Women have persisted since the beginning of time. It is what we do. It is what we have always done and it is what we will continue to do, despite whatever challenge may present itself.
When I participated in the Women’s March last month and wrote about it, some of the feedback I got, from fellow women, no less, was wondering why on earth women felt the need to march in the first place. “What was the problem?,” was the question, “Women have never had it better! We can vote and own property and work in whatever profession we choose!”
Those things are true for many women, but certainly not all women. They are, for instance, truer for white women than women of color. They are truer for women native to America than for women who have immigrated here. Some women have trouble acknowledging this reality, but that does not negate its truth.
This week, watching two completely unrelated situations unfold with women being silenced at the center of them, has reminded me of why so many millions of women showed up on January 21, and why we must continuing showing up and speaking up.
Earlier this week, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, was silenced on the Senate floor during debate of the confirmation of fellow Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, to become the Attorney General of these United States. Senator Warren, reciting a letter written about Senator Session in 1986 when he was being considered as a federal judge, was told that her words were out of order and in violation of a rarely enacted Senate rule that forbids Senators from personally disparaging one another during debate.
Hard to consider a robust debate about the merits of someone to assume office when you are unable to speak frankly about the accusations that have been made about them not so very long ago. Senator Rubio supported the effort to silence Senator Warren saying that when Hillary Clinton’s confirmation as Secretary of State was being debated, while senators might have wanted to disparage her, no one did. No time to fact check that little tidbit right now, but rest assured I shall.
More troubling to me is that other senators, following the silencing of Senator Warren, were allowed to read from the exact document she had attempted to read from without any challenge made to them. Huh. How that can be justified, I do not know. Senator McConnell, defending his actions, stated, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” A new feminist anthem was born.
The second instance I watched this week involved the expulsion of a female heckler at a comedy show of George Lopez. After making an off color joke about blacks and Latinos, a woman in the audience had the audacity to raise her middle finger in silent protest. Lopez saw the gesture and pounced.
A man of power, holding a microphone, engaged in, what I can call without hyperbole, a verbal assault on the women that only ended when she and her friends left the show. I watched the exchange and it disgusted me, equally for the words the comedian used, referring to the woman as a bitch, as well as for the other audience members who hooted and hollered their approval. It seriously made my stomach turn to see such ugliness celebrated.
For me, the question isn’t whether or not George Lopez had the right to make a racist joke, truth is, he does, but it was his response to a silent heckler that was totally disproportionate to her negative response to his particular brand of humor. It was a classic example of demonstrating power aggressively, silencing and removing a woman who dared object to him.
This happens all the time. It is shameful evidence of how women continue to be treated and received as less than in our culture. And you can use rules and a genteel manner, or you can use verbal assault and a mob mentality as your tools, but the common denominator is the ongoing attempt to keep women in their place, silent, passive, submissive.
I will keep marching. I will keep writing. I will keep speaking. I will persist. We all must, because, as women, there is no other way.