Grieving Warren: The Heartache of Modern Womanhood

We must give ourselves space to move through the disappointment before we remember how to fight

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Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr (cc)

It was obviously coming after the results of Super Tuesday’s primary. Elizabeth Warren, who seemed so strong during the debates, suddenly vanished from viability like a puff of smoke in the wind. Still, when I saw the headline in my Facebook feed, my eyes filled with tears.

It feels ironic that after having so much resistance to hope, difficulty choosing a candidate who spoke to me, and finally choosing to vote for Warren in my state’s primary, that I am this rattled by her departure from the race. In some ways, that’s just the inevitability of being a feminist in 2020.

Warren’s withdrawal feels like just one more example of the truth that no matter how strong, competent, qualified, knowledgeable, and sharp we are, womanhood is a mark against us.

For thousands of women, the light of hope we’d fanned is snuffed with Elizabeth Warren’s concession from the race for President. This isn’t just the end of a presidential campaign, a single incident to be experienced and forgotten. It’s another link on the chain of disappointments and lost dreams women experience day after day, year after year.

This is the reality of being a woman in America.

This is the reality of being a woman in America, that has been exacerbated by the presence of a sexual predator and misogynist in the White House. These are the moments that perpetuate the pervasive thought that women are worth less, that demonstrate those thoughts are based in something tangible, like votes.

On NPR’s Facebook post announcing Warren’s dropping out, a commenter named Ana Ducoing captured what we’re grieving:

Thank you Sen. Warren, it was wonderful to dream of having a competent and caring person in the White House. I sure hope that we’ll see you again in the voting booth. Keep doing the great work you’re known for.

We are sad, disappointed, and broken-hearted. We let ourselves hope, because what else can we do? No matter how many times this happens, we have to work towards change and keep shouting, pushing, fighting for the future we want for our children and their children. I didn’t even realize until this morning how the hope had blossomed in my heart, not until it wilted.

I want so badly to have faith in our country, in the idea that sexism is getting better. And, I know, it is getting better. But progress feels painfully slow, and sometimes it feels like it’s moving backwards. So what happened? As NPR pointed out, “While frequently turning in strong debate performances, Warren struggled to win over voters.”

Unlike the male candidates, Warren had to contend with the expectation that she be likable.

I have no doubt about the reason for this: rampant misogyny. Because unlike the male candidates, Warren had to contend with the expectation that she be likable. It’s not enough that she has the necessary experience, that she has a track record, that she turned in strong debate performances. Our culture still sees strong women as bitches. Where men are labeled as go getters or determined, women face labels like controlling, demanding, and too aggressive.

In her article, It Will Be Hard to Get Over What Happened to Elizabeth Warren, Jessica Valenti wrote:

It’s enough to make me feel, well, despairing: that we had the candidate of a lifetime — someone with the energy, vision, and follow-through to lead the country out of our nightmarish era — and that the media and voters basically outright erased and ignored her.

Don’t tell me this isn’t about sexism. I’ve been around too long for that.

I’ll be 40 this year, and though my life is probably only half over, I have given up on the idea that my generation will be the one to change things. I’m not saying I’ll stop using my voice, but I think after the last five years, my hope is tempered by knowing I’ll be forced to wait.

The disappointment surrounding Warren’s concession isn’t just about the idea of a woman president. For a lot of us, she represented a return to something better in the White House, something that’s been missing since Obama’s departure. Empowerment. Inclusivity. Articulation.

Last month, Rebecca Woolf wrote:

Happy Presidents Day! I look forward to PROUDLY and PASSIONATELY supporting #elizabethwarrenforpresident in the California primaries because I believe she is, by far and away, the strongest, most articulate, clear-headed candidate.

I believe a #warren2020 presidency would be inclusive and fair, empowering the most vulnerable. I believe that Warren has the most hutzpah and integrity of any other candidate. That as president she will inspire and motivate other leaders (of all ages and stages) in our nation and worldwide to come together for a greater good.

I believe she has put more effort into fleshing out REAL CONSTRUCTIVE plans re: education, justice reform, the environment, healthcare, foreign policy, universal childcare amongst MANY other top tier issues (link in profile to read more about her plans) than any other candidate.

I believe that Warren is as empathic as she is fearless, as hard as she is soft; a lover and a fighter. And? I wholeheartedly believe that an @elizabethwarren presidency would enhance our humanity as citizens of this country and the world. ✊🇺🇸🤝🌎🙌

This is what we’re grieving today. It wasn’t just about the massive step of progress for women. It was about the return of love and kindness to an office where there has been none. It was about justice and reform and remembering what it feels like to have a president we are proud to call Commander in Chief.

Instead, in November, I’ll support whatever candidate the DNC chooses. I’m about 99% sure that will be Joe Biden, another career politician with white skin, a penis, and allegations from multiple women of creepy behavior. Because instead of having the choice to support the person who I think would have done the best job, I’ll be supporting the person who is not Trump.

If I was home from work today, I would let myself have a good cry. I’ve been tearful and a little sniffly at my desk, but I’ve got it mostly under control. My heart hurts, so I’ll try to take comfort in some of the words Warren herself offered to her staff on their phone call this morning:

We ran from the heart. We ran on our values. We ran on treating everyone with respect and dignity. You know liberty green everything was key here — my personal favorites included the liberty green boas, liberty green sneakers, liberty green make up, liberty green hair, and liberty green glitter liberally applied. But it was so much more. Four-hour selfie lines and pinky promises with little girls. And a wedding at one of our town halls. And we were joyful and positive through all of it. We ran a campaign not to put people down, but to lift them up — and I loved pretty much every minute of it.

So take some time to be with your friends and family, to get some sleep, maybe to get that haircut you’ve been putting off — you know who I’m talking about. Do things to take care of yourselves, gather up your energy, because I know you are coming back. I know you — and I know that you aren’t ready to leave this fight.

So, I’ll take a day. Maybe more. I’ll let myself feel the utterly exhausted disappointment of once again watching old, white guys fight to be in charge. I’ll cry, and mourn, and move through it. Then, like all women do every day, I’m going to get back up, and remember how to fight.

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