Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Pelosi 'doesn't do fear' and embodies toxic masculinity's worst nightmares about female power
U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: She's not afraid of you! Image by Gage Skidmore on Flickr
“Power is not anything that anybody gives away. You have to fight for it.” - U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
I don't know how she did it. I don't know how she faced the nation and addressed the horrific January 6th attack on the Capitol with such a cool mien, but U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, targeted by the right-wing mob a day earlier violently assaulting the halls of power in our democracy, faced the nation and addressed what happened. Then she got right back to work, business as usual, one day later to certify what everyone who wasn't a MAGA knew was a done deal: That Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 federal election.
How specific the information she had on January 7th concerning intent and threats made against her is unclear, but I marveled to watch this 81-year-old woman comport herself like a boss.
Nancy Pelosi elbow bumps a slightly hesitant Mike Pence after the Jan. 7 certification
A day before, the Speaker hid underneath a conference table with her terrorized staff while rioters tried to break into the room. They made it through the first door. They gave up with the second.
She wasn't factually certain of their intention, but no one questioned their lives were in danger and she knew at least some of the mob had murder on their minds as they howled her name.
Months later, in an article in USA Today, Pelosi recounted what happened but acknowledged little personal fear.
"Well, I'm pretty tough. I'm a street fighter," she said. "They would have had a battle on their hands."
She lifted a four-inch stiletto heel for the reporter and added, "I would have had these," to use as weapons.
If you've ever watched the movie Single White Female, you know that's no idle fashion-feminist threat.
She was, she explained, more afraid for her staff than herself since the second-in-line for presidential succession has plenty of security. She said she will 'never forgive' the rioters and their supporters who caused such trauma.
As for herself? Nancy Pelosi doesn't 'do fear', according to her biographer Molly Ball in Pelosi. Pelosi pretty certainly feels fear, but she'll never admit it.
I can't imagine what a punch in the nose it must have been to her haters and would-be murderers to watch her address the press a day later and show no fear. If their intention was to shut that #@$%& up, mission unaccomplished.
No one trapped on Capitol Hill, not even the woman who rivals Margaret Thatcher for sheer will and ramrod-stiff spine, can escape the trauma of January 6th.
However it affects her, Pelosi hasn't let it show publicly.
Never let 'em see you sweat
When women one-quarter her age fold up like frightened kittens when a man on the street pays them a compliment, Nancy Pelosi faced down the most virulent, violent display of MAGA toxic masculinity in anyone's memory. There's no question she wondered what would happen not only to herself but to her much younger staff members had the howling mob broken through.
Pelosi's lifelong iron will and near-fearlessness stem from intimate connection with power since forever, beginning with her father, Democratic Congressman Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. The only woman in history to be Speaker of the House, not once but twice, learned about power while working on his campaign and being present at John F. Kennedy's inauguration.
Her mother, also active in politics, taught her daughter the value of social networking as she organized Democratic women. But her mother also indirectly taught her daughter the value of independence and the need to control one's own future, which Pelosi's mother didn't have.
Former President Barack Obama said of Pelosi, “She was as tough, or tougher, than anybody in the world.” She's everything take-no-prisoners hypermasculine he-men value--in other men. It's no wonder GOP pit bulls relentlessly attack her, blaming her for the insurrection plot and deceptively editing the viral video of the Speaker ripping up Trump's last State of the Union speech.
This is the real one. The fake one has been largely taken down, but it went viral.
GOP critics call Pelosi 'nasty', 'bitch', and accuse her of 'tantrums'.
She doesn't exactly have it easy with clueless men in her own party, either. They didn't understand why she ran for house leadership. She told interviewer Dana Bash, "When people said a lot of the women are supporting Nancy to run, they said, ‘Why, do the women have a list of things they want us to do? Why don’t they just make a list and give us the list?’ This is the Democratic Party in the year 2000!”
Just tell us what you want, girls! We'll handle it for you.
It seemed audacious to her colleagues when she stated the next time around she was the most qualified candidate for the House Speakership in 2018.
Only men do that.
On why moms make good politicians
“Women--you know how to get it done, know your power.”
When most women her age are living in retirement wiling away their days until they pass on, this big-brown-eyed grandmother proves even Silent Generation women, uniformly raised to be Good Girls who served their husbands and children, had the capacity to seek and seize power and be unafraid to use it for the greater good.
