Where is the Line Between Inspiring Girls and Misleading Them?

By Laura Olin | Elle | April 29, 2019

What might change if we told girls—and ourselves—the truth about how sexist America is? I had the thought after watching Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who’s running for president, answer a young woman’s question during a recent televised town hall in New England.

“Some people have voiced you getting ‘Hillaried’ in the election,” college student Ellie Taylor said. “So what lessons have you learned from 2016 that will help you to kind of navigate these situations when you might be criticized for something that’s partially motivated by sexism?”

Sen. Warren gave a long, sunny answer that involved telling little girls on the campaign trail “I’m running for president, because that’s what girls do” and having them pinky-swear with her that they understood. She promised she’d hammer home her message about equal opportunity every day. She made a “Nevertheless, she persisted” reference.

It was all very uplifting. Who can resist the image of a sitting U.S. senator crouching down and doing pinky swears? But it was also a frustrating and ultimately inadequate answer in Trump’s America—the sexist and racist country in which Warren is, in fact, unmistakably “getting Hillaried.” When she’s not getting less media coverage and smaller donations than the half of the field that happens to consist of white men—at least two of whom have objectively far fewer credentials and ideas than she does—she’s regularly accused of being boringly wonkish and uninspiring. 

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