Nancy Pelosi recently called out sexism in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite AP
Nancy Pelosi recently called out sexism in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite AP

Viewpoint

Nobody listens to women when they speak here

By DANA MILBANK

Washington Post

September 23, 2017 01:07 PM

Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – “CrookedHillary” in the tweet – knocking the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground.

Eighty-four thousand people “liked” it.

A woman has been speaker of the House (and proved substantially more effective than the two men who succeeded her), another came within a whisker of the presidency, and others wield the decisive votes on health-care and other legislation. But recent events make it feel as if we’re in an earlier time, when a woman’s job in politics was simple: sit down and shut up. This no doubt is the work of a president who, by word and deed, made sexism safe again.

Dana Milbank

Trump’s golf tweet no doubt was inspired by the attention Clinton has gotten for her new book, which has been met with a predictable response: wishing the woman who won the popular vote would “shut up and go away” – as Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld put it.

The public disagrees; the book is a No. 1 best-seller.

Clinton isn’t the only woman being told lately to shut up. When Rep. Pramila Jayapal rose on the House floor this month to oppose an amendment by Rep. Don Young , Young twice called Jayapal, 51, a “young lady,” and said she “doesn’t know a damn thing.”

This brought to mind Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s infamous silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warrenon the Senate floor when she read a letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing Jeff Sessions: “She was warned. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Alas, it’s not just words. The latest Senate attempt at Obamacare repeal, drafted by four men, would eliminate Obamacare’s requirement that insurers cover maternity care and funding for Planned Parenthood. Tweeted Sen. Mazie Hirono : “A group of men wrote a devastating health care bill & are now trying to push it through w/o debate. It’s almost like we’ve been here before.”

In the White House last week, Trump was meeting with advisers and lawmakers when, as The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and others recounted, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the only woman in a room with 10 men, twice tried to answer a question. Both times, she was spoken over. Finally, the former speaker of the House broke through. “Does anybody listen to women when they speak around here?” she asked.

Apparently not.

Pelosi described that memorable encounter to me on Friday, when I saw her in New Haven, Conn., at the wake for Luisa DeLauro, the longest serving alderman in the city’s history and mother of Rep. Rosa DeLauro. To me, Luisa , who died last week at 103, was “Grandma Louise,” because I’m married to Rosa’s stepdaughter.

The funeral for Luisa, a pioneering woman in politics, juxtaposed with the outrageous treatment Pelosi endured in the White House days earlier, left me with an unwelcome realization about the persistence of sexism in this business. Grandma Louise was born on Christmas Eve in 1913, seven years before women won the right to vote. As a young woman of 19, serving as the secretary of the 10th Ward Democratic Club, Luisa was optimistic as she exhorted women to engage in politics in a 1933 article. Rosa read Luisa’s words from long ago at the funeral: “We have gradually taken our place in every phase of human endeavor, and even in the heretofore stronghold of the male sex: politics....Come on, girls, let’s make ourselves heard.”

The “girls” are speaking, loudly. But does anybody listen to women when they speak around here?