Pelosi, taking on a president, meets feminists’ desire for a superhero

Pelosi, taking on a president, meets feminists’ desire for a superhero


The meme was everywhere. It showed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looking like a winner, cigarette in one hand, cocktail in the other, rocking a gold-flecked chiffon gown and surrounded by shining gold statuettes.

Only the face was actually Pelosi’s, however. It had been Photoshopped onto the body of actress and writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge pictured at an Emmys after-party celebrating a very good night. But the feeling of female power the Pelosi meme projected as it was forwarded again and again — that was not about the Emmys, but about politics.

“There’s an intense hunger for a female superhero right now, and the showdown between the most powerful woman in the country and the most powerful man is potent symbolism,” said Jo Piazza, author of “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win,” the bestselling book (and soon to be Amazon original starring Julia Roberts) that Piazza says she wrote in the first place to fill a post-2016 “need for portrayals of powerful women who aren’t afraid of their power.”

Women who study women agree that this week marks a moment. But because the biggest takeaway of recent years is that American women are not of one opinion, there are any number of interpretations of what that moment is about.

Some envision Pelosi, D-Calif., all but wearing a cape and taking on a man who has shown more than a little disrespect to women in his personal life. She has been celebrated for this before — sarcastically slow-clapping Trump at his State of the Union speech, tapping her shades into place while exiting the White House after a showdown with him over the border wall, and chastising the president for having a “temper tantrum,” one of the many times she has treated him like a flailing toddler.

Others, though, just see a woman — a person — doing her job. Time was when this would have been a big deal, says Judith Warner, currently a journalism fellow at the Reflective Democracy Campaign and a longtime analyst of women’s issues, who wrote the first biography of Hillary Clinton, in 1993. In 2007, when Pelosi became the first woman speaker in history, “she was still an emblem of change,” Warner says. “But she’s now one of many, many more women in politics in general, in Congress more specifically, and ‘woman warrior on behalf of women against a powerful man’ is not the first framing that comes to mind.” READ MORE