You look at the picture and just can’t turn away. Doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican; if you’re a woman, it’s simply amazing.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is staring down President Trump in the White House, their first meeting since she launched impeachment proceedings against him. The most powerful woman in the United States dressing down the most powerful man in the United States. Pelosi pointing a finger at Trump, who is seated across from her at a shiny conference table surrounded by men, the president flashing a fraternity boy smirk.
Can we have some more of that?
For women who have marveled at how men still horde power for each other even a century after women got the right to vote, that image Trump tweeted, along with other extraordinary visuals this week involving women and power in this country, were a sight to behold. Downright awesome.
“She seemed to be the only woman at the table,” said Dana Brown, a Pittsburgh political scientist whom I called Thursday because she is executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics there. “I was excited about it. I was inspired by it.”
And it wasn't all.
On Tuesday, four women (I wish I could put that in boldface and tack on a few fireworks emojis) stood on a single presidential debate stage alongside eight men seeking the Democratic nomination, each pushing for the chance to run against Trump next year.
In three hours on live TV, we saw Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren sparring with former Vice President Joe Biden; California Sen. Kamala Harris trying to lure Warren, a front-runner, into rhetorical traps; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar touting her Midwestern get-it-done credentials and legislative accomplishments; and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii also working to be heard.
But the Pelosi picture on Wednesday?
It was the most delicious of them all.
Let’s call it Trump’s Twitter post version of a WWE World Wrestling promo shot (Trump is a fan): a snapshot by a White House photographer of the president facing off with the battle-hardened politico who is second in line to the presidency — and who happens to be a woman.
Trump sought to portray this veteran of Washington politics as — hang on, are you ready for this? — emotional.
“Nervous Nancy,” he called her.
I know. Super boring. Especially from a man so manic that he could give that unforgettable ’80s soap opera character Alexis Carrington Colby a run for drama queen crown.
But that tactic and junk-food verbiage has worked well in this country for years as women have increasingly sought economic self-sufficiency and a place at the table. It’s the add-water insult aimed at dispensing of women whose smarts and ambition are perceived as threatening.
Look no further, though, than our own backyards here in Pennsylvania for proof that these Mad Men norms, which have been amped up by Trump’s misogynistic rhetoric, are under assault. A war for equal sway is underway under Trump’s watch, being led by some of the very same women who, primarily on the political left, may have watched this week’s displays with equal wonder.
Across Pennsylvania and principally its Philadelphia suburbs, women have forced their way into state legislative and U.S. House and Senate seats in large numbers since Trump’s 2016 ascendance to the White House. The backlash is continuing this November, with untold women vying for slots on local school boards, town councils, and countywide seats, too.
Pelosi’s House had not a single woman in it from Pennsylvania when Trump won three years ago. Today, the state has four women in Washington. One of them, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon of Swarthmore, proudly tweeted Trump’s photo of Pelosi.
If only the week had been full of all good news.
Instead, the Forum of Executive Women delivered a sobering reminder of just how rigged the system remains against smart women in 2019. That group, based in the Philadelphia region, made public a report that found that women here remain grossly underpaid and underrepresented at the highest reaches of corporate life.
Twelve of the region’s largest public companies still have not even one woman on their boards.
The state Capitol, too, despite the wins of many women in state House and Senate contests 11 months ago, remains largely a relic of another era.
“If you go to Harrisburg today,” said Brown, of the Center For Women and Politics, “there are still some rooms you can go into that do not have women participating in subcommittee meetings.”
Forum president Lisa Detwiler called for more change and faster, even as her group’s annual survey had tracked gradual change in the corporate and political realms.
“It is taking far too long to achieve economic, political, and social equality," wrote Detwiler, managing director of FS Investments.
In sum: Too many boys, and not enough Nancys in the room.