These are tough times for women in the U.S. Republican judges and state legislatures around the country are waging total war on reproductive rights. A crisis of child-care access and affordability is compounding the difficulties facing working moms. Instead of allowing viewers to binge-watch season two of Yellowjackets, Showtime is releasing only one episode per week. And now, the misogyny is coming from inside the Democratic coalition.
In recent days, a chorus of brogressives and phallocentrists have called on Dianne Feinstein to resign from the Senate for the crime of getting sick. This toxically masculine caucus (or “cock-us”) of mansplainers have the cojones to claim that they’re actually sticking up for women’s rights. You see, if our male president doesn’t get to appoint his judges to the courts this very instant, a future Republican administration might hypothetically get to appoint more pro-life judges. And if that happens, it will, of course, be a woman’s fault. After all, Democrats need a majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee in order to advance judicial nominees. And since Feinstein is a member of that committee and currently on medical leave due to shingles, the party doesn’t have the votes to approve progressive judges. Therefore, it is actually pro-woman to tell a feminist trailblazer that she needs to give up her job.
If those last few sentences are glowing, that’s because they’re chock full of gaslighting. And ageism. And male fragility. And white-supremacy culture. It might sound like these dudebros (and broettes) are genuinely concerned that a senile, 89-year-old multimillionaire is putting her vestigial thirst for power above the interests of Democratic constituencies in general, and women in particular, in much the same way that a certain Supreme Court justice did a few years ago. And they may sound earnestly worried that liberals who see politicians as idols rather than tools might fall prey to apologetics for narcissism dressed up as identity politics. Whatever their conscious motivations, however, these testosterone-filled commentators are more implicitly biased than a football fan who thinks Daniel Jones is better than Patrick Mahomes.
Fortunately, Nancy Pelosi was ready with an epic clapback. “I don’t know what political agendas are at work that are going after Senator Feinstein in that way,” the former House Speaker said of calls for Feinstein’s retirement. “I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate in that way.”
Pelosi is absolutely right. Make no mistake: The push to oust Feinstein is not about making the judiciary more progressive, investigating Clarence Thomas’s corruption, or ensuring that California’s 39 million residents get more than one vote in the Senate. Rather, it’s about the fact that some insecure men can’t stand to see a woman grasping reflexively for power. After all, not long ago, it looked like former Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer might refuse to retire before the 2022 midterms, thereby jeopardizing Biden’s capacity to replace the octogenarian with another pro-choice justice. And yet, literally not one single solitary man told him to hang up his robes.
One way you can tell that Pelosi’s defense of Feinstein is correct, from a feminist perspective, is that even Republican women recognize its validity. As Iowa senator and pig-castrating girlboss Joni Ernst told Axios, asking Feinstein to step down is “ageist and it’s sexist.” First female Tennessee senator Marsha Blackburn, meanwhile, said of the veritable sausagefest of Feinstein slimers, “I don’t know if it’s age discrimination, sex discrimination, but we do know they wouldn’t do it to a man.”
Blackburn and Ernst are staunch conservatives who want to tightly restrict access to abortion nationwide. If even they can recognize the misogyny inherent in asking Feinstein to retire, macho Twitter communists have no excuse.
Indeed, seeing liberals like Pelosi and Kirsten Gillibrand join hands with reactionaries in defense of Feinstein fills me with hope for our nation’s future. It’s heartening to know that my hypothetical daughter will grow up in a country where anyone, regardless of their gender, can spend their 89th year of life struggling to recognize their longtime Senate colleagues, asking witnesses the same questions multiple times in a single hearing, and disenfranchising their constituents in the process instead of reconciling themselves to the cruel facts of mortality and spending more of their remaining time with friends and family.
Make no mistake, it is not “feminist” to believe that progressive policy outcomes are more important than respecting a powerful woman’s right to retain a job she’s not competent to perform. If you believe otherwise, your so-called feminism is just a grab bag of catchphrases and mental gestures that bad actors can use to rationalize their selfishness.