Donald Trump attacked senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Twitter this morning, calling her a “flunky” who once begged him for campaign donations, and “would do anything for them.”
It was vintage Trump—an incendiary attempt to belittle and shame a female adversary by insinuating that she did something degrading and unseemly, yet vague enough for his press office to claim he didn’t really mean anything sexist at all.
The junior senator from New York was one of four members of Congress to call for Trump to resign in recent days, over sexual misconduct allegations. Gillibrand was the only woman, and was also the only member of Congress whom Trump singled out to insult.
Was Trump actually making a “scurrilous sexist innuendo,” some astonished-sounding men wondered aloud? (Dear Nick: Yes. Yes, he was.) DC’s political press, meanwhile, sprang into action—by repeating the innuendo in headline after headline.
But Gillibrand struck back, hard. And her response has resonated much further on Twitter than Trump’s original insult.
Following her example, female Democratic colleagues in the Senate began to do the same, attacking Trump’s fitness for office in unflinching language.
Hawaii’s senator was especially blunt:
Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, accused Trump of “slut-shaming:”
(Warren was not calling Gillibrand a slut, though hers was an unusual spin on the most widely-accepted definition of the term).
One senator from California called on Trump to delete his account, while another, Kamala Harris, re-tweeted Gillibrand’s message.
A senator from Washington state called Trump’s attack “disgusting.”
And a senator from New Hampshire made it clear she had everyone’s back:
Democratic men in Congress, with the exception of Elijah Cummings, the Maryland representative, were a lot less forthcoming.
Gillibrand’s Republicans colleagues, meanwhile, have had nothing to say at all about Trump’s attack so far.
The coordination isn’t unprecedented. Many of the same female senators, led by Gillibrand, were instrumental in pressuring Al Franken, the Democratic senator from Minnesota, to resign.
Amplifying and reinforcing each others’ ideas is a technique that’s recommended for women in corporate settings (and life in general) who feel they’re not getting heard. “When a woman made a good point, another woman would repeat it, and give credit to the originator,” as Quartz explained last year.
Except this time it was on Twitter, and the working women involved are elected members of Congress—who are openly calling for the sitting US president to resign.
Correction Dec. 12: An earlier version of this article stated that Al Franken was from Missouri, not Minnesota.