“Why can’t a woman…be more like a man?”
So sang Professor Henry Higgins about his efforts to transform the street urchin Eliza Doolittle into a “fair lady” worthy of high society, in a 20th century retelling via musical of the myth of Pygmalion, based on George Bernard Shaw’s play of the same name.
The song from the soundtrack of “My Fair Lady,” which featured the flawless and charming Audrey Hepburn as Eliza, and the peerless Rex Harrison as the insufferable, condescending professor, was actually called “A Hymn to Him,” a paean to the virtues of man.
We all know by now the familiar, banal and oh-so-boring refrain that men are noble and rational while women are frivolous and hysterical. As a vexed Professor Higgins noted when Eliza walked out on him after her triumphant introduction to “society” at a glittering ball:
Women are irrational, that’s all there is to that!
Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They’re nothing but exasperating, irritating,
vacillating, calculating, agitating,
Maddening and infuriating hags!
Pickering, why can’t a woman be more like a man?
He goes on to praise his fellow men, saying that “Men are so honest, so thoroughly square; / Eternally noble, historically fair; / Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat. / Why can’t a woman be like that?”
Well, there is at least one woman like that, and yet why can’t a woman…be president of the United States?
Elizabeth Warren ended her campaign to become the Democrat Party’s presidential candidate after her disappointing performance during Super Tuesday’s primary, which saw her take third place behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
While I am pleased that Biden is the current frontrunner in the Democrat race, it clearly is America’s–and perhaps even the world’s–loss that Elizabeth Warren is no longer in the picture.
What was wrong with her, really? Objectively speaking, nothing—apart from the fact that she was a woman.
There’s no doubt that she was the best-prepared candidate. She had presented well-thought out plans and policies she would execute if she became president. She brought years of invaluable experience to the table: as a former academic, as an adept politician, a crusader against corruption and a woman of sincerity and compassion.
Why wasn’t that enough? Why was that not enough to overtake two other septuagenarians who are, let’s face it, not as prepared as she was?
I’ve heard people call her shrill, say that she seems to be constantly lecturing, dismiss her as not “likeable.” Sure, and Sanders is Mr. Congeniality.
In fact, I’ve always found Warren to be balanced and measured, with a real ability to understand the concerns of ordinary people and connect with them. When she needs to drive home a point, yes, she can be insistent, but then evidently the only way women can be heard is by making their voices louder. And when they do, they are labelled “shrill.” As if men who rant and rave and shed a tear or two in indignation– yes, Brett Kavanaugh, Jim Jordan, Doug Collins, I’m calling you out–have every right to be outraged, but women who express any kind of anger or frustration are difficult, emotional, unstable, yadda yadda yadda.
It’s infuriating to the point of eye-rolling, head-shaking exasperation that women’s real and deeply felt anger is constantly being invalidated by men. And not just her anger or outrage during the moments that she dares to raise her voice, but even her intelligence and common sense when she is calm and measured.
Elizabeth Warren faces all this on an everyday basis, whether she is on the campaign trail, or when she is performing her duties as senator. And yet, despite her track record and obvious and sincere commitment to her principles and her constituents, she could not raise enough money to continue with her campaign. She may have scared off big corporate donors with her proposed wealth tax, but why has she not been able to incite the same grassroots donations that Sanders has among his followers when clearly she is far more qualified than he is to lead her country? Even the New York Times, after exhaustive one-on-one sessions with each aspiring nominee, picked out Warren and her fellow female senator Amy Klobuchar as the best candidates to run for president. Klobuchar dropped out right before Super Tuesday, for much the same reasons as Warren.
There’s a telling moment early on during the race, when Biden was at a town hall in Houston and a 10-year-old girl asked him a question and he responded with a glib, “I’ll bet you’re as bright as you are good-looking,” before holding her by the shoulders and parading her to the press.
On another occasion, in Iowa, a voter brought his 13-year-old granddaughter to meet Biden, and he turned to her brothers and said, “You’ve got one job here, keep the guys away from your sister.”
Don’t you just love the smell of clueless, patronizing patriarchy on the campaign trail?
Warren, on the other hand, would make “pinky promises” to young girls while campaigning, telling them that she would become America’s first female president.
Because, you know, yes she can, and she should have been. “One of the hardest parts of this,” she said, speaking to reporters after suspending her campaign, “is all those…little girls who have to wait four more years.”
It is sad and painful to witness this when there are capable women leaders all over the world, from Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand to Sanna Marin in Finland. Christine Lagarde heads the European Central Bank. Angela Merkel has been Germany’s formidable chancellor since 2005. The fiercely independent Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected as Taiwan’s president. In the Philippines, despite the strong macho culture that permeates society, we’ve had two women as presidents, each one transformative in ways that were perhaps not always positive but undeniably significant.
To Elizabeth Warren, thank you for persisting. To America, wake up and stop being pussies. You elected a dangerous, intellectually vapid buffoon over a far more qualified woman in 2016. The time has come for a woman president. Don’t wait too long.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Warren’s Instagram account
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