Okay, okay, okay, I swore that the next time I posted it would not be about politics and, come to think of it, that’s probably why I haven’t written anything in like 3 months, because, honestly, what the fuck else is any sane, thinking human being preoccupied with right now?!?!! So I decided to hone my outrage to one specific thing and that thing is motherfucking patriarchy! Specifically the atrocious and hypocritical treatment of Senator Elizabeth Warren during the Senate debate over the confirmation of Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.
On Tuesday Senator Warren attempted to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King. The letter had been sent to then Senator Strom Thurmond regarding Jeff Sessions’ nomination for a federal judiciary seat in 1986. In her 1986 letter the widow of the Civil Rights leader details how Sessions had continually made efforts to suppress the votes and voices of Black Americans in the State of Alabama. King laid out, in very measured language, how Sessions attempted to abuse the power of his office at the time in his “eagerness to bring to trial and convict three leaders of the Perry County Civic League…despite evidence clearly demonstrating their innocence of any wrongdoing”. Sessions was not confirmed for that Judiciary seat in 1986 by a vote of 10 to 8. Did you guys hear that? This guy was deemed too racist and polarizing to be judge….IN 1986!!!!
Not once, in her letter, did King resort to name-calling, speculation or rhetoric. She simply recited history from an eyewitness point of view. So it was kind of slightly odd when Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell stopped Senator Warren in the middle of her reading this letter to say that she was “impugning the character of a fellow Senator”. What happened next is straight out of my college journalism class where I would raise my hand to answer a question, get called on by my flagrantly sexist Indian journalism teacher (yeah, it was community college so he definitely does not get to be called a “professor”), provide the correct answer to his question only to have him tell me I was wrong, then call on the boy sitting next to me who said THE EXACT SAME FUCKING THING AS I JUST SAID and was told he was correct. It was literally like being in the Twilight Zone. I audibly said, simultaneously addressing everyone in the class and no one in particular “Isn’t that EXACTLY what I just said?!?!” which was met with general murmurs of confirmation and agreement.
McConnell interrupted Senator Warren’s remarks about Sessions and she was then reprimanded by the Senate Majority Leader. Warren was then gaveled down by Republican Senator Steve Daines (Montana) and told to “take her seat”. McConnell then cited rule XIX which prohibits debating senators from ascribing “to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” Which is pretty much a bullshit rule to begin with and one that no one has ever paid attention to until it came time to shut up an outspoken woman on the Senate floor. When asked about the silencing of one of his colleague McConnell responded by saying “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.” and now Mitch McConnell will have to live the rest of his short, miserable life knowing that thousands of feminists are at this very moment getting his words tattooed across their ribcages. Take that, patriarchy! Mitch McConnell’s very concise history of the Women’s movement was quickly turned into a meme because of course it was and #ShePersisted became one of the most awesome things on the internet for a few hours because that’s pretty much the shelf life of sensationalist internet memes.
Sadly, the fact that Senator Warren was censured, reprimanded like a disobedient school girl, ordered to sit down and shut up, and ultimately blocked from speaking by her male peers comes as no surprise. What was slightly more surprising and very irksome was that just a few hours after Senator Warren was ordered off the Senate floor Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon picked up Mrs. King’s letter and read it in its entirety, uninterrupted by McConnell or his cronies. So to recap, it’s okay for a dude to violate rule XIX but not for a lady? Is that the lesson I was supposed to learn from watching C-SPAN yesterday? That my voice, because it issues from a body in possession of a vagina, will never be as valuable as the voices of my male peers and colleagues? Because THAT is shit! To be clear, I applaud Senator Merkley for picking up where Warren left off and using his voice to convey the messages that she could not. I just think it’s supremely fucked up that he had to do that in the first place.
Then there is the hypocrisy that goes along with all this shit. The fact that male Senators have, on record and on the Senate floor, called other colleagues horrible names and definitely impugned their characters but were never censured and rule XIX was never officially invoked. It was not invoked in May of last year when Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas had this to say about then Democratic Senate Minority leader Harry Reid:
“I’m forced to listen to the bitter, vulgar, incoherent ramblings of the minority leader,” “Normally, like every other American, I ignore them. I can’t ignore them today. . . . When was the last time the minority leader read a bill? It was probably an electricity bill. … This institution will be cursed less with his cancerous leadership.”
It was not officially invoked when, in the Summer of 2015, Republican Senator Ted Cruz called Senator Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor. It was not invoked when Senator Harry Reid called his Republican colleagues “puppets” in 2007. It was not invoked when, in response to Reid’s comments, Republican Senator Arlen Specter fired back with the implication that Reid was not qualified enough to do his job. It was not invoked in the initial 1986 hearing when Senator Ted Kennedy called Jeff Sessions “a disgrace” (although Sessions was not then a sitting Senator). It was not invoked in 1979 when Republican Senator Lowell Weicker (Connecticut) called his colleague, Republican Senator John Heinz (Pennsylvania) “an idiot” and “devious”. Have you noticed anything about all those who were warned about Rule XIX but were not forced to “take their seat” or forced to “shut up” or ousted from the Senate floor? If you guessed they were all dudes you get a gold star for paying attention.
This serves to reinforce the idea that it is far more uncomfortable and outrageous when a woman is being tough and outspoken. I actually just read an “article” (those are my sarcastic air quotes) on the clearly bipartisan website Restate.com (nice name guys) about how liberals need to stop whining about Warren’s treatment and that “the Republicans treated Senator Ted Cruz much worse” for the comments he made about McConnell’s being a liar. That is just patently false. Cruz was never told to sit down and shut up. Cruz was never voted off the floor by his colleagues and to suggest that he was “treated much worse than Warren” is irresponsible, false and incendiary (and maybe someday we can talk about how right leaning news outlets feel the need to lie in order to maintain their narrative that the left are a bunch of nazi hypocrites who are also, somehow, hippies and whiners and cucks and stupid and elitist all at the same time but that conversation is for another day). Even if one scrolls down to the comment section on the C-SPAN video of Warren’s hour-long speech “impugning” Senator Sessions the majority of the comments are about how Warren is a mouthy bitch who needs to be put in her place. This despicable rhetoric is just being reinforced by those in the Senate and in the current White House who are more concerned with protecting the speech of Neo Nazis, white supremacist, anti-feminists and basically just racists and xenophobes of every stripe than it is concerned with hearing facts and history recited back to them by a well-respected sitting Senator.
My point, and I do have one, is to ask my Senate why it is okay for a man to call his fellow Senators names (idiot, cancerous, liar, bitter, devious, vulgar, disgrace etc.) but when a woman dips her toe into that territory she is immediately voted off the floor and told to “take her seat”? Did she not earn her Senate seat in the same manner as her male colleagues? Did she not work as hard or spend as much money (because honestly) to get where she is today? How can you say out of one side of your mouth that you “cannot understand why women think they need to march” while simultaneously exploiting your station to keep a woman silent? Do you not see what you’re doing? If not, let me assure you that we see what you’re doing and we’re not going to forget it….you useless, wrinkled, old, limp-dicked, fascists! (I threw in that last part for any Republicans reading this post [HA!] or anyone who wants to tell to “go high” because fuck that!)