Dana Bash Teases CNN's 'Badass Women of Washington': "They’re Relentless"

CNN
Dana Bash interviewing Dianne Feinstein

The political correspondent and web series host also explains why Kathryn Bigelow and Lucille Ball land on her list of badasses in Hollywood where, like D.C., "amid all the crazy headlines there are good people who came here to do great things."

On June 6, CNN Politics launches Badass Women of Washington With Dana Bash, a new web series that highlights the achievements of seven women who broke down barriers to become leaders in the political and military arenas.

“This idea was born out of a conversation that I was having with my badass colleagues after Hillary lost,” says Washington, D.C.-based chief political correspondent Dana Bash, who hosts the series she conceived together with CNN political producer Abigail Crutchfield and digital’s executive editor of politics, Rachel Smolkin. “We were discussing the notion of: Is there another woman from either party who could be a potential nominee, and could possibly become president sometime soon? We realized that there are so many badass women doing incredible things in this town, why don’t we highlight them?”

The field was narrowed to seven badasses who represent both sides of the aisle, multiple cultural backgrounds and a range in career seniority. They include Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina to ever be elected to the Senate; Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a 38-year-old Republican congresswoman from Washington state who gave birth twice while in office, including to the first baby to ever survive having been born without kidneys; Lt. Gen. Nadja West, the first African-American female three-star general in the Army and current Army Surgeon General; and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose storied political career spans five decades, from putting her finger in Harvey Milk’s bullet hole on the floor of the San Francisco’s City Hall to, at age 83, being the oldest and second-longest serving woman in the senate.

The result is a series of candid conversations with Bash — presented in episodes ranging from about five to seven minutes, which also will air as interstitial content on CNN in the coming months — about these women’s successes, tragedies and personal and professional failures. Spoiler alert: Women’s struggles on the Hill aren’t unlike those of female creators and executives in Hollywood. Only 19 percent of Congress is female, while women comprised only 17 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films, according to the 2016 Celluloid Ceiling Report from San Diego State University.

But the badass can’t be stopped by statistics. “The message that all these women shared is that when you feel defeated — whether in an election or in a personal challenge — you need to get back up, don’t walk away,” says Bash. “[Sec. of Transportation] Elaine Chao’s advice to young women is, ‘You need to be aware that there are trade-offs on the path to professional success, but you can do whatever you want as long as you’re passionate about it. Don’t take no for an answer, and don’t quit.’”

THR asked Bash to select some of Hollywood’s most admirable female badasses. Her list:

Kathleen Nolan: The 83-year-old actress was the first woman to ever run a labor union in the world when she became president of SAG in 1975.

Geena Davis: In 2004, she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to examine the role of women in Hollywood.

Kathryn Bigelow: She became the first female director to win an Oscar, for The Hurt Locker, in 2010.

Lucille Ball: A barrier-breaking Hollywood boss as the first female CEO of a major production company in the 1960s.

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis: No explanation needed!

Bash’s interviews with the D.C. badass branch offer glimpses into the hard work required to transcend both culturally imposed and self-imposed limitations that have kept women on the sidelines for generations. And, Bash points out, you don’t have to emulate a man in order to be a badass. “These women are moms, sisters, aunts, girlfriends — they’re tough, they’re strong, they’re relentless, and they all embody the female qualities and sensibilities that women who [succeeded] a generation or two [before] had to check at the door.”

Another unifying factor among the badass? For those raising young kids, “[Their] husbands are willing to take a step back and support their families in the way that women have traditionally done for men,” Bash points out. “I hope that men with wives who they respect and daughters who they want to grow up to be badass will tune in.”

In a post-Hillary era where more women are running for office — from the local to the state level — than ever before, women are also finding that their success depends on…other women. “In D.C., whether in media or politics, there’s a real sisterhood of women who support each other and understand what we all have to go through to succeed. We’re not elbowing each other out of the way to get to the top,” Bash attests, adding a final thought about the D.C. arena that — again — applies just as powerfully to Hollywood. “People look at Washington and think it’s so bitter, it’s so partisan, but amid all the crazy headlines there are good people with amazing stories who came here to do great things.” 

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