Elizabeth Warren blew up the rules about female rage and came away without a scratch

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Enough of this crap.

This has to be what Sen. Elizabeth Warren said to herself moments before taking the stage for the Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Whether driven by a "go big or go home" instinct for survival after poor showings in early primaries, pushed to the limit by her exclusion from a recent survey of how the candidates would fare against President Donald Trump or simply fueled by the inevitable frustration of the double standards and extra-special likability factors faced by anyone campaigning while female, Warren went full throttle.

She raged, she stormed, she name-checked, she dismissed, she claimed the most time, she did all the things female candidates are not supposed to do. And far from self-destructing, she went on to enjoy a record-breaking day of campaign donations and a Twitter trend of #PresidentElizabethWarren.

The revolution really was televised.

Warren has never been afraid of strongly worded declarative sentences, either in person or on Twitter, but on Wednesday night she took it to a double-standard-shredding new level. From the moment she opened her mouth to say, "I'd like to talk about who we're running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg," Warren made clear that if two centuries of American democracy still hadn't provided a level playing field for women, well, she'd level the field herself.

She wasn't just determined or confident or pointed or any of those things female candidates often choose to be for fear that unsmiling anger, so beloved by Bernie Sanders supporters, will be tagged in them as shrill and unattractive. She was outraged. Controlled, complete-sentence, full-paragraph outraged. Over Bloomberg's history of sexist remarks and NDAs, the tactics of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the scantiness of Pete Buttigieg's and Amy Klobuchar's health care plans. She unloaded her wrath on science-haters, immigrant-bashers and pretty much anyone who thought that, after years of being touted as the person who, unlike the "problematic" Hillary Clinton, could become the first female president, she was just going to quietly surrender to Bernie, or Joe, or Mayor Pete.


Elizabeth Warren was unleashed.

And it did not occur in a vacuum.

The perception that a man adopting a "take no prisoners" attitude is strong, passionate and aggressive while a woman doing the same is controlling, mean and shrill is increasingly being seen for what it is -- skewed and, consciously or not, sexist.

Outrage over Clinton being seen as less "likable" than Trump, the #MeToo movement and a slow but steady increase of women in leadership positions has cleared space for women to access the same range of emotional traits as men. Controlled women are no longer "icy"; outrage is no longer "hysteria."


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