Last week, I saw a woman take the oath of office as the second-in-command of the United States of America. The night before, it hit me — amid all the chaos surrounding this election, I had forgotten what was about to happen. Kamala Harris is the vice president. A woman has one of the top leadership positions in the country. And it’s about damn time.
It was a bit more than 100 years ago when white women were awarded the right to vote. Black women were not given this explicit right across America until 1965 and Asian-American women who immigrated to the United States post-1920 were not allowed to vote until 1952. As a female, I’m in awe of the historic moment and I cannot imagine what this means to people who are part of a minority group, particularly those who share Harris’ identity as Black and Asian-American women.
Thankfully, I grew up in home where my parents never discouraged me from taking part in certain activities or having particular ambitions because I was female. I was never told to act like a “lady” or let males make all the major decisions for the household or for myself. However, this isn’t the case for everyone, as there are still young girls being told to behave a particular way or discouraged from pursuing certain career paths.
Too often, we hear women are too emotional and not equipped to handle certain situations. We get slammed for being too bossy or not aggressive enough, too feminine or not feminine enough, too vulnerable or not unguarded enough, etc. It’s a bunch of mixed messages, but the end result is that you are considered to be too much or not enough; in either case, it can be used against you. There still exists a portion of the population that doesn’t believe women can handle a leadership position.
Now, we have a woman in the White House. If something happens to President Joe Biden, Harris will need to lead the nation. She is proving that women can hold a position that has, since 1789, been held by a man.
While Harris might be the first female vice president, she is not the first woman to vie for the position; in 2008 then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was the vice president nominee for the Republican Party and in 1984 Geraldine Ferraro, then-U.S. House of Representatives for New York, was the vice presidential nominee for the Democrat Party. And it was only five years ago when Hilary Clinton was on the ballot to serve as the Commander in Chief of the United States.
Despite your political preference, there is no way to ignore that Harris is another trailblazer for females. I have a feeling she will be overly scrutinized for a lot, including her appearance (because some people will still be more concerned with what she is wearing than what actions she is taking to hopefully help the nation).
As a nation, our elected leaders are now starting to reflect our ever-changing population. And who knows, I might just see a female president (or several) during my lifetime.