutdown, it may matter more to women Republicans that this is happening. I invite you to pull up a chair and watch the news of these women’s initiative and development of solid ways to get the dialogue going again -- to come up with a plan -- in our nation’s capital.
This Wednesday, there will be a rally held, organized by the Colorado Progressive Coalition, in opposition to the current federal government shutdown and its impact on vital programs for women and children, including but not limited, to WIC and Head Start. The demonstration will start in front of the HUD Regional Office at 1670 Broadway in Denver at 11:00 a.m. on Oct. 16. Stories of those impacted will be featured. To learn more about how you can participate in the Denver rally, click here.
How else can you help?
Call your Representative and tell them to "end the government shutdown by passing a clean Continuing Resolution.” Call toll free at 1-888-775-3148, listen to the reminder, enter your zip code and you will be connected to your Congressman.