Welcome to the second edition of Hottie Of The Week (HOTW), where I get on my soap box about a person who had a way better week than I did! Senator Elizabeth Warren is this week’s HOTW… and every week for that matter. Although, not because of her policies, or her genuine ability to connect with voters or even for that cute video where she’s running through a field in a coral cardigan. No, this week it’s because she flawlessly flipped the narrative of a sexist smear campaign aimed to derail her feminist agenda—instead, turning it into a conversation about women in the workplace, the nuances of discrimination and the significance of sharing our stories.
In an attempt to relate to voters, Democratic candidates have made a mission of humanizing their campaigns. From speaking about their sexuality, to shedding light on sexual assault, this primary election is bringing social issues to the forefront. Elizabeth Warren has been no different—she’s been newly vocal on the campaign trail about the pregnancy discrimination she faced at her first teaching job in 1971. She candidly says to voters, “[b]y the end of the first year I was visibly pregnant, and the principal did what principals did in those days: wished me luck, showed me the door, and hired someone else for the job.” Oddly enough the same thing has happened to me except I wasn’t “visibly pregnant?” Rude.
Warren has been telling a similar story since 2007; except instead of pregnancy descrimination, she attributed the halt of her teaching career to her desire to be home with her new child. On Monday, the conservative “news organization”the Washington Free Beacon addressed the disparity in an article aimed at falsifying Warren’s account. Complete with board of education minutes that show the unanimous vote to extend her contract, this “hard hitting piece of investigative journalism” intends to “prove” Warren willingly resigned in June. Ah, yes. Sexism in politics. This feels familiar? Did I go back in time… am I in 2016?
While the media erupted into a stage 4 speculation tornado regarding Warren’s alleged lies (as if our “President” D*n*ld Tr*mp isn’t committing treason on live television), Warren doubled down on Twitter, calling it “an experience many women will recognize.” She went on, “This was 1971, years before Congress outlawed pregnancy discrimination—but we know it still happens in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.” Don’t take your foot off the patriarchy’s neck, girl!
CBS corroborated Elizabeth’s story later this week. Two women who taught alongside Warren confirmed the rule that at five months pregnant women were required to leave their classrooms. Even the most novice of detectives (me) could tell you that at the time of the board of education’s meeting, Elizabeth would have only been four months pregnant. Easily concealable. Way to go Warren! Hide that pregnancy! Secure that bag! However, by June, a six months along pregnancy belly would have been nearly impossible to hide— hence Warren’s inevitable “resignation.” Fucking duh, Washington Free Beacon. Try harder next time.
Unable to see a woman as anything but manipulative and calculating, critics are questioning the altruism behind choosing to open up to voters now. Why not in 2007? Why when she’s running for President in a #metoo era?
Well, this discrepancy only resonated more with women. It highlights the changing way we are approaching gender discrimination in the workplace, in politics and in our everyday conversations. The fact of the matter is that history has told us that women must project strength and limit vulnerability in order to avoid becoming the “fragile female victim” trope. We have refrained from sharing the harm that’s been done to us for fear it would only hurt us more. But now? I crave being called fragile. I want men to fear my ability to erupt in tears at any given moment.
Thanks to women like Warren who are pioneering the feminist movement, the ways that gender, victimhood and discrimination are converging with prejudicial power structures are beginning to shift. Women are becoming candid about their discriminatory experiences, and the grit and fortitude it takes to overcome them despite the exploitative nature of the patriarchy. Our experiences are becoming our strength, and a strength which is amplified in numbers.
This didn’t stop when Warren was forced to further clarify her unpleasant encounter with sexism. Women were vocal in their support of her; not offering sympathy for suffering, but instead standing in solidarity. They vocalized the gender disparity they’ve experienced despite 40-year-old pregnancy discrimination laws, and through the influx of stories being shared on social media it became instantly clear that Warren was correct in her statement that women are still facing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
In February the New York Times detailed the ways that women are being “systematically sidelined” in the workplace during their pregnancies—passing them up for promotions, refusing to assign them to projects and firing them over inability to complete physical tasks. “Complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about this ‘maternal wall’ in employment are reportedly reaching an all-time high,” the article states. Companies like Walmart, Whole Foods and 21st Century Fox are all in the midst of legal battles concering pregancy discrimination—despite advertising “women empowerment.”
The failed pregnancy smear against Elizabeth Warren only proved that pregnancy discrimination is still rampant and misunderstood. This week, Warren was fearless in choosing to be honest, despite the potential of being shrouded with a politically damaging veil of victimhood. Still, she used her bravery to inspire women— showing the world that we are mobilizing to turn gender disparity into power.
This has been another edition of Hottie of the Week (HOTW), where I bravely share the people who have been, for lack of a better term, crushing it. Tune in next week to hear whose good decisions I’m addicted to.