BY SUSAN ESTRICH
“Lock her up,” Democrats are saying now that senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump has committed the same [non-cardinal] prayer, having also used a private email server to maintain some small chance of privacy and security.
Note: Which men are we threatening to “lock up”?
Take your pick of the women: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Pocahontas [Sen. Elizabeth Warren]?
How about Kellyanne Conway, White House counselor?
Or Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford?
Don’t forget my old friend Maxine Waters, the representative who hasn’t changed since I met her as a young firebrand assemblywoman. Except now she has power as well as guts.
And, of course, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is mostly being attacked by male members of Congress who are supporting older men to serve in the other leadership positions.
Never have there been so many women in power, and never have so many of them been under such vicious attack – on both sides of the aisle.
No one gives up power easily, especially when the people who are claiming their rightful share are women.
And the subtle weapons of sexism are wielded on both sides of the aisle.
Would the former House speaker who led the Democrats to recapturing the House be under a similar attack if she were a man who was the most experienced legislator in the land? If hehad led the movement that steered Obamacare through the House?
I’m no fan of Sarah Sanders, but she’s not the problem. She’s the spokesperson, not the decision-maker. But if you think about the recognizable targets in the White House other than the man himself, you think about Ivanka and Sarah, not the guys who are actually running the show.
Do you really think that’s Ivanka Trump speaking when the president is pussyfooting with white supremacists? She and her children are Orthodox Jews. Do you really think it was Sarah Sanders who actually decided that the president should side with the Saudi killers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and disown United States intelligence? Has anyone ever suggested that the women on top – starting with United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley – were calling any of these shots? She herself has made abundantly clear how little power she had.
Women candidates took back the House. Women voters were key to their success. Success, but not so fast. Men get away with murder. Women get away with nothing.
The only Democrat President Trump could have beaten lost in part because she is a woman – the kind of woman, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews famously suggested, who reminds most men of their first wife. First wives everywhere know what that means, and it is all about gender. Have you ever heard anyone characterize first husbands? Would we even know how to do it, other than by calling them fathers?
The two top women in the White House [Trump and Conway] are regularly dissed as know-nothing blondes, which makes me laugh. If they’re so dumb and we’re so smart, how come they’re the ones on that recognizable front lawn? And as for Sanders, it’s worth noting that she’s lasted in a job that Sean Spicer could not pull off.
So, yes, it is a big year for women.
But it seems an equally big year for attacking women in ways, and with the vigor, that are rare for anyone to face other than the president himself.
And that’s not OK, whether it’s Democratic or Republican women under attack.
You have to listen carefully sometimes to realize that what you’re hearing is a sexist attack. After all, if you don’t like Trump – and that describes almost half of all Americans, at least – why not use what you have? Why not use everything you have?
The answer, of course, is that when women are under attack as women, singled out with explicit or implicit sexist stereotypes when men are not [Who describes men as shrill?], then all of us pay a price, whether or not we share the politics of that day’s target.
The same applies to business. Can it really be all Sheryl Sandberg’s fault? The most successful woman in tech and Facebook COO is not that stupid. But women have traditionally been less likely to fight back when under attack, fearing that it will only further antagonize their critics, or at least the male ones. Which it may well do. When you’re the only woman in the room, most often that’s a sign of not only how good you are but also how tough a table that is, and how easy it is to scapegoat the only woman. Everyone recognizes her. As well they should.
On issues of gender, we stand together, or we all will ultimately fall down.
– Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer