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In Pelosi’s ripped speech, a victory for the little guy

I am woman, hear me tear

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California tore up her advanced copy of President Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday.Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post

Wasn’t Nancy Pelosi’s move on Tuesday night — dramatically tearing up President Trump’s State of the Union speech — childish? For sure.

Isn’t it depressing to see the speaker of the House and the president behaving like this? Of course.

Wasn’t her protest meaningless, considering that Trump went on to be acquitted by the Senate and is now free to go on his merry way? Yup!

And aren’t things bleak for the Democrats, what with the Iowa caucus fiasco, and a front-runner that many in the party fear? Again, yup.

And yet, to some people around Boston, Pelosi’s display — rip, rip, rip, rip — was delicious. An I am woman, hear me tear moment. Yes, decorum in the nation’s capital is R.I.P. But it’s not every day that a woman gets to show she’s had enough on national television.


Pelosi was every woman or man who’s ever been asked to do too much, pushed too far, or swallowed her comments for the sake of marital peace or job security.

“It was brilliant,” said Morra Aarons-Mele, owner of the marketing firm Women Online.

“I still think about the debate in 2016 when Trump circled Hillary Clinton like a shark about to attack, and she just pretended everything was hunky dory and kept doing her job, debating on the merits, like a good girl. It was like she was little Red Riding Hood and he was the wolf, and I think a lot of women can understand that feeling.”

“Nancy doesn’t stand for it,” she said. “I literally channel Speaker Pelosi when I want to stand up to men who don’t get it."

Deborah Leipziger a local author and adviser to companies on sustainability, saw in Pelosi’s dramatic tear a rebuttal to rampant misogyny. "So many times we as women have been silenced,” she said.


In her white suit, with her power posture, grooming and clapping, Pelosi is showing women how it should be done, said a local small-business owner. “We need to fight the meekness that’s been bred in us, and fostered by our culture forever,” she said.

“I support and celebrate the badass in every woman alive today."

“Women seldom destroy in public,” another woman said.

For many, the move was the little guy striking back. Harry and Meghan taking off for Canada.

“There are so many times you are in meetings with folks who are making the decisions — bad ones — and there’s nothing to do but bite your lip,” said an employee at a major local university: “Nancy’s rip seen around the world was the giant ‘I don’t think so!’ we rarely get to say or do.”

With all that’s been written about Pelosi’s tear, a question remains: Did she plan the move ahead? Or did she decide to do it after Trump’s snub, when he seemed to have refused to shake her hand?

Either way, the tear was executed with precision. Trump finished speaking, seemingly pleased with his performance, and, seated right behind him, Pelosi stood and began methodically ripping up his words, a few pages at a time. Four sets of tears. Each neatly and calmly placed on the desk she shared with a seemingly not-noticing Vice President Mike Pence.

The move signaled another stage in the high-profile taunting game playing out in Washington, which until now has meant name calling and attack-wardrobe choices. On the Democrats’ side these have included the use of pussy hats and the color white, and, on Melania Trump’s end, a pussy bow blouse, worn after the release of the Access Hollywood tape, and a jacket with the puzzling message, “I don’t really care, do u?” (worn while visiting a camp of imprisoned migrant children.)


Not only did Pelosi do it after the State of the Union address, she did it behind Trump’s back — but in full view of the TV and in-house audience! The mob knew Trump was being dissed, but he didn’t.

When asked in a post-performance interview why she did it, Pelosi said simply: "It was the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative.”

The alternative? She didn’t get specific, but consider it a gift to anyone who’s ever fantasized about keying a boss’s car, or worse.

Meanwhile, one big question remains: When did Trump learn of the dis? Did someone tell him as he made his way out of the chamber? Or were they too afraid, leaving him to discover it himself on TiVo?

Beth Teitell can be reached at Follow her @bethteitell.