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Just Not That Woman


This a good piece by Sady Doyle about the coverage of Elizabeth Warren:

The Massachusetts senator took aim at a variety of subjects: the Electoral College, Mississippi’s racist state flag, the rise of white nationalism. Always, she was met with thunderous applause. Even a simple Bible verse — from Matthew 25:35–40, about moral obligation to the poor and hungry — prompted cheers so loud and prolonged that Warren had to pause and repeat herself in order to make her voice heard over the noise. Yet this was the same woman the media routinely frames as too wonky, too nerdy, too socially stunted. But then, Warren has always been an exceptionally charismatic candidate. We just forget that fact when she’s campaigning — due, in large part, to our deep and lingering distrust for female intelligence.

Warren is bursting with what we might call “charisma” in male candidates: She has the folksy demeanor of Joe Biden, the ferocious conviction of Bernie Sanders, the deep intelligence of fellow law professor Barack Obama. But Warren is not a man, and so those traits are framed as liabilities, rather than strengths. According to the media, Warren is an uptight schoolmarm, a “wonky professor,” a scold, a wimpy Dukakis, a wooden John Kerry, or (worse) a nerdier Al Gore.

The criticism has hit her from the left and right. The far-right Daily Calleraccused her of looking weird when she drank beer; on social media, conservatives spread vicious (and viciously ableist) rumors that Warren took antipsychotic drugs that treated “irritability caused by autism.” On the other end of the spectrum, Amber A’Lee Frost, the lone female co-host of the socialist podcast Chapo Trap House, wrote for The Baffler (and, when The Baffler retracted her article, for Jacobin) that Warren was “weak” and “not charismatic.” Frost deplored the “Type-A Tracy Flicks” who dared support “this Lisa Simpson of a dark-horse candidate.”

That Frost article, which had to be taken to a Bernie fanzine after The Baffler killed it for obvious reasons, is a…remarkable document:

The substance of Elizabeth Warren’s political rhetoric is dominated by banks and corporations — obvious and odious targets, to be sure. She speaks positively, but vaguely, about labor unions. In 2013 she advocated for a minimum wage increase to $10 an hour over the course of two years — tragically modest in the time of Fight for $15. She’s helped make some mild reforms to student debt, but nothing so great as to be noticeable for a young person debilitated by loans. She’s made no great stink about socialized health care or higher education. Aside from financial regulation, it’s actually quite unclear what a Warren presidential program would be…

eLiZaBeTh wArReN HaS No dEtAiLeD PoLiCy aGeNdA! I mean, look, there are perfectly defensible reasons for preferring Bernie to Warren. “Warren offers insufficient detail about her agenda” is not one of them. Also note how her successful fight to get the CFPB in Dodd-Frank despite indifference-to-hostility from elite Democrats goes down the memory hole, although in any case this would be mere “financial regulation,” which as is well known has never been considered an important issue by Bernie or his supporters.

But of course, policy’s got nothing to do with it. Context does not improve the gross sexism quoted by Doyle:

This dandy little bit of self-plagiarism is from three years ago, when I attended a painfully nerdy and shamefully self-congratulatory event to “Draft Warren” into the presidential primaries. It was a farcical gathering of Type-A Tracy Flicks, barely worth the free booze, and even the assembled nerds quickly realized this Lisa Simpson of a dark-horse candidate wasn’t as inspiring to the masses as she was to them, and we all moved on.

And yet, once a man enters the picture, irony-bro attacks on chicks uncool enough to care about anything immediately turn into uncritical hagiography that would be a little over-the-top for a film introducing a presidential candidate at a national convention:

And what we moved onto was Bernie — our indefatigable, unwavering, incorruptible Bernie! And we very nearly won, despite despicable sabotage from the DNC. Bernie was the leader of a movement that fundamentally ended the Cold War of the American mind; he changed the face of American politics, acted as midwife to a nascent insurgent left, and achieved more in a few months of mass political action than Elizabeth Warren did in her whole political life.

Does the “despicable sabotage” link to…the excerpt from Donna Brazile’s profit-taking-on-route-to-Fox-News book, which makes a bare assertion that the primaries were rigged and then goes on to discuss a bunch of mind-numbing inside baseball trivia that does not constitute anything like evidence of “sabotage?” I think you know the answer!

And now, the punchline:

Leaving aside the weeks of ball-spiking over a brief memo released by the professional Republican cover-up artist hand-selected by Trump that even so doesn’t exonerate Trump, imagine think the problem with mainstream media its excessively critical stance towards Trump supporters. They need a greater voice, and shouldn’t be treated with withering, sexist contempt like…supporters of Elizabeth Warren!

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