This is what a real maverick looks like. Photo credit C-SPAN
There’s a quotation that is (probably erroneously) attributed to Ginger Rogers about how she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels. This quotation is often used to talk about how women must work twice as hard and overcome greater hurdles to accomplish the same things as a man. There’s also an element of unseen, unpraised labor in the quote; Ginger Rogers is doing all of this extra work, but few remark on how much more difficult it is, or how much she is overcoming. It’s just totally normal for her to have to put in that much effort.
I was thinking of that quote after the first procedural healthcare vote, when I started to see Facebook posts about Senator Mazie Hirono. Senator Hirono is a totally awesome person that I shamefully knew too little about before now. She is the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, and is the first female Senator from Hawaii. She is also the first US Senator to be born in Japan, and the first Buddhist Senator. But more relevant to the whole “Ginger Rogers” thing and my feelings after the healthcare vote, Senator Hirono was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer in May and undergone two surgeries regarding it—one to remove a kidney, and one to remove a lesion on her rib. And unlike that other Senator who was recently diagnosed with cancer, underwent surgery, and returned to the Senate for a vote, Hirono didn’t get a standing ovation, or floor time for a big speech. Oh, and she also didn’t fucking vote to deprive other people of the same healthcare that was saving her life. Along with all of the other Democratic Senators, Hirono voted against the advance of the Trumpcare bill.
Unlike other, incredibly hypocritical Senators that we could name, Hirono seems very aware of her privilege (though it should be a right) regarding her excellent healthcare, and is dedicated to ensuring that all US citizens have the same opportunities she does. Addressing the Senate in June, Hirono said:
“I was able to sit down with my doctors and decide how I would fight my cancer, not how I would pay for treatment. No one should have to worry about whether they can afford the healthcare that one day might save their life. Healthcare is personal, and it is a right, not a privilege reserved only for those who can afford it.”
If we’re looking for a profile in courage, for an elected official who is admirable in the face of adversity and still fighting hard for their constituents, we should be looking at Senator Hirono. She’s doing everything Senator McCain is doing, but backwards and in heels. And she has the actual conviction to ensure that everyone has access to the same healthcare that she does.
Edited to add: McCain flip-flopped again, and apparently decided to do the right thing. Of course, he got credit, applause, and media platitudes for his last minute change of heart, while Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who consistently voted to do the right thing even in the face of presidential intimidation, got little to no recognition. Thank you for saving our healthcare, Senators Collins and Murkowski. Keep dancing backwards in those heels.
Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not misquoting Ginger Rogers, she studies gender in popular culture.
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