It has nothing, yet everything, to do with politics this time. The Democratic party has officially elected and sworn in a female vice president. The United States of America finally has a female vice president.
Not only is Madam Vice President Kamala Harris a female, but she is a black, South Asian female. The representation and motivation of this historical occurrence is monumental. Intersectionality, on a much smaller scale than we need, has been overcome. Kamala Harris has made dreams become a reality for countless women and minority women around the world. She is standing as living, tangible proof that women can now do exactly what men do — though, we as feminists have known that for a long time now.
For centuries, women have been viewed as inferior or incapable of being powerful, especially in government positions and politics. The idea that women are “too emotional” or “too sensitive” has allowed men to disrespect and disregard our capabilities of accomplishing something great for far too long. I said this has nothing to do with politics, because to some degree it doesn’t. Having our first female vice president ultimately has to do with society… and feminism. We are slowly changing how society views and treats women. We are making progress, and though it appears political, it can simply be categorized as societal.
Since the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, American women and others around the globe have been fighting for equality and equal opportunities. Politics were typically viewed as masculine, and for years women have been told they have no place in the government. Unfortunately, I think too many women themselves believed this given the lack of female representation in our government until the most recent elections. Given how few women have ever held a high-ranking position until now, it is safe to say that women are far more likely than men to see structural barriers and uneven expectations holding them back from these positions. According to the Pew Research Center, about seven in 10 women — versus about half of men — say a major reason why women are underrepresented in top positions in politics and business is that they have to do more to prove themselves. When asked whether gender discrimination is a major obstacle to female leadership, 44 percent of men say this is true in the corporate world and 36 percent of men say this is true in politics. Contrarily, about six in 10 women say this is true in each of these realms.
I want to explain why this has everything to do with politics. On a very large scale, these gender gaps persist within parties. Among Republicans and Democrats, women are more likely than men to say there are too few women in political and corporate leadership positions, and there are substantial gender differences, particularly among Republicans, in views on the obstacles holding women back from these positions.
Americans today often view women in politics in a negative light… or rather I should say many American men view women in politics in a negative light. The amount of disgusting, degrading comments on social media platforms about women politicians is seriously alarming. Are some men so insecure about or threatened by a woman in power that their first thought or argument is that she must have performed sexual favors to get to that position? Comments such as “She must be good on her knees to go from a basic District Attorney to the Vice President” flooded social media posts the days leading up to and following Inauguration Day. The problem is not necessarily bitter Republican men complaining about the current administration, though that is inevitable. The problem is not actually about politics; it is about women being in power and achieving landmark successes while the underlying sexualization and invalidation from men is still being excused.
I cannot seem to fathom why so many men think a woman is incapable of accomplishing something without her achievements being sexualized or being attacked for her appearance. Women do not exist to make men feel better. Women who hold political positions should not be categorized as “women politicians.” They are politicians. The downfalls of gender and sex always seem to wiggle their way into conversations where a woman has accomplished something monumental, yet hardly ever come up when the conversations about sex and gender require men to take responsibility for their faults such as rape, sexual violence, discrimination and so on.
Overall, the public sees benefits to female leadership. The notion that we are “too” anything to accomplish what a man can is invalid. Having a period every month does not change our capability to do anything, despite what men like Donald Trump might think. Having children and a family does not mean we are less dedicated or motivated. There is no valid argument why men and women cannot hold the same positions anymore. Kamala Harris is proof of that.
It is evident that the majorities say having more women in top positions in business and government would improve the quality of life at least somewhat for all Americans. Women are far more likely than men to say having more women in top leadership positions would be beneficial. Two-thirds of women say having more female leaders would improve the quality of life for men at least somewhat.
Millions of women, including myself, applaud you, Madam Vice President. Thank you for showing us that landmark accomplishments are possible.
As she so eloquently said, we did it.