I’m talking about the way a powerful American woman showed other women around the world how to age with relevance, grace and ferocity. And how to take zero crap while doing it.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was really the one who stole the show, historically speaking. For the first time in our nation’s halting march toward equality, an elected woman called the shots with remarkable authority.
At 79, a mother of five and grandmother of nine, the first female House speaker took charge and never took the bait.
Not since Carry Nation and her hatchet or Lorena Bobbitt and her knife have men in Washington been more threatened by a woman. Even Hillary Clinton at her height — in the White House, in the Senate, at the State Department or at the head of the Democratic presidential ticket — hasn’t had the impact that Pelosi has had.
Trump made fun of the speaker’s teeth; enemies circulated a doctored video that made her appear drunk. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) said of Pelosi that “it must suck to be that dumb” as Trump flashed a Biff Tannen grin at the insult.
When Pelosi stood up to make her point as the only woman at a table full of men discussing Syria, Trump called her “unhinged.”
She hasn’t let any of it slow her down or back her down. She purses her lips and mercy claps at them, refusing to engage in the profane, ugly language that swirls around her.
When younger folks in her party started sniping at each other and at her this summer — namely the four liberal freshman women known as “the Squad” — she shut them down.
“You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just okay,” Pelosi told Democrats.
When a reporter from a conservative outlet asked her two weeks ago whether she hates Trump, she stopped, pointed her finger at him and said, “Don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
Still, they’re after her. It’s the men who become unhinged at her power.
The morning after the president was impeached, the New York Post minimized that huge fact on its front page. Instead the cover displayed a photo of Pelosi in her somber Impeachment Day black suit, calling her a “Swamp mistress” and declaring “It’s your funeral.”
Apparently it enraged some folks that she urged others to follow her lead and wear black that day.
And let’s talk about the cover she probably should’ve made — Time magazine.
Pelosi was on the shortlist to make Person of the Year. Much love to Greta Thunberg, but isn’t it about time to give Pelosi the title? The last time a single American woman had that honor was in 1936, four years before Pelosi was born. And if the title is all about disruption, few people have done more to upend the stale notions of women in the American workplace and in politics than Pelosi, who flicks away criticism and taunting like a Jedi walking through a hail of stormtrooper blasts.
When Trump attacked her on the eve of his impeachment with a scathing letter, she waved it away and called it “ridiculous” and “really sick.”
Her stamina, right?
Those of us in the haze of exhausted motherhood watch her in awe, a near-octogenarian in sharp suits and narrow heels every darn day. She puts those sunglasses on like a boss in her paprika coat, right after sparring with some of the only men ranked higher than her.
At a time when women over 50 are taking their ages and graduation dates off their résumés, when a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that gray hair and wrinkles lend men the appearance of authority and competence in the workplace while women who show physical signs of aging are written off as irrelevant, Pelosi’s refusal to slow down is breathtaking.
She is three months from being 80 years old. Fewer than a dozen American presidents have even managed to live longer than her — let alone lead an impeachment at her age. And now she’s threatening to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate until she can get a guarantee of a fair trial.
Chutzpah, brass, audacity, boldness. Pelosi has displayed it all.
Underestimate her — and the American women watching her every move — at your peril.
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