Women Are The Stars Of The Impeachment Hearings

Photo: Liu Jie/Getty Images.
As the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump escalates, four women — Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, Laura Cooper, and Pamela Karlan — have emerged as star witnesses.
After Hill, who served as Trump's top Russia expert on the National Security Council, testified about election interference in November with harsh words for Republican lawmakers, Twitter lit up with hundreds of calls for "Fiona Hill for President." (The fact that she's British-born notwithstanding.)
And after Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor, made an impassioned case for impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee this week, praise came in from both left and right. "The women — [Ambassador] Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, and now, Prof. Pamela Karlan — who have testified in front of these impeachment hearings are amazing and no-nonsense," Republican strategist Ana Navarro-Cárdenas wrote on Twitter. "They make me feel like standing up in my living room and shouting, 'Yes, girl. Yes!'"
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In their own ways, the four women owned the hearings, tapping into their individual fields of expertise to give the public a deeper perspective on the scope and magnitude of Trump and his cronies' dealings.
Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who is widely respected at the State Department, testified that she had been ousted from her ambassadorship after becoming the target of a smear campaign by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and received a standing ovation for it. (All as Trump relentlessly attacked her on Twitter during her testimony.)
Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, offered a revelatory look into Trump's pressure campaign on Ukraine, which is at the heart of the inquiry.
Karlan excoriated Trump (later apologizing for making a joke about his son Barron after some all-too-expected outrage from Republicans). "The list of impeachable offenses the framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence of an impeachable offense is a president's decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends," she said.
Each of these key witnesses, in her own way, not only helped put a personal face on the many scandals surrounding Trump & co., but showed the world what fearless authority coming from a woman looks like. Hill, in particular, earned praise for naming one of the big elephants in the room: the way women's anger, no matter how deserved, is so often stigmatized or dismissed. "I was actually, to be honest, angry with him," Hill said about confronting Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the EU, about how he circumvented agency processes when conducting diplomacy with Ukraine on behalf of Trump. "And I hate to say it, but often when women show anger it's not fully appreciated — it's often pushed onto emotional issues, perhaps, or deflected onto other people."
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These witnesses aren't just being praised for their brave testimonies, they're being praised for potentially bringing down Trump as women, which is significant given his long history of bullying, demeaning, and (allegedly!) sexually abusing women. "She was brave, but also deliciously brash in a way that women must be if they are to survive Trumpism," Molly Jong-Fast wrote about Hill at the Daily Beast.
This brings up the question of whether the public trusts women to assume executive power and overtake, not just survive, Trumpism — say, in the 2020 election. Hill et al., with all of their candidness and power, are still functionally in supportive positions in the context of the impeachment hearings. But once women start seeking power, according to a 2010 study from Harvard University, voters begin to doubt them. "Because power and power-seeking are central to the way masculinity is socially constructed and communality is central to the construction of femininity, intentionally seeking power is broadly seen as anti-communal and inconsistent with the societal rules for women’s behavior," the study found.
With Sen. Kamala Harris dropping out of the race this week and continuous questions of women's "electability" and "likability" swirling about, it continues to be clear that much of the electorate is more comfortable with fantasy-drafting women like Hill to run for office on Twitter than with backing a woman for executive office in all seriousness. It's all "yaaass run for president, queen" until a woman actually does. What happens if we stop playing pretend-woman-president and start actually making it happen?
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