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Republican Wonder Women Ride the Wave to Washington

Suzanne Fields

By Suzanne Fields

Published Nov. 7, 2014

 Republican Wonder Women Ride the Wave to Washington

Wonder Woman is home from the war on women, a "war" fought mostly in the fantasies of embattled Democrats, and she sounds like a Republican who looks a lot like Joni Ernst of Iowa. Or Elise Stefanik of New York, who at 30 will be the youngest woman to serve in Congress, or Mia Love of Utah, 38, daughter of Haitian immigrants, the first black Republican woman in Congress. These are women with neither lamentations nor unresolved grievances. The only whine anyone heard on the morning after the elections was the growl of Mrs. Ernst's Harley.

Despite the tedious rhetoric of the feminists, or maybe because of it, women, like the Republican wipe-out crashing through Washington like a wave, focus not on victimhood but on kicking butt (as a lady might say) and taking charge. There's an audience-in-waiting for them, looking for a woman who knows how to fight and win, active in her own self-defense. They're not crying harassment at every slur and imagined arrow. Wonder Woman does not look for a fainting couch. Liking men is not a capital crime.

Joni Ernst laughed — you could hear the wink in her voice — when she took "offense" that Tom Harkin, the Democrat she will replace in the Senate, compared her to Taylor Swift, the hot young pop singer. She knew he sounded like a chauvinist, and she knew voters would know, too.

Joni Ernst is the first woman senator from her state, a good-looking grandmother of 44 who is a National Guard lieutenant colonel who carries a pistol in her pocketbook. She's the lady who said in a television commercial that she grew up on a farm, castrating hogs, and when she gets to Washington she'll know how to cut pork. On election night she promised to "make them squeal" when she crosses the Potomac.

The Wonder Woman metaphor stretches beyond parochial politics. The gorgeous, dark-haired comic book heroine with stars on her bodice and in her eyes is an icon freshened up for modern women. Gal Gadot, the actress who will play her in the forthcoming movies, is in real life a beauty queen who was a soldier in the Israel Defense Force. Her fighting spirit, like the determination of the new fighting woman in Congress, was nurtured in authentic experience.

The Wonder Woman of the comic books as metaphor for 2014 is complicated because her portrayals have been mixed depending on the culture and the artist drawing her. But she's a tough cookie with a strong moral sense. She wielded a golden lasso that, once wrapped around a villain, forces him to tell the truth. Wonder Woman arrived in the comic books during World War II to fight the Nazis. She was patriotic and pretty without purring or preening. Like Rosie the Riveter, she was comfortable in who she was and what she was called on to do. Like a woman with a golden lasso newly elected to Congress, you might say. She was decorative in male eyes, perhaps, but she wore her bracelets as armor, a fighter as "beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, as strong as Hercules and as swift as Hermes."

These new Republican Athenas are a challenge to the likes of Lena Dunham, the creator of the popular television series "Girls," who flaunts her bitter experience of having been raped in college, of not knowing how to fight back because she was drunk, high on Xanax and cocaine, and giving off "mixed signals." No mixed signals from the women of the wave. They're clear with the message.

Feminists have made harassment the dominant issue of their age. In one widely circulated video, a woman walks through New York City for 10 hours, attracting more than a hundred call-outs from men, call-outs decried by women as typical of a ubiquitous culture of harassment. The video star, Shoshana Roberts, dressed simply in a black crewneck T-shirt and jeans, passes mainly black and Hispanic men, calling out to her with such "offensive" remarks as "Good morning," "What's up, beautiful?" and "What ya doin' today?" But for one creep, who stayed with her for five minutes, there was nothing menacing in the flirtatious banter. But the video was presented as evidence of Everywoman's daily descent into the hell of harassment.

Where is Wonder Woman's golden lasso now that we need it? Gone to Capitol Hill, perhaps. Harassment is a legitimate and important concern, but wallowing in it is not the most effective way of dealing with it, as Joni Ernest, Mia Love or Elise Stefanik could tell anyone listening.

With a nice bow to irony when Mrs. Ernst finished her remarks to her troops late on election night, the band struck up an enthusiastic rendition of "Shake it Off," Taylor Swift's popular hymn to female empowerment. Wonder Woman enters, stage right.

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