The Accidental Beauty of “Nevertheless, She Persisted.”
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Thanks, Mitch McConnell, for a feminist rallying cry that might well carry down through the decades. In case you missed it: In American politics yesterday, Elizabeth Warren was giving a speech in the Senate opposing Jeff Sessions, the nominee for attorney general, on the grounds that he has a well-documented history of racism. She was reading a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, MLK Jr’s widow, about King’s opposition to Sessions, when Warren got shut down by Mitch McConnell on a obscure procedural technicality for “impugning the motives of her colleague.”
The details of this are relevant for other things, but what I want to highlight here is the accidental beauty of McConnell’s statement.
“She was warned.” — Ooooh haven’t we all? Haven’t we all been warned about what would happen to us good girls if we got out of line? If we wore THAT outside. If we upset men/our parents/the authorities/other women. We’ve been warned our whole lives. Warned to shut us down. Warned to keep us in our place. Warned by faux-authorities who position themselves as knowing better when really all they were after is their own superiority.
“She was given an explanation.” — I had to laugh. He wants so badly for mansplaning to still work. It didn’t. It won’t. Not anymore. You can’t just explain to the little ladies why they should shut up anymore. Somehow Warren has got it in her pretty little head that what she has to say is worth hearing.
“Nevertheless, she persisted.” — THERE IT IS. That right there is gold. Epitaph-worthy. The highest accidental compliment, from a man who has no idea how much women are used to being warned and explained at. Warren is having none of it. She will persist.
McConnell used the passive voice to describe the man (himself) warning Warren, and the active voice for her. He tried to make it ominous by taking the warner and explainer off-stage, making himself godlike, and instead made her the center of the story.
She is the agent here. The actor. The one with agency. The one doing stuff, while McConnell flaps his mouth about procedure off to the side.
We’ve been warned. We’ve been given an explanation. Nevertheless, we persist.
The future is female.