Something happened last night. One of those small, but seismic cultural shifts that happens when no one really expects it.
The Democrats were in the middle of their second consecutive night of #HoldTheFloor marathons, this time opposing Jeff Sessions, and Elizabeth Warren stood to speak. During her speech, she began reciting Coretta Scott King’s letter testifying against Jeff Sessions 30 years ago during a federal judgeship confirmation hearing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called her out of order and silenced her from the Senate floor. An unusually harsh response, for sure, but then again, these are not normal times.
When asked about it later, this was his response:
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
And, like that, Twitter was on fire.
But, why? What was it about this statement that prompted women around the world to adopt this as their new rallying cry?
I certainly can’t speak for all women, but when I read it, I felt it in my gut. It was visceral.
This is what women do day in and day out.
They persist when wrangling with a grumpy toddler who is far past his or her nap time. They persist when being their best is not good enough because they have to be better than the men in the room. They persist when fighting for services for their special needs child and no one in the bureaucratic system makes it easy for them. They persist in lobbying for maternity leave benefits other first world countries give without a second thought. They persist in order to break glass ceilings like Sandra Day O’Connor, Madeline Albright and Hillary Clinton.
It is what we do. Not because we want to, but because we have to. It’s been the only way to break down barriers and achieve the rights many of us enjoy today, but they have never come easy. We all know what it felt like to be Elizabeth Warren in that moment when she was interrupted (don’t get me started on that!) and reprimanded by a male colleague. While some of her Democratic male colleagues took up her fight and read Coretta Scott King’s poem in solidarity, don’t think we didn’t notice they were allowed to finish.
This was a moment that will stay with us for a while. Just as Michelle Obama’s New Hampshire speech did during the election. This is also why the Women’s March in Washington and sister marches prompted more than 5 million people to take to the streets. We are not going to politely let these slide anymore. We are done being silent.
Now, where can I find a “Nevertheless, She Persisted” t-shirt . . .