Is Elizabeth Warren the Feminist Candidate?
Her policies are full of contradictions, including defining women out of existence
Elizabeth Warren came out swinging for women during Wednesday’s Democratic Debate in Nevada.
In a series of viral moments, Warren called out Bloomberg’s history of sexism. “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” she said, “A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horsey-faced lesbians.’ And no I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”
She also demanded that Bloomberg release women who have accused his company of sexual harassment from non-disclosure agreements. Bloomberg deflected, claiming that many women are in prominent roles in his companies. “I hope you heard what his defense was,” Warren replied, “‘I’ve been nice to some women.’ That just doesn’t cut it.”
Warren has long been a feminist favorite. In 2017, when Mitch McConnell attempted to silence Warren on the Senate floor during a speech criticizing Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, his choice of words, “Nevertheless, she persisted” became a new battle-cry for the women’s movement of resistance against Trump and his sexist cronies.
Progressive women who have struggled with the sexism perceived from some in the Sanders campaign, especially during 2016 in his fight against Hillary Clinton, have looked to Warren to provide a feminist, progressive alternative.
Warren’s Plans Which Support Women
Warren has many policies that would help women. Her comprehensive list of plans contains pages and pages of detail. She has plans that are directly aimed at helping women, like ending maternal mortality, and plans that would disproportionately benefit women while helping everyone, like universal health care.
Her plan to tackle maternal mortality, which is three to four times higher among black women than white women, includes holding health care systems accountable for their outcomes.
She plans to track health outcomes for both mothers and babies, and health systems would be paid not just based on the expenses accrued, but on the success of their results. Maternity care services would be bundled together rather than examined separately, forcing care providers to look at the big picture every step of the way.
Warren’s plan to protect a woman’s right to abortion includes passing federal statutes which would overturn state bans and limitations. She’ll end TRAP laws that have reduced abortion access to only 10% of counties in the US, overturn the gag laws which have prevented overseas family-planning funding, and end the Hyde Amendment.
She also picked up a plan put forth by Kamala Harris to require certain states and counties with a history of denying women’s rights to gain federal pre-approval on any new law that would impact reproductive health.
Before dropping out, Senator Kristin Gillibrand was leading the field on pay equity, including paid family leave. Warren has taken over that mantel, as well, and put forth multiple policies that would increase women’s access to the workforce.
Warren’s paid family leave policy would be available to all workers who meet work history requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance, unlike other workplace protections which are only available to companies with 50 or more employees.
Workers would receive 66% of their salary (capped at $4,000 per month, with a minimum payment of $580 per month) to care for a new child or family member with a serious illness.
Warren would make childcare available for free to any family that makes less than twice the federal poverty level ($25,750 is the poverty level for a family of four, so the plan would apply to a family of four that makes less than $51,500). For families above the cutoff, the maximum childcare costs would be capped at seven percent of the family’s total income.
The plan would be paid for by Warren’s two percent wealth tax on “ultra-billionaires.” Her team estimates that 12 million new children would be able to enroll in childcare if the plan was enacted, relieving a major burden on mothers who are most often the ones stuck choosing between their career or their children — a decision which impacts lifelong earning and is a major factor in the pay gap.
Speaking of the pay gap, Warren has a plan for that, too. Her plan to close the pay gap is specifically focused on women of color who face the greatest discrepancies, but would benefit all women.
President Warren would use the power of the federal government to impose stricter requirements related to pay, diversity, and equity on any company receiving federal contracting money. Disclosure requirements would be tightened, and forced-arbitration and non-compete clauses would be banned at federal contractors.
Federal contractors would also have to pay a minimum wage of $15/hour plus benefits, and would be banned from asking applicants about salary history or unfairly discriminate against those with criminal records.
Warren’s Plans Which Would Harm Women
Despite all these amazing plans for women, one glaring problem remains in Warren’s feminist credentials: she doesn’t seem to know what a woman even is.
Warren’s policy on LGBT+ rights makes clear that she intends to put males who identify as women above actual women. Although the policy claims to be for LGBT people, it mentions the word “trans” 48 times, and “non-binary” four times. The word “lesbian” is only mentioned once.
