Throughout her campaign, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has highlighted gender discrimination in the workplace by sharing a personal anecdote about how she was let go from a job in 1971 after becoming pregnant. On Tuesday, the conservative outlet the Washington Free Beacon accused Warren of lying about the story and published documents that allege that members of the board she worked for invited her to come back for a second year. Warren has been fighting back these claims, noting that structural gender inequality is often complex and under-the-radar, and other women have come forward to defend her and tell their own stories of navigating work environments while pregnant.
Warren has said she was teaching special-needs children for a year for the Riverdale Board of Education of New Jersey, but that she didn’t secure the job the following year because she was having her first daughter. She doubled-down on the story on Twitter on Tuesday, explaining that her boss had told her the job would go to someone else.
“When I was 22 and finishing my first year of teaching, I had an experience millions of women will recognize. By June I was visibly pregnant—and the principal told me the job I’d already been promised for the next year would go to someone else,” she wrote on Twitter. “This was 1971, years before Congress outlawed pregnancy discrimination—but we know it still happens in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. We can fight back by telling our stories. I tell mine on the campaign trail, and I hope to hear yours.”
Public figures like Amber Tamblyn, writers Lyz Lenz and Ej Dickson, as well as Dr. Jennifer Gunter—in addition to countless other women on Twitter—validated Warren’s experience and shared the ways in which pregnancy discrimination has affected their own lives. “I waited until I was 34 to have a baby, in large part because I was scared I wouldn’t get hired as an actress anymore, or worse, men who ran Hollywood would simply no longer find me desirable and worthy of hiring. This is very real for many women I know,” Tamblyn wrote in a tweet.
“I once applied for a job while VERY pregnant and was told that I might not be a good fit because I had “other priorities” and a gesture was made to my stomach and that was in 2013 so yeah, I believe Warren on this one,” Lenz shared.
“I was pushed out of my job in 2005 because of the cumulative impact of my complicated pregnancy,” Gunter wrote. “I found another job. No one fired me, but the environment became very challenging. This happens all the damn time now. So OF COURSE it happened in the 1970s. The end.”
“How many people don’t take all their maternity leave because of pressure?” she continued in another tweet. “How many come back and get snide comments about how expensive or difficult the leave was for ‘the team?’ How many hear that in meetings or every time they bring up an issue at work? Right. And of course not everyone has benefits to take. Women were routinely fired or pressured to leave, by their work or society, while pregnant. And in many ways they still are. Just stop with this bullshit. STOP TURNING THE LIVED EXPERIENCE OF WOMEN AGAINST THEM.”
And Dickson noted that, “This happened to me, in 2016, when I was four and a half months (and very openly) pregnant. If you don’t believe it could happen to a first-time teacher in 1971, 7 years before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, then I have a bridge to sell you. I shan’t be so petty as to identify the employer but let’s just say they can climb up a treehouse for that. Moreover I don’t really….care if there’s documentation that Elizabeth Warren was fired for being pregnant? First off I believe her, second stop clinging to the idea that we must preserve the integrity of campaign anecdotes, almost all of which are embellishments if not lies. So interesting that we only really care about poking holes in female political candidates’ life stories when they expose systemic gender discrimination issues that the status quo would rather ignore!”