talk ring nancy mace.jpg

Nancy Mace on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, a day after winning the special election for State House District 99. Wade Spees/Staff

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Why Nancy Mace pushed back after women wore white

Nancy Mace, R-Daniel Island, is no stranger to breaking gender barriers.

In 1999, she became the first woman to graduate from The Citadel’s Corps of Cadets. In 2018, she became the first woman to represent House District 99 in the South Carolina Legislature.

But as the Republican state lawmaker watched the wave of women wearing white during the State of the Union Address last week, she could only think one thing: This is setting women back.

She did not wait to share that message. She grabbed her iPhone, picked a photo featuring U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez surrounded by other Democratic women in Congress wearing white, and she typed out a 241-word post. She shared it on Instagram and Facebook the next morning.

"As women we make a fundamental mistake when we make our identity as women the WHOLE story. The point of breaking glass ceilings is so that, after they’re broken, it doesn’t matter anymore," she typed on the screen.

The words kept flowing until she drafted four short sentences that encapsulated her frustration.

"We don't need to dress alike. We don't need to think alike. We don't need to act alike. We simply need to be present and be working for ALL of the people who elected us," she wrote.

Then, the post went viral.

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View this post on Instagram

I’m a mom, a businesswoman and a state legislator serving South Carolina. At a young age, I was determined to forge my own path through life. And nearly 20 years ago I became the first female graduate of The Citadel after following in my father’s footsteps. I also have experience starting my own business and in 2017 ran for - and won - a seat in the state legislature, on my own terms. As women we make a fundamental mistake when we make our identity as women the WHOLE story. The point of breaking glass ceilings is so that, after they’re broken, it doesn’t matter anymore. The American experiment is built on the premise that if you set a goal, show up on time and work hard, then success is within reach. We can ALL achieve the American dream regardless of our gender. The identity politics being overplayed by liberal women in Washington, on display during the president’s State of the Union last night, further sets women back rather than advancing our futures. Acting like we just earned the right to vote and are held back strictly because of our gender is an enormous disservice to women everywhere. We don’t need to dress alike. We don’t need to think alike. We don’t need to act alike. We simply need to be present and be working for ALL of the people who elected us. #sotu #politics #women #stateoftheunion #southcarolina #scpol #AOC

A post shared by Nancy Mace (@nancyrmace) on Feb 6, 2019 at 8:14am PST

Mace told me Sunday night after doing a Facebook Live video about the social media moment that her post has been viewed 1.9 million times from her public Facebook page. Between her personal and public accounts, she calculated it had been shared more than 40,000 times.

"The voices of women like me are not heard. I think that's why it struck such a chord," she said. "I mean women that feel the same way that I do, that have that same sort of streak: We aren't going to go along to get along. We're not going to dress like others. No one is going to tell us what to do. No one is going to tell me what to do. I am my own woman."

The reason why dozens of female congress members wore white outfits during the State of the Union was to give a nod to the suffragette movement, which pushed for women getting the right to vote.

But some also wore a pin calling for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. It's a call that state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, is pushing for here in South Carolina.

The 1972 proposed amendment she’s trying to resuscitate technically died in 1982. The amendment forbids denying equal rights on the basis of sex.

When asked if she planned to support Cobb-Hunter's bill, Mace said she was focused on other legislation but planned to familiarize herself with her colleague's bill.

On Monday morning, following the publication of this article, Mace said she does not plan to cosponsor Cobb-Hunter's ERA legislation.

"I believe women already have equal rights as protected under the 14th Amendment," she said, citing that she also had additional concerns about the bill that would require more vetting.

Moving forward, Mace said she hopes her recent social media post will give all people the courage to speak out about issues they care about.

"People are afraid. They are losing neighbors and friends and family for having a political position and I keep asking myself when did it not become OK to agree to disagree? In this climate that we have right now, I think it's important to say let's change the game. This isn't working, so how can we make it work," she said.

The devolution of Trey Gowdy

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Former South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy calls it a crushing realization: He’d come to Washington and nothing had changed. Then, he wished he’d never come in the first place.

Reporter Jennifer Berry Hawes offers a fascinating profile of the man who went to Congress to improve the justice system and instead became both lightning and rod.

Read the in-depth profile of U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy and how he's reflecting on his life after Congress.

In other news:

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“I hate that we have to talk about race, but, with what’s happened, you must speak out.”

State Rep. John King, a Rock Hill Democrat and former chairman of the S.C. Legislative Black Caucus. Read more about why African-American lawmakers say they are ready 'to call people out' after being left out of key decisions.

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Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.