Column

Even Democrats Can’t Resist Gendered Attacks Against Elizabeth Warren

The latest debate gave a taste of what is in store for the new female front-runner

Jessica Valenti
GEN
Published in
3 min readOct 16, 2019

--

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) appears on television screens in the Media Center during the Democratic Presidential Debate.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) appears on television screens in the Media Center during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Otterbein University on October 15, 2019 in Westerville, Ohio. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

TThere were two key takeaways from Tuesday night’s three-hour debate: This is Elizabeth Warren’s game to lose, and abortion isn’t a forgotten issue among the presidential hopefuls after all.

Warren, who has become a front-runner in recent polls, took so many hits from other candidates that it was hard for her to get off the defensive. (Still, she had some of the best lines of the night. “I don’t just want to push Donald Trump off Twitter,” she said at one point in the debate. “I want to push him out of the White House.”)

We also got a glimpse of what some of the attacks on Warren will be, and they seemed very familiar. Former Vice President Joe Biden tried to take credit for Warren’s work establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, claiming he “got” her the votes. In that moment, every woman who has ever sat through a meeting as a man tried to pass off her work as his own was cringing in recognition. “I made this happen for you” is just about the most typically sexist response around.

It’s not enough for everyone to agree on the right to abortion — we need to know how they’re going to protect that right, as well.

At another point, Beto O’Rourke called Warren “punitive” when discussing her wealth tax. I know it’s difficult to watch your words on a national debate stage, but it was a little too close to calling her a “scold.” I didn’t care for it one bit.

We know, from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the history of gendered hits against female candidates on national and local levels, what the go-tos will be for sexists (and how effective those smears can be). It will be calling women “hectoring” or “abrasive”; characterizing Warren’s desire for billionaires to pay their fair share as somehow punishing just feeds into that dangerous narrative.

Anyone who winced during the Warren jabs can at least take comfort knowing that, for the first time since Democratic presidential hopefuls took the…

--

--

Jessica Valenti
GEN
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.