In Celebration Of The Strident Woman

Strident women move mountains. Strident, like most words that mean abrasive, is rarely applied against men. The strident woman has an opinion. It does not matter what the strident woman’s voice actually sounds like — it might be fast, deliberate, high-pitched, bellowing, or marked by vocal fry — the problem with the strident woman’s voice is that she uses it.

Strident is one of many insults deployed against a woman who seems to have forgotten her role.

Lest you think you can win this, if you’re not strident, you’re usually thrown somewhere on a continuum between ditsy and basic bitch. And still the strident woman roams through the air, her shrill little voice scratching ears like nails on a chalkboard.

Strident is a sexist term. It, like other terms that more or less mean shrill, is applied disproportionately against women in the workplace or positions of authority. There is all kinds of data to back this up, but I’m not going to dive into that now because I want to thank all of these strident women who have achieved amazing things:

Hillary Rodham Clinton • Sojourner Truth • Alice Paul • Gloria Steinem • Angela Davis • Dolores Huerta • Carol Moseley Braun • Emma Sulkowicz • Betty Friedan • Wilma Mankiller • Heather Booth • Sylvia Rivera • Linda Sarsour • Mary Wollstonecraft • Emma Goldman • Donna Edwards • Ellie Smeal • Simone de Beauvoir • Alva Belmont • Marlene Dietrich • bell hooks • Coretta Scott King • Elizabeth Warren • Yoko Ono • Ruth Bader Ginsburg • Sonia Sotomayor • Eleanor Roosevelt • Beyonce • The Leader With The Pigtails On The Playground • The High School Girl Wearing A Feminist Shirt • The Smart Woman At Work Who Isn’t Getting Promoted Even Though It Has Been Her Turn For Awhile

You? Could you be a strident woman reading this post? I want to tell you that you’re doing nothing wrong. I want to tell you to keep it up. When someone doesn’t have the guts or the data to attack your ideas directly, what they will often go for is your personality. Strident is a sexist term meant to silence you by suggesting that the very act of listening to you is intolerable.

I want you to keep pushing because the business of feminism is so deeply unfinished.

This post is dedicated to my lovely colleagues at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia*, who yesterday in a post on Blue Virginia were accused of “strident” opposition to a candidate who, as I have written about at length, has a disappointing record on abortion at the same time that we have a candidate with a wonderful record. Sounds like garden-variety advocacy to me, but I guess we’re girls (can we be women? can we be fully human? all the time? under the law? am I getting greedy?) and therein lies the rub.

Look, women are allowed to advocate for women. Indeed, nothing will get better for women unless and until we speak up. We must speak up. In that spirit, I invite you to comment on this post with some of your favorite strident women, and then go forth and be strident. Thank you.

*Note: I sit on the NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation Board of Directors, which plays no role in NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s electoral efforts, and I do not speak for the organization. This is me speaking for me, stridently.

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I Waited Until The Polls Closed To Say This: It’s Insulting To Have Only Men Running On Women’s Issues

I waited until the polls closed to say this:

It’s insulting to have only men running on women’s issues.

I live in Virginia. I am a feminist. I am a Democrat. And, I am disgusted.

This is me and my daughter doing a September literature drop in Arlington for the Democratic slate. At the time, she was 15 weeks old:

canvassing

We walked for hours through the heat distributing copies of a newsletter featuring the photographs of nine men the Democratic party urged Arlingtonians to vote for. No women.

You don’t need me to tell you women’s issues are front and center in the Virginia election. Nearly every ad on television has been about abortion, and/or has featured women surrogates speaking for candidates on both sides. I have been receiving invitations to attend events with “the candidate’s wives.” As I type, the races have not been called and all local and national pollsters are talking about women voters. Because, duh, that is a major part of what this election is about.

The more I walked with my daughter, the madder I got. What kind of feminist mom am I?

Every day I work for policies that will support her future. It is important to me to include her in some of my work. I want her to understand how politics work. We have not just campaigned together, we have gone lobbying on Capitol Hill together. I want her to see public service as accessible. There is a woman suffrage poster in her nursery. I have been encouraging her to run for Governor of Virginia when she grows up.

By no means do I want to send a message to her that women’s issues are important, and they are best handled by men.

By public appearances at least, the feminist infrastructure in my state supports all the Democratic men without making public comments about how wrong it is that women weren’t included — not just as wives, not just as issues, not just as voters — but on the ticket.

It is unacceptable to run on women’s issues without women on the ticket. Men can and should run in support of women’s rights, but men also need to make room for women to share leadership with them. I am new to Virginia, having moved here in March. Perhaps some will say I am naive. I made a decision to not say anything about this until the polls had closed. I considered whether to say anything at all.

It’s true that I am a newcomer and don’t know the intricacies of the Arlington Democratic politics. It’s also true that I vehemently agree that this year’s Republican ticket was dangerous for women, and I was committed to electing Democrats.

But clearly, whatever excuses I’m about to get, the continuous presence of unchecked “women are important! let’s have men lead the way!” messages and deeds is pandering and it’s wrong.

I will not remain silent through a future election cycle. It should have been a woman running against Ken Cuccinelli. At a minimum, there should have been women running down the ticket.

If Democrats want to run campaigns on women’s issues, and I agree that they should, they must immediately begin to make room for women on the ticket. Women must run. And the party must support us in our capacity as not just constituents, but leaders.