Sexism in senate ignites persistent, feminist response

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Senator Elizabeth Warren read aloud a letter written by Coretta Scott King that rightly accused Supreme Court nominee Jeff Sessions of having scared away elderly black voters on Feb. 8 during his confirmation hearing. During the reading, in a blatant act of sexism, she was suddenly interrupted by Senator Mitch McConnell. He interrupted her on the basis of a rarely understood or utilized rule that forbids senators from insulting one another.

This incident immediately caused much of America to blame McConnell’s actions on his apparent sexism. This event is just one recent example of sexism on Capitol Hill. It is unacceptable for people in such powerful positions to act in a disrespectful or sexist manner toward other politicians and these actions must stop before they continue to limit women’s abilities to successfully have careers in government and politics.

Warren has been the subject of much of this stereotyping, not only during this one event. Though she has consistently proven herself to be successful in her field and some argue that she has the potential to be a candidate in the next presidential election, she is often thought of as too pushy, ambitious and unfeminine to be a respectable female politician. While these qualities are generally thought of as positive when related to men, they often hurt women’s abilities to be taken seriously and respected.

“She was warned,” McConnell said during the hearing. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Hillary Clinton is perhaps the most notable modern example of a woman whose political career has been severely affected by sexism. Though she has successfully furthered her career and made great progress in the causes she fights for, many people blame her losing the recent presidential election on her failure to be perceived as “likable.” In the case of females, this description means that she does not come across as friendly, relatable or charismatic.

“Men won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because she reminds them of their nagging wives,” one political commentator said in 2008.

Just like Warren and Clinton, women throughout time have had to take the negative energy that comes along with sexism and persist for what they believe in. Transgender activist for LGBTQ+ rights Marsha P. Johnson, continued fighting for her cause despite the judgment and many setbacks that she faced. Emmeline Pankhurst led the British suffragette movement when the idea of women receiving the right to vote was almost unheard of. Malala Yousafzai was shot yet persisted working toward female education.

The push that women make for their causes and careers despite sexism and discrimination has made Tulane much more accessible to different groups of people. Josephine Louise Newcomb founded Newcomb College of Tulane University, allowing women to be students at this university. Rosa Keller worked to desegregate the university and bring African Americans to campus. Neither of these women were encouraged or persuaded to do these things; they persisted against sexism and fought for what they believed in, just as McConnell accused Warren of doing when she refused to be silenced by him.

Some still claim that Warren’s supporters are just “playing the sexist card” by speaking up against how she was treated.  Women rising up against discriminatory occurrences like this has resulted in very important developments for our society and the Tulane community. Recognizing that what McConnell did was wrong is necessary in order for our country to move forward and prevent sexism from further determining American political norms.

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Robin is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]