REACTIONS TO THE ROLES OF FEMALES IN GOVERNMENT
Just over one century after nations established female suffrage, we officially witnessed the inauguration of the first female Vice President of the United States: VP Kamala Harris. While leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, the United Kingdom’s first female Prime Minister, preceded Harris’s appointment, this is a first for the US.
As a country divided in opinion and politics: many celebrate this appointment yet some raise questions about her competence, much like what we saw during former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign (Pettypiece). So, how does the world now react to Harris’s election and subsequent appointment after centuries of discrimination in the US alone? Do politicians and the people focus solely on the “issue” of gender or move towards a discussion on actual policies and greater representation?
On this blog, we’ve previously discussed the societal impacts of this election such as traditionally gendered government terms in “A New Chapter in the US Presidency... and It's Not Kamala Harris.” The political impacts of her recent inauguration spark new conflict in the continuous fight for gender equality across politics. In Harris’s own run for presidency through the Democratic party, she faced critiques on both sides of the aisle simply due to her gender.
However, her persistence in continuing to run alongside other female candidates helped to dispel this commentary and build unity among women in politics. According to the Associated Press, Harris’s win alongside Biden last November even inspired more women to entire the traditionally male-dominated world of politics (Stafford). As such, we can look forward to a more hopeful and progressive future in this respect.
Though Harris’s election and subsequent nomination brought gender issues in politics to the forefront initially, one hopeful outcome is the transition to focusing on her policy stances.
Formerly a District Attorney of a major US city, many of the challenges Harris faced were based on policies she enacted in this position. Whether or not you agree with her actions, the shift to discussing policies compared to gender competency is a welcome shift to many. By making her stances on incarceration a focal point, her opponents were able to create a stronger approach that ultimately led to her stepping down in the run for president (Pettypiece).
Beyond comments on both gender and policies, the most common reaction to Harris’s nomination, election, and appointment of VP of the Biden administration after her failed presidential campaign is the increase in women willing to participate in politics.
According to NBC, many women in major cities, such as Philadelphia, cite Harris’s election as their impetus in running for public office (Pettypiece). This demonstrates how representation is crucial to the establishment of equality across nations—as our governments become more diverse, legislation becomes more representative of the people.
Glynda Carr, the president and CEO of Higher Heights (an organization centered on Black female political representation and election in the US), cites Harris as “the blueprint to women’s political possibility” who will “put an intersectional lens on everything [the Biden] administration does from a gender or race lens” (Stafford).
What she will achieve still remains to be seen, but the hope and support behind the new administration speak to a brighter future, one less centered around the gender of politics and rather the policies themselves.
Upon her appointment, Harris echoed the words her mother instilled in her: “I feel a very big sense of responsibility…I will be the first, but I will not be the last.” With that, I hope this article inspires you to follow in Harris’s footsteps in the fight for equality and representation in whatever ways you can. Who knows, maybe you can be the next historic female first?