Women are still afraid of their own power, afraid to assert themselves, afraid of what others will think and even worse, what they might get called. The plaintive whine, When men are assertive they're called effective, when women do it we're called bitches! doesn't fly with Nancy Pelosi.
She doesn't care what your hoary old grandpa said about her over Thanksgiving dinner. She was the youngest child in a family of six and all her siblings were brothers. She says it helped her a lot because she was 'unimpressed'.
In the Bash interview, she notes how women are no longer raising their families first and entering politics later. They're doing it, exactly as men have always done it, at the same time. Funny how no one thought to question whether a father shouldn't do as mothers were expected to do and put their political aspirations on hold until the children were grown.
Pelosi detailed exactly what qualifies mothers to be effective politicians: Mothers are diplomats, into interpersonal relationships, chefs, chauffeurs, problem-solvers, time managers.
She says she has tremendous respect for the mothers who are raising families and walking the halls of Congress at the same time. In 1987, when she was first sworn in, there were 24 women there. Today, after the 2018 Blue Wave, there are 102.
That's a 400% increase since the Last Years of Reagan.
What we can learn about women and power from Nancy Pelosi
She's one those rare women who understands her power and fully embraces it. However privately she may fear other things--like the very real danger she's in as the most assertive badass woman in power who dominated Donald Trump's term--Pelosi clearly doesn't fear her own power.
"I pwn you, motha----!" CC0 2.0 image by the Washington DC Office of Public Affairs on Wikimedia Commons
Here are some of Nancy Pelosi's Greatest Power Hits:
She gave Donald Trump The Clap in a viral video as she thwarted his attempts to fulfill his wall obsession. She wouldn't stand for his crap. Trump shut down the government and she made it clear he wasn't going to blackmail the Democrats, or the country, to get what he wanted. He held his breath until he turned blue. He caved only after Mitch McConnell warned Republicans were losing the public relations war, which any real politician of any political stripe knew was the only conceivable outcome.
DON'T TALK THE TALK, DO THE WORK
'The Squad's' young idealistic Congressional newbies learned the hard way that Pelosi isn't impressed with their passions or their feelings. They tried to hold up border wall funding because they didn't think it went far enough and Pelosi shut them down hard. She believes if you're passionate enough about something you'll do the work of getting support because nothing gets done without it. You're just four opinions, she essentially told them. You have no support in our party. Go get it, or public support.
That's what she calls being 'operational'. It means working with what you have in a given situation given the challenges and obstacles. She doesn't give a damn about your beliefs, your ideology or your dissatisfaction with why things are the way they are. What can you do to change it, right now, in the real world?
SHE DOESN'T GIVE A CRAP WHAT YOU THINK OF HER
Pelosi has stated she knows she's effective because she's a target. She doesn't care what the right thinks of her only insofar as it gets in the way of the job she needs to do. She's claimed she doesn't care about her image, but she had to pay attention when it began to obstruct her work within her own party. Not all the criticism and sniping comes from Republicans. The highly diverse Democratic left lends itself easily to its famously internal disputes, which serve the publicly united Republican Party.
Our takeaway? We need to take ourselves seriously, but not sweat the Neanderthals who can't handle aggressive, assertive, take-charge and male dominance-challenging women.
People take you a lot less seriously, Pelosi learned, especially if you're a woman, until you have authority. And no one gives you that, either. Like power, you have to take it.
Like a man does.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO PROMOTE YOURSELF
If there's one thing women are far less effective at than men it's self-promotion, especially for a better job. Men aren't afraid to state they think they're the best person for the job, and unlike many women, neither is Nancy Pelosi.
She was right to be bold about a second run at the House leadership.
How differently might the 2016 election have gone had Hillary Clinton boldly stated she was far more qualified than Donald Trump who clearly demonstrated during the debates he didn't have even a rudimentary grasp of critical issues facing the United States and the world?
Pelosi told Dana Bash she wants women to see they shouldn't let themselves get pushed around or run away from a fight.
It's especially important when men consider an idea great after a man parrots the woman who said it a moment ago. They do it, Pelosi points out, not to be dismissive but because they missed it when she said it. They weren't listening.
We need to challenge men who aren't listening to women or they're never gonna learn!
Be pushy. Be aggressive. Be a 'bitch'. Who cares what they say as long as you're getting shit done.
Listen to your colleagues. Men don't listen enough and that's what they can take away from this.
And don't let them smell your fear.
That, if nothing else, is my biggest takeaway.