Opinion

Don’t Call Mazie Hirono a Badass. Call Her a Leader.

Hawaii Democrat is much more than a meme

Sen. Mazie Hirono dropped some choice remarks on her Judiciary Committee colleagues, and the internet went wild. Americans have been without female leadership for so long that it knocks them over when they see it, Murphy writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Sen. Mazie Hirono is a badass, in case you haven’t been following the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. 

Also, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is notorious, like a rapper. And when Rep. Maxine Waters reclaimed her time last year, she suddenly became everybody’s favorite feisty aunt who isn’t putting up with your fresh talk anymore.

Like those two women before her, Hirono lit the internet on fire last week when she said men in America need to “shut up and step up” on sexual assault allegations like the ones Kavanaugh now faces from multiple accusers. The petite senator from Hawaii went viral in a hot minute and was hailed by Esquire as “a legitimate badass of the Senate,” and other headlines even less fit to print. She was meme’d, loved, and completely lionized for having the Hawaiian coconuts to speak her mind as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee tasked with vetting Kavanaugh's nomination as it twisted and turned toward its messy possible conclusion this week.

You can’t blame the internet for loving Hirono, Ginsburg and Waters. They’re tough. They’re professional. They’re calling out your b.s. and, in the process, they’re speaking for the millions of women in America who have been talked over, walked over, dismissed or ignored by a man at some point (or many points) in their lives.

Hirono on Kavanaugh Accusation: Men Need to ‘Shut Up and Step Up’

If only every woman could reclaim her time from that know-it-all Steve at the 9 o’clock staff meeting, as Waters did at a Financial Services Committee hearing last year when Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin simply would not shut his money hole.

And how many of us would love to tell our male colleagues (some of you, not all, of course) that the decisions you’re making ignore reality for half the office? That’s what Ginsberg did in her landmark dissent in the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed bosses at private companies to withhold access to insurance coverage for their female employees’ contraception if the whole idea was against their personal beliefs.

And hasn’t every woman in America, and I mean every woman, wanted to say, as Hinoro did last week, “That is such bulls––t, I can hardly stand it,” when ABC News asked about Republicans’ contentions that they just couldn’t contact Kavanaugh’s accuser? You could almost hear a chorus of “Sing it, sister” across the country as Hirono punctuated her profanity with a tilt of her head and a polite smile.

But these three women aren’t superheroes, although I am sure they appreciate the compliment. They are simply leaders who are women. And this is what it looks like, America.

Where’s the reckoning?

If Congress were more than 20 percent female, it might not look like a scene from a movie when one or two or three of them stand up and insist on being heard as the ranking member of their committees, which is what Waters was doing, or reject a proposal from her committee’s chairman, the point of Hirono’s clapback as a member of the Senate Judiciary panel.

And if the Supreme Court weren’t 66 percent male, it wouldn’t fall on one woman’s shoulders to stand up for an entire gender, which is reportedly  what Ginsberg felt she had to do in her work after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired from the Court in 2005 and left Ginsburg as the sole female justice at the time. And who could blame her?

We’ve heard again and again about “a reckoning” that’s coming as a part of the #MeToo movement, but because we’re in Washington, news travels fast and progress slow. That means that while the rest of the country has spent decades equalizing the number of women in education and workplaces, Congress and the White House have yet to catch on.

Congress has failed to pass its own sexual harassment legislation in the very same year that multiple members resigned amid harassment scandals, including one who offered female staffers $5 million to father his child.

Gross. Just gross. It’s the same Congress that has not yet reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, which expires at the end of the month, and the same Congress stumbling through a SCOTUS nomination for a man who will make decisions affecting the lives of millions of women, but stands accused of assaulting one or more himself.

No superhero

Sadly, it feels like neither Kavanaugh nor Dr. Christine Blasey Ford can get a fair hearing at this point, despite the incredibly high stakes for the country and for both of them personally and professionally. 

While Mitch McConnell has dismissed Ford’s version of events as “a smear,” and too many Democrats have convicted Kavanaugh before hearing from Ford herself, we may never know what happened that night. But we know what it looks like to give a woman and a man the respect they deserve and the right to have their voices heard.

Is this Congress capable of that? I am sad to say I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it is, but I haven’t given up hope. I’m a sucker for a comeback story.

The rest of the country doesn’t seem to be in as good a mood. The truth is that the reckoning is coming for Congress, but it’s coming on Election Day.

It’s going to come from a chorus of women who do not see themselves represented by their government and are not having their voices heard by their leaders.

It’s going to be loud and unambiguous, and in the end, there will be more women in Congress, hopefully in both parties.

Because it doesn’t take a superhero to lead in Washington. It apparently just takes a woman. And there will be more to give it a try soon enough.

Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.

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