Staff Columnist

Can a woman win?

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren answers a question from an audience member during a town hall at
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren answers a question from an audience member during a town hall at West Delaware High School in Manchester on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

The night of Nov. 8, 2016, I was at an election party, wearing a suit, drinking and watching the results come in. When the Western states started to be called, I asked my friend to drive me home so I didn’t cry in front of strangers. At home, I went straight upstairs, ignoring my husband. We were a house divided and it had been tense for weeks. So, I laid in the guest bed, crying on the phone with my sister who is an assault survivor. When I woke up in the morning, hungover from crying and whiskey, I fed my kids breakfast and hid in the kitchen eating sour cream from the container with a spoon.

My husband walked in and looked at me. “You’ll have to get over it,” he said.

“I will never get over it,” I told him and continued to eat sour cream.

We are supposed to ask, can a woman win? The answer is irrelevant, it’s the fear and doubt that it sows in us that’s the point.

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On Aug. 4, 2019, I bought my own home as a single woman. And as I packed to move, I found the suit I wore in 2016. I had borrowed it from a friend, wearing it throughout the day in what feels like ridiculous hope. I should have given it back. But I just can’t bring myself to. It’s hard to let it go. That hope, so ridiculous and embarrassing, I still want it.

It’s hard for anyone to let it go. That’s why we are here again: Debating whether a woman can win.

I hear it at every campaign event I go to. Whispered by women, who all have their own sour cream and suit and sister stories. One woman at a Warren event tells me she can’t decide if it will be worse to see a woman lose the nomination or lose in the general election. My own mother says it to me over Christmas.

The question “can a woman win?” was the subject of a viral story on CNN last week, where anonymous sources told reporters that Bernie Sanders said something like that to Elizabeth Warren. He wouldn’t be the first one. Or the last. At the debate in Des Moines, Warren adeptly answered the question with the obvious, that of course a woman can win because they already have. In 2018, women swept into congress at an unprecedented rate. Warren herself beat a Republican incumbent.

Despite all of that, we are still here. Holding onto our suits and our fears afraid to let go.

We are supposed to be afraid. That’s what the assassination in Iran is about. That’s what the ICE raids are about. That’s the point of the president harassing a 16-year-old teen who just wants the world not to burn up before she dies. That’s the point when someone credibly accused of assault is appointed to the Supreme Court. Fear is the point. You are supposed to be afraid of online harassment. Afraid of reprisal and afraid of loss. You are supposed to learn to be quiet. Blame yourself. Moderate your tone.

And I am afraid.

In 2016, I received my first death threat from a Bernie Sanders supporter when I wrote about the caucuses. And later, when I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, I had people emailing me to tell me they hoped my children would die. 2019 was my first year for a bomb threat.

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I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t afraid of what 2020 will bring. I’m supposed to be afraid. I’m supposed to question whether or not I should do this. We are supposed to ask, can a woman win? The answer is irrelevant, it’s the fear and doubt that it sows in us that’s the point.

And so, I refuse to give in. I won’t give them what they want. I’ve seen too many women silenced, not to know when to shout. And, fine, maybe we will lose. We will deal with that when we get there. But we certainly won’t ever win if we are too afraid to vote for the most qualified candidate, which in this case, also just happens to be the woman.

lyz.lenz@thegazette.com; 319-368-8513

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