Elizabeth Warren overcame the ‘Impossible Woman’ trap to run for president

May 24, 2021, 12:34 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Morgan Stanley’s next generation looks like its past, Simone Biles attempts a historic gymnastics move, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren had to overcome a ‘trap’ during her run for president. Have a great Monday.

Today’s guest essay comes to us from Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The following is excerpted from her new book, ‘Persist.’

– The ‘Impossible Woman.’ In 2020, the fact that half a dozen women ran for president was greeted with great fanfare. Yay! But the “Impossible Woman” trap lay just below the surface, and I wasn’t the only one caught in it. Just one example: Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and I all had better campaign win-loss records than any of the leading men. But the question was never whether a man could be elected. Despite our stronger records, it was always, “Can a woman win?”

Consider the question that regularly got tossed at us from voters and reporters: Are you treated differently as a presidential candidate because you’re a woman? The two possible answers expose the trap. First answer: “Yes, I’m treated differently.” A woman responding that way would immediately hear a swarming mass of people whisper, “Whiner,” or “Weakling,” or “Complainer.” Next would come the inevitable accusation that she’d just “played the gender card,” as well as the predictable comment that she was “just not tough enough.” Now try out the opposite answer: “No, of course not.” That will get a laugh, because at least half the population will wonder what planet she’s living on.

So far as I know, no one ever asked the men in the 2020 race if they felt they were treated differently because they were men. And if that sounds like whining, please reread the preceding paragraph.

When I began thinking seriously about running for president, I knew I didn’t have some magic power that would allow me to succeed where other women had failed. I also knew that, regardless of my gender, I would face plenty of other problems and challenges if I decided to run. But that didn’t mean I would give up. It just meant that I needed to be realistic—and I needed a plan.

By late 2018 I had made up my mind. I would run, and I would run the same way I’d run for the Senate in 2012: I would throw body and soul into it. I would set my sights high and work as hard and as smart as I possibly could. I would build a great team, support grassroots organizing, and be generous to other Democratic candidates. I would talk about the ideas and issues I deep-down cared about. I would lay out every plan that I truly believed could make a difference.

And I would do more. I would put my unflinching determination on display, sounding the call for a fight against some of the most powerful people and corporations in our nation. I would also put my full heart on display, telling stories that only a woman could tell. I would do pinkie promises with little girls and give hugs to their mothers and grandmothers. I would fill up every space with ideas and energy and optimism. I would hope that my being a woman wouldn’t matter so much.

And—please, please, please—I would show everyone that a woman could win.

Read the full excerpt here.

Excerpted from PERSIST by Elizabeth Warren. Published by Metropolitan Books. Copyright © 2021 by Elizabeth Warren. All rights reserved.

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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