Songs for the Struggling Artist

Something About Warren

About a month ago, I saw a tweet that made me sob for much longer than I expected a tweet could. The tweet featured a photo of a little plastic action figure nestled into a child’s bed. It reads, in part:

I found my 5yo daughter’s Elizabeth Warren action figure in her bed when I was making it this morning. When I asked her why, she said “I was scared and she makes me feel brave”.

Because the thing of it is, Elizabeth Warren makes me feel brave, too. I am in solid agreement with this small child. I haven’t felt brave in such a long time but something about Warren gives me hope and strength and a sense that safety could come again.

I know not everyone feels this way about her. It’s clear from how the primaries have been going so far that a lot of people feel safer with other candidates. That’s their choice, of course, but I feel as though I’m watching the possibility of a braver safer world slip through our fingers. I know 95% of us haven’t voted yet and there’s still hope but I’m scared. I need an Elizabeth Warren action figure to make me brave again.

I’m continually surprised at the misogyny and sexism that continues to bubble up on the regular. I’d thought we’d sort of hit the apex of virulent misogyny after the last presidential election but there’s still so much to go around. If you’ve somehow missed the multitude of articles pointing at the bizarre erasure of Warren in media polls, news, etc – take a stroll down google lane and you will find many a think piece that has been largely ignored by more mainstream media.

The latest bit of nonsense that is really getting under my skin was a hashtag that was trending suggesting that Warren should drop out. I’ve seen a lot of tweets that suggested that if Warren were really progressive she would drop out and support Bernie. This makes my blood boil so hard. Because I’ve been reading Rebecca Traister’s book about the 2008 election season, and, let me tell you, we have been to this exact same rodeo before. Back then, very early on, people went on and on about how Hillary should drop out and support Obama – which, of course, she did do, eventually, once the votes were in. But the sense of it is profoundly sexist. No one was shouting at Buttigieg to drop out and support Biden. (They apparently just had a nice manly chat about it yesterday and it was done.) When Warren was ahead, no one was shouting at Sanders to drop out and support her. It is clear that, still, in 2020, women are expected to support men, to sacrifice themselves for the good of a powerful man.

I should not be surprised at all the misogyny bubbling up  – the erasure, the sexist language, the dismissive comments. I knew it would happen. I knew it would happen in 2016. I voted for Bernie in the 2016 primary, in part, because I knew that there would be a tidal wave of misogyny if Clinton was the nominee and I didn’t think I could handle it. (BTW – Gloria Steinem had similar reservations at first in 2008.)

And I was right. I couldn’t handle it. I don’t think I’ve recovered yet. It feels like 2016’s election season was like watching an enormous boil of toxic patriarchal misogyny get larger and larger and then finally burst all over us in November. And I guess maybe I thought that since the boil had burst, we were maybe on a healing path, where a woman could run for president without wading through a pool of toxicity. But the pool is alive and thriving.

I keep thinking about this thing I read in the Hollywood Reporter by a member of the Academy who said,

“When I fill out my ballot, I’m asking, “What movie did I like the best?” I believe all of our members do that. I’m not asking, ‘Is it a woman? Is it a person from a diverse background?’ I’m very proud of the Academy for nominating the movies we did this year.”

And guess who just happened to be under-represented at the Oscars this year?

It’s clear that this guy has never heard of unconscious bias in his life. He’s thinking, “I just vote for who I like! And if I happen to almost exclusively like stuff by white guys, that’s just because that’s what’s good.” It never occurs to him that his response to the people he just doesn’t connect to is probably due to his unconscious bias. It also would never occur to him that it might actually make sense to ask yourself such questions. It does make a difference when someone is a less represented person.

And I think that same principle is happening for some people with Warren. There’s a lot of “There’s just something about her I don’t like” and I’m sorry to tell you but that something is probably an unconscious bias and a world that privileges some folks over others. We all have unconscious bias. All of us. Check your bookshelves. Who do you read? Even women have unconscious biases against other women. We’ve all of us been marinating in patriarchy for a long time – so it is hard for a lot people to get behind women leaders. I know this is true but it is still incredibly difficult to watch the one candidate who gives me hope and makes me feel brave when I’m scared be sidelined and told to drop out.

There are so many reasons I am excited to vote for Warren. She’s my dream candidate, as Rebecca Solnit put it. I admire the way she has reached out to so many communities directly and personally and then come up with plans for each and every one of them to address their concerns. I admire the way she acknowledges mistakes she’s made and continues to work to redress them. I admire her ability to adapt and learn. I admire how fierce an advocate she can be. I love that she’s a progressive who came to it later in her life. Her progressiveness is practical and hard-earned. Ever since she got kicked out of the senate confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, for reading Coretta Scott King’s letter and then read it to a camera right outside, I have admired her fighting spirit. Many people remember the line that emerged from this event – “Nevertheless she persisted.” But there’s more of it. Mitch McConnell said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Many people continue to give her explanations and warnings and nevertheless, she persists. That sort of commitment makes me feel less scared. It makes me feel brave.

The kind of person who can take on an entire banking system, who will speak truth to power over and over again even when no one will give her the floor, that kind of person makes me feel safe. And I know that she is working hard to help others who may have never felt safe in this country to one day experience some safety. She embodies everything I look for in a leader. I cannot understand how people are not lining up to vote for her.

But I know not everyone is like me and the little girl who keeps her action figure close by for safety. There are those who don’t need to feel brave because they’re not scared. There are those who just want a return to the old familiar status quo. I understand the impulse. Warren’s vision of America involves change and change isn’t everyone’s thing. Her vision involves bending some things to make the country work for more people than it is. It involves health care for all and universal child care. It even includes artists (sign an artist endorsement here). It is really scary for billionaires and scary for a lot of Republicans. That’s not safe for them. But it would be for me, it would be for me.

Image by @DirtyDucko via Twitter


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