Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – “CrookedHillary” in the tweet – knocking the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground.
Eighty-four thousand people “liked” this violent takedown of Trump’s former opponent.
A woman has been speaker of the House (and proved substantially more effective than the two men who succeeded her), another came within a whisker of the presidency, and others (Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) wield the decisive votes on health-care and other legislation. But recent events make it feel as if we’re in an earlier time, when a woman’s job in politics was simple: sit down and shut up. This no doubt is the work of a president who, by word and deed, made sexism safe again, giving license to shed “political correctness” and blame troubles on minorities, immigrants and women.
Trump’s golf tweet no doubt was inspired by the attention Clinton has gotten for her new book, which has been met with a predictable response: wishing the woman who won the popular vote would “shut up and go away” – as Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld put it. Many reviewers and commentators said similar.
The public disagrees; the book is a No. 1 best-seller.
Clinton isn’t the only woman being told lately to shut up. When Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., rose on the House floor this month to oppose an amendment by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, Young twice called Jayapal, 51, a “young lady,” and said she “doesn’t know a damn thing.” (Young later apologized.)
This brought to mind Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s infamous silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on the Senate floor in February when she read a letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing Jeff Sessions: “She was warned. … Nevertheless, she persisted.” Male senators reading the letter received no rebuke.
Another new book by another strong woman, NBC’s Katy Tur, recalls the abuse she suffered during the campaign when Trump taunted “Little Katy” and ordered her to “be quiet” during a news conference. Tur describes him kissing her before a TV appearance: “Before I know what’s happening, his hands are on my shoulders and his lips are on my cheek.” Of course, Trump has done worse, boasting about grabbing women by the genitals, bragging publicly about his penis size, and more.
Alas, it’s not just words. The latest Senate attempt at Obamacare repeal, drafted by four men, would eliminate Obamacare’s requirement that insurers cover maternity care and funding for Planned Parenthood, one of the largest providers of women’s health care. Tweeted Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “A group of men wrote a devastating health care bill & are now trying to push it through w/o debate. It’s almost like we’ve been here before.”
In the White House last week, Trump was meeting with advisers and lawmakers when, as the Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and others recounted, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the only woman in a room with 10 men, twice tried to answer a question. Both times, she was spoken over. Finally, the former speaker of the House broke through. “Does anybody listen to women when they speak around here?” she asked.
Pelosi described that memorable encounter to me on Friday, when I saw her in New Haven, Conn., at the wake for Luisa DeLauro, the longest serving alderman in the city’s history and mother of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. To me, Luisa DeLauro, who died last week at 103, was “Grandma Louise,” because I’m married to Rosa’s stepdaughter, Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg.
The funeral for Luisa, a pioneering woman in politics, juxtaposed with the outrageous treatment Pelosi endured in the White House days earlier, left me with an unwelcome realization about the persistence of sexism in this business. Grandma Louise was born on Christmas Eve in 1913, seven years before women won the right to vote. As a young woman of 19, serving as the secretary of the 10th Ward Democratic Club, Luisa was optimistic as she exhorted women to engage in politics in a 1933 article. Rosa read Luisa’s words from long ago at the funeral: “We have gradually taken our place in every phase of human endeavor, and even in the heretofore stronghold of the male sex: politics. … Come on, girls, let’s make ourselves heard.”
The “girls” are speaking, loudly. But does anybody listen to women when they speak around here?
Dana Milbank is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.