Thank you, Mitch McConnell, for summing up what many women have experienced all of their lives. You had the audacity to wag your finger at Senator Elizabeth Warren and basically tell her to shut up. She could not read a speech by Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor. And you expressed your dismay over her disobedience with the words that will come back to haunt you, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Yes, Senator McConnell, all the women I know have persisted. My mother spent most of her life thinking she wasn’t smart or capable of making decisions. Her father denied her a college education because back then, he told her it was a waste of money for a girl. Her husband told her she misremembered almost everything she tried to tell others. But in the last three years of her life, living on her own for the first time ever, she persisted. And she realized that she was indeed intelligent and that her opinions mattered.
My friends and I persisted. We were told to become teachers and social workers and nurses, and many of us pursued these noble professions. And we did a darn good job. Very few of us believed there were other opportunities when we went to college. Most of us left our work to stay home with our children. But at some point, we ignored men like you telling us what we could and couldn’t do or say. We were swept up in the women’s rights movement, and our voices were finally heard. Many of us found new career trajectories or returned to our former jobs with renewed energy and a belief in the power of persistence.
Our daughters persisted. They chose careers that had been thought of as off limits to women of past generations. They became doctors, lawyers, professors, athletes, businesswomen, and even United States Senators. When a man dared to wag a finger at them or stand in their way, they ignored him and worked harder. If they chose to have children, their partners were expected to pitch in and make similar sacrifices to try to maintain a good home life for their families. When President Obama told them, “Yes you can,” they believed it applied to them.
I have no doubt our granddaughters will persist. I have one who is fairly certain she can be President. Despite Hillary’s defeat in the Electoral College, these young girls are certain next time a woman runs, she will win both the popular vote and the Electoral College (if it still exists). Glass ceilings make no sense to them. And Senator McConnell, these girls are coming. You will not be able to shut them down.
The Women’s March on January 21 was so inspiring. In Chicago, 250,000 women of all ages (and a good number of men) highlighted a variety of causes. March is National Women’s History Month and now we have a perfect banner under which we can unite. Nevertheless, she persisted.