Related: Civil & Human Rights, Politics, Social Issues

Demonizing Powerful Women


Disclaimer at the outset:  this is not a political commentary, although it is a commentary that touches on politics.  But it’s really a commentary about sociology, psychology, and the mentality of third grade boys.

When I was in the third grade, the boys were starting to get real mean.  They said things to us girls that I, for one, didn’t even understand, but today I know those were some cuss words describing parts of the female anatomy that civilized people will not even say today.   Those of us girls who were starting to show those parts earlier than others were especially subject to those boys grunts and nasty pictures and gestures.  Such was third grade.

A few years later, when I was in law school, I was with a group of fellow first year students supposedly discussing the rule against perpetuities, when, suddenly, one of the guys pulled out from his casebook a doctored photograph of one of our female law professors.  The photo showed her face atop a torso with arms pulling up a shirt to reveal a heavily muscled male chest.  The guys roared.  I excused myself and went to the library, deciding that I didn’t really care if I never learned the rule against perpetuities, I already knew the rule against jerks.   Having spent my college years at Trinity among more civilized people, I guess I had forgotten how disgusting third grade boys could be.

Some boys never grow up.

Later on, I realized that those boy law students were actually kind of terrified of this woman law professor, and their way of coping was to mock her with this crude effigy.

I thought of that picture yesterday when I read about the latest prank worthy of third grade boys.   Seems that the guys at the Republican National Committee are really torqued at Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for getting the health care bill approved by a majority of House members (a bill already approved by a majority of Senators).   In fact, they were so mad at her that they decided to convert their entire website into a “fire Pelosi” page complete with her picture on top of flames, and an appeal for money.

Judge for yourself:


Now, back in the day when the wimmin knew their place, ladies who got out of line were determined to be witches and then burned at the stake.   I am not kidding.  You can look it up.

D’ya think the boys at the RNC ever saw The Crucible?  Or are those flames just a coincidence?

Let me be clear:  American citizens have every right to have all kinds of opinions about the health care reform legislation.  Some are happy, some are outraged.  The magnificence of our American democracy is that the RNC actually has that beautiful thing called Freedom of Speech that allows them to exhibit the most immature and hateful of images of the Speaker of the House.  The sputtering hatred and pure venom behind this image reveals one of the saddest facts about American life today — we are almost incapable right now of using our freedoms for civil debate and constructive discourse about the issues we care about.

I don’t know why, but I expected a more elegant and effective counterpoint from Michael Steele instead of this lame imagery.  It’s not even good web design.

Looking at that spiteful excuse for a website, I also can’t help but note that the old problem of demonizing women in power is out in full force.   This advertisement is not about a principled disagreement on universal health care; this is clearly a profoundly personal attack on a powerful woman, and the imagery is consistent with witch burning.   The image says so much about its sponsors and their fear of powerful women.

Nancy Pelosi is being hailed in many places this week as one of the most powerful politicians in history.   Trinity alumnae from all over have written to me to declare their pride in the role that Speaker Pelosi and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius played in the passage of health care reform.   These women who have stepped up to national leadership deserve recognition and congratulations for their hard work and serious achievement.

Certainly, this is a moment that can do without the misogynist pranks that come from the mentality of third grade boys.

See NPRABC News, Politico

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One Response to Demonizing Powerful Women

  1. Antoinette Sgarlata Wiseman '61 says:

    Amen! Well said. She’s doing exactly what a Speaker of the House is supposed to be doing.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: