Kamala Harris: Feminist Role Model


Bay Area News Group

Ale Lewis '23

Kamala Harris’s performance during the vice presidential debate on October 7 served as an inspiration to girls across the country, particularly girls of color.  Senator Harris is an attorney and US senator from California.  Of both Jamaican and Indian heritage, Senator Harris is the first woman of color to run for vice president of the U.S.  Not only was her presence on the stage impactful, but her memorable moments also showed girls how to take command, claim their power, and stand their ground.  

During the vice presidential debate, Vice President Mike Pence continually spoke over Senator Harris.  Instead of accepting his interruptions, she calmly responded, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.” Her response went viral among girls and women on Twitter.  Zerlina Maxwell, an American cable television host, tweeted, “Kamala is expertly navigating the fact that even though everyone agreed to the rules, Mike Pence feels entitled to break them without consequence.  This is a very familiar experience for Black women!”  Senator Harris’s assertiveness showed young girls watching that you don’t have to stay silent when someone interrupts you because your voice needs to be heard when you have something important to say.  

Senator Harris is under a microscope right now especially because of her gender.  In Now This News, Versha Sharma writes that Senator Harris is under a lot of pressure to be assertive but not too “aggressive” or “shrill.”  Senator Harris’s determination to make her points were interpreted negatively becasue of her race and sex.  For instance, President Trump called her “a monster” for disagreeing with Vice President Pence.  She was also described as “not likeable,” “not smiling enough,” and “flighty,” after the debate, terms used regularly to describe women.  In response to Trump’s comment, Kamala called Trump “childish,” and Joe Biden added that his opponent’s comments were “despicable” and “so beneath the office of presidency.” Despite the scrutiny she receives, she continues to stay strong and therefore serves as an inspiration to women.  

Not only did her comebacks during the debate distinguish her, but so did the substance of her arguments.  She successfully displayed her belief that women should have the right to do what they want with their own bodies.  According to NBC News, 66% of adults say they don’t believe the Supreme Court should completely overturn Roe vs. Wade, the decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion nationwide in at least the first three months of a pregnancy.  Senator Harris spoke to the 66% of adults during the debate to assure them that she will fight on their behalf. 

“I will always fight for a woman’s right to make a decision about her own body,” Senator Harris said. “It should be her decision and not that of Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.” 

Senator Harris also spoke out about the reforms needed in our justice system.  Currently, the police officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death are still not held accountable.  When moderator Susan Page asked a question on the Breonna Taylor case, Senator Harris responded, “I’m a former career prosecutor, I know what I’m talking about. Bad cops are bad for good cops. We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system.” Senator Harris’s expertise makes her a more impressive and capable candidate.  Studies show that women are more reluctant to share their own accomplishments,  but Senator Harris broke that mold by showing off her impressive resume: “I’m the only one on this stage who has personally prosecuted everything from child sexual assaults to homicide,” she said. “I’m the only one on the stage who has prosecuted the big banks for taking advantage of American families. I am the only one on this stage who prosecuted for-profit colleges for taking advantage of our veterans.”   

Senator Harris’s performance during the debate was inspiring.  While there have been two other women vice presidential candidates, she is the first I am old enough to appreciate.  Watching her confidence and intelligence made me feel proud to be a woman.  I often find myself not knowing when it’s the right time to share my opinion or how to acknowledge someone who is interrupting me.  But her performance instructs me on what to do in those uncomfortable situations.  Another inspiring aspect is how far she’s come despite being one of the few women of color in Congress.  According to CNN, she is giving children of color the ability to see themselves as a presidential candidate.  Jalisa Washington-Price, Harris’ former deputy national political director and South Carolina state director, told CNN, “For many of the 2 million people who viewed that video, the moment encompassed a mission statement for Harris’ own presidential run; giving young girls and women — Black, South Asian and from all walks of life — the ability to ‘see themselves in a presidential candidate.’” 

As Alexa Ross, working with the News 8 sports department, said on Twitter, “I’d like to shout out my fellow women in male dominated fields. You know what it’s like to say ‘I’m speaking’ when a man interrupts you. Keep speaking up and advocating for yourselves.”  Senator Harris’s powerful performance during the debate influences me to be confident and voice my opinions.