Anushay Hossain is a writer and political commentator based in Washington. For more, visit AnushaysPoint.com. The views expressed are her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
(CNN)If you missed the explosive, on-camera exchange between President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office on Tuesday, all you needed to glean the gist was to skim the memes and Twitter parody accounts that set social media on fire.
While Pence received his fair share of accolades for staying mute
like a “Weekend at Bernie’s” stand-in (or as many put it
, an Elf on the Shelf), there was no doubt in this room there was only one true adult. And ladies and gentlemen, Nancy Pelosi did not come to mess around
In fact, Pelosi in the Oval Office was every woman who has ever sat through a professional business meeting in which her male colleagues repeatedly interrupt, dismiss, and try to completely invalidate what she brings to the table.
As the conversation about a potential government shutdown over funding for a border wall heated up, Schumer and Trump began to go back and forth, leaving Pelosi once again as the only woman in the room struggling to be heard and listened to.
Despite the tangible tension in the room, Pelosi emerged as the victor and as a powerful symbol of how a woman with power in politics can wield it without losing her professionalism or composure, two things that are challenging for anyone dealing with the Trump administration.
“We rarely get to see a woman in that level of leadership confronted in that way,” Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, told
The New York Times. “I think this was an example that really speaks to women’s capacity to lead, and to do it civilly, to do it with grace and to be strong and clear.”
To be graceful and forceful is one thing, but to be graceful and forceful as a woman negotiating with Donald Trump is quite another.
Not only does the current President not tolerate having his authority challenged, but he also especially does not respond to it well
when that challenge comes from a woman, which frankly, in Trump’s world is a rarity.
Perhaps that explains why Pelosi was able to stop Trump so triumphantly in his tracks.
In fact, when the President tried to suggest
that Pelosi was “in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now,” obviously alluding to the votes Pelosi needs to become House speaker, she was not having any of it. Instead of ignoring the President’s blatant attempt to insult her with a personal dig, Pelosi tackled Trump head on.
“Mr. President — Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory,” she said.
Is there anything anybody can say aside from, “Wow?”
This exchange is not only a lesson in public political debate but a lesson for all women in politics and boardrooms across the world: Don’t let men or your peers take away your power, or the experience and knowledge you bring to the table.
In short, Pelosi just gave us all a fast lesson in being a successful woman in politics.
And the best part of all this is Pelosi effectively demonstrated just how to do this by doing it herself. She knows that not only are Americans watching, but women are also watching her.
“You know why I do it? I do it because I want women to see that you do not get pushed around,” Pelosi told CNN
. “You don’t run away from the fight.”
“I put on a suit of armor, eat nails for breakfast,” Pelosi also said
in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash in October as part of the Badass Women of Washington series. “I know how to take a punch.”
Even after Pelosi left the White House in flames on Tuesday after her blazing triumph over Trump, walking out in her stellar red coat and fashionable sunglasses to boot, Pelosi continued
her absolute destruction of Trump in an after-meeting huddle with her caucus, during which she said she was trying to be the mom in the meeting, compared Trump to a skunk, and even linked Trump’s obsession with the border wall to his own manhood.
At a time when people may be debating how women in politics hold on to their power, (see the UK’s Theresa May and her Brexit mess) America’s Nancy Pelosi just showed the world why you should never try to talk over or mansplain a woman.