When we see a woman leader doing the right thing and putting her leadership and livelihood at risk—as Rep. Liz Cheney did—we, as feminists, must recognize it.
Early on Wednesday morning, in a basement auditorium on Capitol Hill, House Republicans booed and yelled and ultimately voted to strip Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) of her leadership position. They claimed they wanted a united voice going into the midterm elections next year but the truth is glaringly obvious: Cheney was ousted because she refused to lie about the results of the 2020 presidential election, and she refused to comply with Donald Trump’s disregard for our democracy. As she has said herself:
“We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen. And America has not failed … Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.”
Instead of engaging her, and the faction of her party she represents, House Republicans have opted to swap her out for another woman. Not only does the vote solidify the purge of anyone who speaks the truth about the result of the presidential election; it reinforces that the national Republican Party is destabilizing our democracy while they pay lip service to women’s lives and experiences.
Let’s be clear, Rep. Liz Cheney did not lose. Republican House members lost. We see how they are gaslighting the American public with claims of unity. We see how little they think of women’s leadership when they replace one female with another, regardless of her policy stances or vote record—as if we are interchangeable. Moreover, it’s likely that the white suburban women, college-educated women, and moderate Republican women whose votes they lost in the last election see how Republican House members are pulling one over them in order to retain the support of a misogynist authoritarian, and, I believe, they will not stand for it.
As a member of the feminist community in America, I want to commend Rep. Cheney for doing what we expect women in leadership to do: speak truthfully, focus on policies that uplift the community, be courageous, and pledge their loyalty to democracy and not their party. Decades of research has shown—and the American people believe—that women govern differently than men. They are more collaborative, more bipartisan and more focused on the most vulnerable among us.
No, I don’t agree with all Cheney’s policy priorities, and I understand many of her conservative values are at odds with feminism, but I do believe it is always the right time to do the right thing. When we see a woman leader doing the right thing and putting her leadership and livelihood at risk, we, as feminists, must recognize it because there is something much, much larger at play. The Republican Party doesn’t just want to get rid of her because she has a sane and correct response to the 2020 presidential election results; rather, they want to silence her so she cannot embolden other Republican women to speak their truth. They are afraid that more women voters will believe their own eyes and ears about the role women are relegated to in the party.
We all don’t have to agree on everything to stand with someone on one thing, but we want to recognize that Rep. Cheney is right on this one. Other Republican women leaders cannot continue to choose patriarchy and white supremacy over themselves, and we encourage more moderate Republican women to step up and fight for what’s right. There is too much at stake, especially our democracy that—although imperfect—has been a key vehicle for women’s progress in America.