Pelosi Gave a Master Class on How to Deal With a Misogynist Bully

When it comes to dealing with Donald Trump, Democrats might be better served by talking to people who work in middle schools than political strategists. That is exactly what Lizzie Witticomb did. The reason is because Trump is a bully and that kind of behavior tends to peak when children are 12 to 14 years old. Here is what she learned.

1. The first thing to remember is “don’t get in the mud” with the bully. Don’t resort to name-calling.

2. The most important thing to know is “it’s less about content and more about power…we can’t worry about the intellectual arguments here.”

3. “First and foremost, you have to shift the power dynamics.”

The professionals Witticomb talked to went on to suggest strategies for dealing with bullies, like using humor or calling out the behavior and then walking away. They also talked about teaching their students about power dynamics, instructing them to “make sure that your feet are planted firmly on the ground … taking up space, making eye contact. Staying calm and unflappable.”

Based on what we heard about the White House meeting Wednesday between congressional leaders and the Trump administration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a master class in how to deal with a bully. According to her statement, this is what she said that set things off.

My concern that I expressed to the President is that Russia has for a long time always wanted to have a foothold in the Middle East and now he has enabled that to happen and have concerns about all roads leading to Putin whether it’s a foothold in the Middle East or whether it’s placing a doubt in military assistance to the Ukraine which is to benefit of Putin. It is placing a doubt our commitment to NATO Article 5, which again all roads lead to Putin, the list goes on and on. That seems to have angered the President.

In other words, the speaker told Trump that, when it comes to his actions, “all roads lead to Putin.” The president proceeded to go on something of a “diatribe,” calling Pelosi a “second-rate politician” (there are reports that he might have actually said “second-grade politician”). Senate Minority Leader Schumer said that the speaker “kept her cool” throughout the whole thing and that Democratic leaders eventually walked out of the meeting due to Trump’s offensive attacks on Pelosi.

Having zero awareness of what happened, Trump then tweeted out this picture.

In doing so, the president unleashed a meme that swarmed all over social media. Here is just one example.

Pelosi responded with this.

But here is my favorite.

What that photo represents is a woman owning her power and literally standing up to the biggest bully on the planet. I can’t speak for how men react to that image, but, as a woman, it means everything.

Just this week, Michele Norris wrote an important piece about women’s struggle with power.

My mother has a strong work ethic, but she also has a fierce “worth ethic.” Self-regard in the face of oppression is her superpower.

That word—power—takes on different dimensions viewed through a gendered lens. Power is most often associated with strength, which in turn is linked to physical prowess or financial might. The default assumption is that all of society benefits when men are raised to become powerful—their families, their communities, their places of work and worship. When women talk about exerting power or flexing their collective might by coming together, the assumptions are very different. It’s too often seen as a zero-sum game, in which women gain power at the expense of men and at the peril of larger society…

Women who want to change the world, or to go as far as their talents or interests take them, sometimes have to resist or reject that little voice in their head that stokes our insecurities and suggests how we should or shouldn’t behave. It’s like a flashing “merge carefully” sign…

People invested in the status quo will always be looking for people who can be made to feel inferior. It’s the wobbly floor they stand on. But in this moment, where there’s so much promise and so much at stake, let’s make sure that it’s no longer easy to find women and girls who can be made to feel inferior. Let’s make sure they know their power and their place—as equals.

I am reminded of the fact that, back in the spring of 2016, Franklin Foer wrote that Donald Trump holds only one core belief: misogyny.

In his view, treating women like meat is a necessary precondition for winning, and winning is all that matters in his world. By winning, Trump means asserting superiority. And since life is a zero-sum game, superiority can only be achieved at someone else’s expense.

What happened at the White House Wednesday is symbolic of the epic struggle between a misogynist bully and a woman who stood up as his equal, demonstrating what it takes to shift the power dynamics. We can all tell our daughters and granddaughters, “Be Nancy.”

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.