“I take those pinky promises seriously” –Senator Elizabeth Warren
Right after Senator Elizabeth Warren suspended her presidential campaign, I started, in a swell of fury and sadness, writing about it. I meant it to be a tribute, in a way. Then I got, oh, just a little sidelined by a whole global pandemic thing. Now it’s the end of September, the end of the primaries were like, fourteen Trump-years ago, and who actually cares anymore. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just passed away. I’m devastated, heartbroken, and fucking angry that we can’t celebrate her life and legacy how she deserves thanks to the craven sociopathy of Mitch McConnell. I made fits and starts in writing something about Ginsburg; others have said it better than I ever could. So I’m sharing what I wrote for Warren instead. I think we can all agree, those two women are cut from the same cloth, so hopefully this is appropriate.
On February 7, 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren sought to read a Coretta Scott King speech into the congressional record during former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions’ attorney general confirmation hearings. You know the story. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to cut her off, she pressed onward, and later McConnell said of the matter, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” At the time I had two immediate thoughts. Firstly, “Did Mitch just hand her her presidential campaign slogan on a silver platter?” (Yes, actually) and secondly, “That’s so funny, I think Mitch McConnell just summed up my childhood in eleven words.”
They say representation matters. Her campaign was the first time I have ever in my life felt represented by anyone running for president. Before you protest, but Hillary Clinton, yes. I’m aware. Hillary Clinton. She broke a major glass ceiling. I voted for her and would have gladly seen her become our first female president. But like I said to a friend during the 2016 election, “As a woman and as a feminist, Hillary Clinton doesn’t speak for me.”
Hillary Clinton achieved the position and power she did by playing mostly by white male patriarchy’s rules. And while I would have been grateful to see any (okay, almost any) woman achieve the top office, finally, I would never have expected for her to represent me. Because she doesn’t. She’s a foot soldier for the patriarchy, and had she attained the highest office, no way would she have turned around and bitten the hand that fed her.
Hillary Clinton is a woman, but she did not run as one. She was advised almost solely by men who sought to remake her in their image. And she allowed it. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, ran for president as a woman, and with zero fucks given. She is literally the first woman I have ever witnessed get that close to the presidency while refusing to play the game on men’s terms. Her entire campaign was based on true feminism, one where women actually mattered and were seen and heard. She hired women and she listened to women. She refused to change her voice to make men more comfortable. She wore her $13 Target cardigans she trims herself, because they made her feel comfortable.
At one of her many rallies, Warren was asked by a young woman if there was someone she admired who didn’t approve of her. Warren teared up and responded, “Yeah, my mother…” I’m glad I was home alone when I saw this, because the torrent of emotion came fast. And strong.
I am young GenX. I am of the generation of women who were raised and taught by Baby Boomer women who all carried no small amount of internalized misogyny, internalized misogyny they wore on their sleeves and never even bothered to hide. Our mothers and teachers laughed when our male classmates pulled our hair in first grade. They shrugged when our male classmates snapped our bras in seventh grade. When our high school and college boyfriends mistreated or even abused us, they told us we deserved it. When our bosses passed us over for promotions in favor of mediocre male associates, they told us that’s just how it is, get over it. We were taught, often quite explicitly, that men mattered more. That our needs, our desires, our ambitions, our dignity, our bodily autonomy was always at best an afterthought once the men were centered and made perfectly comfortable. We were told to slobber over men for doing the bare minimum, to smile gratefully when he stole our idea, to readily offer effusive praise when he picked up his socks that one time. Elizabeth Warren was not one of those women. And like they say, representation matters.
A few years after we married, during a holiday visit, my mother-in-law once told me “how lucky I was” because her adult son was… wait for it… washing dishes. In a moment of either too much or too little restraint, I can’t decide which, I snapped, “He’s a grown-ass man who lives here too, so yeah, of course he does the dishes!”
Senator Warren is one of the first prominent female politicians I’ve ever encountered who I think would have snapped at her mother-in-law the same way I snapped at mine.
People keep calling Warren a “once in a lifetime” presidential candidate, but I don’t think she is. I don’t think she would want to be. Though she is a formidable policy wonk and an excellent politician, she is at heart a teacher. I’m willing to bet she is and will continue to impart her wealth of knowledge and expertise and tips to younger women, training them to do what she does, only better. If Congresswoman Katie Porter, a former student and mentee of Warren’s, is any indication of what’s still to come, we might just be okay. Not today, but someday.
For now, we fight for Ginsburg. We use every tool at our disposal to fight for her dying wish: that our next President nominate her replacement on the Court. Warren is leading that fight, we just need to listen and not succumb to hopelessness.
Salted Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Fleur de sel, or another flaky, coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tbs unsalted butter
- 6 tbs heavy cream
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt
- 1 stick (8 tbs) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or melting discs, melted and cooled
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a standard, 12-cup muffin/cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
- In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Add the sugar to a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into chunks, then melt it on the stove or in the microwave (I prefer the stove; I can see what it’s doing at all times that way). Add the melted butter to the sugar and immediately whisk vigorously and constantly until the butter is cool and the mixture looks like the filling of a lemon meringue pie. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking thoroughly between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well to incorporate. Now add the flour mixture all at once, and whisk gently until just combined.
- Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan. I use an ice cream scoop to ensure evenness. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, and they are springy when gently tapped.
- Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. If you let them cool in the pan, the residual heat will overcook them and they will be dry.
- When they are completely cool, frost them however you see fit, then drizzle with caramel sauce. Flake with a coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel.
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, and 2 tbs water. Make sure the sugar is completely wet; if it’s not, you can add more water, 1 tsp at a time. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. When the sugar turns a dark honey shade, remove from the heat, and add the cream and salt immediately. It will release a lot of steam, so be careful. Whisk to combine, then pour the caramel into a heatproof measuring cup or other bowl and let cool before using. The last thing you want is to take the trouble to make that frosting only to have warm caramel melt it all over your countertop. You will have a nice amount leftover, which you can store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to a month.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy. Add the melted chocolate, and mix again until incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder (I just go ahead and sift them together). With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar mixture, beating continuously until fully combined. You can add a little more sifted confectioners’ sugar if your frosting isn’t stiff enough. Use immediately.