"Nevertheless, She Persisted" Is Only As Powerful As The Women Who Embrace It
The 2016 election was a masterclass in modern manifestations of sexism, with the man who is now our president acting as its instructor. But somehow, as concerns about his misogyny dominated the headlines time and time again, women were able to co-opt the negativity and create a rallying cry — something to unite against rather than be defeated by. We're seeing that again with the silencing of Elizabeth Warren during a Senate confirmation hearing this week. But the latest call to arms, "Nevertheless, she persisted," will only have an impact if women continue to apply that spirit in their day-to-day lives.
During a debate over attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions on Tuesday night, Senate Republicans invoked a little-known rule to silence Warren in the middle of reading a letter from Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor. That alone shocked many Democrats, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doubled-down on that rage when he later explained, "Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted."
And thus, the feminist yell du jour was born. Twitter erupted with McConnell's words, taking the collective anger about Warren's situation and turning it into something bigger — a historical retrospective of women who have, despite warnings from men, carried on. McConnell's explanation has been adopted as a metaphor for the GOP's war on women, with Warren's tenacity representing the struggle against it.
This isn't the first time this year that feminists have found a viral slogan to rally around. "Pussy grabs back" and "nasty woman" each had a swell of support behind them. Tweets were fired off. Facebook statuses were posted. Signs were painted. Shirts were printed. Women united by the thousands under these new banners of feminism flying in the face of the patriarchy.
But hashtags stop trending, and the shirt that you wore proudly for a few weeks gets rotated into your comfy sleeping attire. One of the things that I believe prevents women from fully embracing these declarations as a mantra rather than protest chant is their impermanence in the news cycle. It says something, perhaps, about our political climate that there has been such a wide selection of statements for women to react against recently.
Even when a catchy statement isn't trending, though, it's critical to keep rooted in the broader message. These slogans aren't just about Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren or the women who Donald Trump bragged about sexually assaulting. These are for every woman who has ever been criticized for taking charge, who has been silenced or interrupted by men who think they know better, whose bodies have been violated. These feminist rallying cries might have been birthed from one such situation, but they apply across the board.
So, if your proud embrace of your inner nastiness or your desire to grab back has faded, take this latest wave of female power as the opportunity to carry on the torch, because you don't have to be Elizabeth Warren to speak up when you're interrupted. Stand up when you're faced with sexism. Defy the rules when your conscious tells you that you should. Keep doing the things that men tell you that you can't. That, not through hashtags, is when we persist.