On January 20th, history was made in the United States when a woman was sworn as Vice President for the first time. And as much as this is a reason for us to celebrate and shout Girl Power! and sing with pride, Who run the world? and blast “Formation” and pretend that Queen Bey herself is dancing with us in our living rooms, it’s also shocking when we realize how far behind our country is in comparison to the rest of the world.
You’ve probably heard of Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. And of Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. But did you know that a woman is head of state in Belgium, Finland, and Nepal too? And Serbia, Singapore, and Ethiopia as well? And Bangladesh, Greece, and Switzerland?
Yeah, it’s actually totally commonplace, according to “Women’s Power Index,” via the Council on Foreign Relations, to elect women into the highest political office in countries all over our planet and has been for a long time. Yet, for some reason (we know the reason), the United States just can’t seem to get there.
So what’s our deal? Hint: It starts with a M and ends with “isogyny.” And it’s deeply, deeply embedded into the fabric of our country.
The fact is, our culture places unfair and unrealistic standards on women that we don’t place on men. And because of that, women must overcome endless hurdles—hurdles that are invisible and non-existent to their male counterparts—as they attempt to rise to high-ranking political positions. This explains why experienced, qualified women like Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren, aren’t even given the chance to prove their ability to run the country. It’s because their voices are “too shrill,” they “smile too much,” they “don’t smile enough,” they aren’t “likeable,” they are “too emotional,” they are too “closed off,” blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., forever and ever.
The ugly truth is this: Our culture’s internalized sexism continues to, year after year, reduce and diminish women based on “rules” and “standards” that don’t apply to men. Even today, in 2021.
Imagine if a woman, in her 70s, with a history of several marriages, children by various spouses, a history of scandalous sexual exploits, and a propensity for insulting others and throwing tantrums on Twitter, tried to run for president. The notion is laughable, right? There’s no way in hell and we all know it. And yet, a man did it with great fanfare — and nearly destroyed our democracy.
Men in leadership can be arrogant, obnoxious, crass, amoral, and frankly, do whatever the fuck they want with little consequence. Our former (male) president incited an insurrection and our government is struggling to bring charges against him, for God’s sake. Women, on the other hand, must be perfect, pure, demure, chaste even, to please American expectations. Also, quiet, well-behaved, happy, but not cocky or proud, humble, grateful, a rule-follower, and above all else, she better know her place. That’s the list, right?
Am I missing anything? Oh yeah, pretty. Wouldn’t want to have to look at any unattractive government leaders, right? Oh, wait.
Consistently, and repeatedly, outspoken women leaders are cast aside while old white men with the same (or worse) “offenses” are met with open doors.
Or, if women do claw their way up and earn a spot at the top, they’re hated with a vengeance. That’s why powerful women leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley and Nancy Pelosi are so viciously detested. You can say it’s about their policies, but there are a lot of politicians with the same beliefs as them who do not receive the same vitriol.
AOC, Nancy Pelosi, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley… they don’t “behave.” They don’t sit down and keep their mouths shut and look pretty with their hands in their lap. They make noise, they fight, and they don’t take anyone’s shit. (You know, like how men act in leadership positions, and they’re admired for it.)
We saw it with Hillary. We saw it with Elizabeth Warren. And we are seeing it with Kamala Harris.
And as woman who cried tears of grief and anger when a man with no political experience, who bragged about sexual assault, was sworn in instead of an extremely qualified woman four years ago, I’m fucking sick of it.
I’m sick of sharing my excitement about Kamala Harris, knowing full well that within five minutes, the comments thread will be riddled with derogatory insults about her sexual past. I’m sick of our culture’s obsession with judging women for their looks, their weight, their clothing, their facial expressions, their likeability, and their sex lives when we give men a pass on all of it.
Just look at the sex scandal of the Clinton administration. Who was vilified? Monica Lewinsky. Even Hillary was treated worse than Bill, often blamed or chastised for staying and being complicit. Yet we all know she’d have been lambasted if she left too. Because women. cannot. fucking. win.