The plan only uses the word “women” to discuss males who are trans-identified. This is despite the fact that lesbian and bisexual women face challenges that are unique and specific to their population, and trans-identified individuals make up the smallest portion of the LGBT community.
Warren’s plan promises to take money away from the office of Violence Against Women and channel that money towards biological males. She justified this by claiming that 19 trans women were killed in 2019. Meanwhile, nearly two thousand women are killed by men in the United States annually. Taking resources away from solving violence against women to male-on-male violence is a gross disservice to women.
While Warren has promised to “go to the Rose Garden every year to read the names of transgender people of color who have been killed,” she has shown no such interest in tackling violence against women. Perhaps because the list would simply be too long to read.
In addition to taking money away from domestic violence victims, Warren would also further traumatize vulnerable women by forcing them to be incarcerated with males. Her plan states, “I will direct the Bureau of Prisons to end the Trump Administration’s dangerous policy of imprisoning transgender people in facilities based on their sex assigned at birth.”
As we previously reported, housing male criminals with women, who are often victims of male violence themselves, is both dangerous and unjust.
This isn’t just hypothetical. Richard Masbrach, who was convicted of raping and torturing women, is currently being incarcerated in a California women’s facility. While there, female inmates reported that he raped and assaulted them with foreign objects.
Warren has shown sympathy to male predators, like when she tweeted support for Charlotte (formerly Charles) Clymer in July. Clymer is a sexist who is known for cruelly lashing out at women who disagree with him.
Elizabeth Warren, along with every 2020 Democratic candidate, has supported the Equality Act. While in many ways the Equality Act is a great step forward for women and LGBT communities, the Act would also enshrine into law the collection of sexist stereotypes that is “gender identity.”
The bill would pave the way for women’s spaces, sports, and protections to be unraveled so that male-bodied people may enter them. This is already happening in women’s sports, and in many non-profits which were set up to serve women’s needs. While no one should be subject to housing or job discrimination or violence based on how they identify, Warren’s support of the bill without amendments protecting female-only spaces is akin to demolishing them.
In January, Warren promised that a young trans child would vet and approve her future Secretary of Education. Apart from the absurdity that any child, regardless of identity, should be making federal appointment decisions, supporting a trans agenda in schools harms more children than it helps, especially young girls.
The research is debated, but it appears that anywhere between 65 to 94 percent of trans-identifying children eventually desist (stop identifying as trans). Many turn out to be gay. The stories of these desisters are largely ignored or intentionally silenced in the mainstream gender debate.
Schools are already dealing with the consequences of catering to male identities over the safety of women and girls. This week, an elementary school in Madison, Wisconsin was sued by parents concerned about the health and safety of their children. The school has a policy of lying to parents about their child’s gender identity, and allows adult male staff to use the bathroom with female students.
Warren has also promised to criminalize “misgendering,” or the use of sex-based pronouns, and to make it easier for people to switch their sex on legal documents (obscuring important sex-disaggregated data).
The Feminist Dilemma
United States feminists and our allies are faced with a tough call this primary. In so many ways, Elizabeth Warren’s plans would help real women. Paid leave, abortion rights, and childcare are all on the line. We also can not understate the symbolic value of finally having a female President.
This all comes at a cost, though — the loss of women as a meaningful class under which people, oppressed for being female, may organize.
It may feel easy to brush off the loss of women’s sports, for example, in exchange for universal childcare and family leave. Sports are important for children’s development, sure, but are they make or break?
Other issues, however, are widely ignored because they impact the most vulnerable women in our society. Warren’s plans would eliminate female-only shelters — meaning domestic violence victims and homeless women would be forced to live and “heal” with men. She would force female prisoners, who are largely non-violent and suffering from trauma, into unsafe situations with male sexual predators and abusers.
These are the women most left behind in Warren’s plans. These are the women whom we are failing if we vote Warren for President.
To some, the sacrifice of a few vulnerable women for the many may be worth it. For others, though, we may just be forced to sit out this one until a truly feminist candidate emerges to defend women’s rights.
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