And Bill? Forgiven! But if you google Monica Lewinsky today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a positive comment about her. Or how about JFK, whose affairs were well-known? He’s still America’s golden boy! Do you think a woman would have received that same treatment?
So here’s the truth. I don’t give one single flying fuck whom Kamala Harris has had consensual sexual relationships with. She is a whole grown-ass adult with the right to date, sleep with, and marry whomever she wants—just like men can! Imagine that.
Also, let’s address the likelihood that much of the horrible things said about her are untrue. We all know that certain so-called “news sources” like to spew hateful rhetoric and blatant lies that then become recurring talking points by their followers. We saw for years, all over social media, horrific and transphobic comments about Michelle Obama’s gender—comments made by ignorant asshats who think they’re being clever but really are just reiterating someone else’s offensive joke, proving that, instead, they’re actually both stupid and bigoted.
(You’re not clever or funny when you say the same asinine things 5,000 other people have said, bruh.)
And now, the new trend is to insult Kamala Harris based on whatever they perceive her sexual history to be. As if 1) that’s anyone’s business, 2) that has any bearing on her ability to do the job as Vice President and 3) if the stories they hear are even true.
But the worst part, I’ve learned as I comb through my comments section and block and delete with abandon, is that the majority of these cruel insults made toward our new Vice President are from other women. Women actively tearing another woman down, based on rumors that may or may not be true. Women tearing another woman down who just broke through a huge barrier for our country. Women tearing another woman down for whatever sexual past they believe her to have, when those same women have pro-Trump profile pics, meaning they support the “abusive-to-women” team captain himself.
That’s the most heartbreaking part, for me. When a man disrespects a woman and upholds these archaic double standards, it pisses me off, but I’m like meh. Sexist asshole. And he’s deleted and blocked out of my life, my social media feed, and my brain, forever. Not worth another thought.
But when women choose to put down other women, rather than lift each other up, that’s a special kind of stab to the heart.
Ladies, how can we hope to raise daughters in a country where women are treated equally when we do this to our own? How can I look my daughter in the eye and say, “Some day there will be a woman president” when every time a qualified woman tries, she’s shut out for unfair, idiotic reasons—reasons that don’t apply to male candidates?
Our girls deserve to grow up in a nation where women are given a fair shot. And today, in 2021, they’re not. Even though Kamala Harris has broken a barrier by being the first woman Vice President, and even though Hillary Clinton broke a barrier by being the first woman on a major party presidential ticket, and even though Joe Biden’s team is far more diverse and has more women on it than previous administrations, we are still a long way away from seating a woman at the helm.
And in large part, we have our fellow women—who actively perpetuate this cycle of misogyny that oppresses women and girls—to blame.
Listen, we have got to do better. We have got to join together and vow to uplift women. We have got to band together and make an unbreakable chain across every city, and every state in this country. A chain of women who say, together, “no more.” No longer will we allow barrier after barrier, blockade after blockade, to stand in a woman’s way when those same barriers don’t exist for men. No longer will we deem a woman unworthy or incapable of a high-ranking position based on her dating history. Or the way her voice sounds. Or how her hips move or the size of her butt or her breasts or the number on a scale. Or her smile (or lack thereof).
Kamala Harris (and Hillary, and Elizabeth, and a myriad of other women who came before them) are just as qualified if not more so than the men who defeated them at in elections. Men whose dating history—somehow—we don’t seem to obsess over or judge them for.
Stop oppressing women with these bullshit standards. It’s gross and archaic and only pushing the United States behind nations around the world who value women and know how well they lead. Want to be great, America? Be great then. Saying crude things about your Vice President because you’re pouting over losing an election ain’t it, though.
Instead, support this badass woman—a woman who has done something no woman has done before. A woman who shows girls all over this nation—girls with all skin colors—that they can do anything. SHE is making us great. So, support the gravity of this moment and understand that because of Kamala Harris, we are one step closer to having a woman president (like nations around the world have had throughout history) or take a seat and let the rest of us who are actively fighting to dismantle the patriarchy do the work.
Because your misogyny is old and tired. Kamala is speaking now.