Qualified and Quieted: A Reflection on Women’s Political Plights

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women and all of their achievements.  The month also brings hope to addressing women’s issues, such as reproductive rights and gender equality. It also  seems like we have a new role model to celebrate in Kamala Harris, the first female Vice President. This seems like a great accomplishment from afar, but in reflecting on the election, I am deeply disturbed.

Yes, a woman was elected to the second highest office of the United States, but what does that mean? What exactly is her new role? As VP, Harris is also the President of the Senate In theory, this all sounds fine and dandy, but presiding is not an official office, it’s just a role that is shared with an elected Senator or the Chief Justice. The only time the Vice President makes any sort of monumental change within the Senate is when voting to break a tie, which is pretty rare. Only 271 votes of this kind have been cast since the enforcement of the Constitution of 1789. That averages out to about 1 such vote per year. So far in her term, Harris has cast three tie-breaking votes. Aside from that, the Vice President is just an advisor to the President. That aspect of the office is pretty ambiguous, because advice is not always well-received in any occupation — especially so when coming from a woman. 

The other main duty of the Vice President is being a member of the National Security Council, which advises the President in matters concerning domestic and foreign security issues. She can voice her concerns, but there isn’t much legal obligation for the President to listen to her. To put it simply, the role of the Vice President is an over-exaggerated, well-paid assistantship. Yay! A woman was finally elected to the highest-possible assistant position. 

Society has celebrated women’s advancement in finally electing a woman to be a servant. A sidekick. A subordinate. A wingman (even that word has a tinge of sexism). But finally! She has an official stamp and letterhead for the highest ranking subordinate in the country. What an advancement for women. 

The other questionable part about this election was the election of Kamala Harris herself. Why did we elect her? Because she belonged to the same ballot as the man who was presumed to beat Donald Trump, or did we actually believe in her politics? I would say that most elected her for the former. If we really supported her for her politics, her own presidential candidacy would have gone further.

Tulsi Gabbard was an extremely well-read, well-versed and well-qualified candidate. During the debates, she called out Harris for her criminal prosecution records, which Harris was alarmingly proud of. At one of the Democratic Presidential Debates, Gabbard called out Harris, mentioning the hundreds of people jailed for minor marijuana-related offenses, her elongating prisoners’ sentences and the problematic use of inmates as cheap laborers in for-profit prisons, among other atrocities.   Harris barely acknowledged this point at the debate, and continues to deflect from it whenever it is brought up. After the publication of a New York Times exposé of her withholding evidence to prove a man on death row innocent, she completely changed her position. She, along with Biden, essentially helped break the already broken criminal justice system,especially with Biden’s work in the past putting more people behind bars, and in his rhetoric of these issues, saying things like “Lock the S.O.B.s up,” and now claim that their administration will fix the problem. Not only are they putting band-aids on broken bones, but they are painting themselves  as saviors for a problem they created. 

The most infuriating part of the 2020 Election was not necessarily the lying and deception of the Biden/Harris ticket — as lying and deception are facts of politics — but the brushing off of other qualified female candidates, like Gabbard. What about Elizabeth Warren, you might ask? I wouldn’t consider someone who thrived off of falsely identifying with an oppressed indigenous population for college applications a qualified representative of how we want our country to move forward. Yet again, women are blinded in their support for fellow women as “Girl Bosses” instead of supporting them for their values. Jo Jorgensen, a Libertarian Party candidate, was a highly qualified female candidate for the presidency. In brushing off candidates that are better qualified for women like Warren or to “Settle for Biden,” we said that settling for candidates with terrible political accolades is inherently better than choosing a woman with credibility. 

Regardless of my opinion of the candidates themselves, Women’s History Month has made me wonder what we are teaching young girls. I may not like Harris, but why are we celebrating putting her in a position where her opinion is essentially silenced? Why did we not acknowledge the other powerful female politicians that could have carried a winning ballot? Even if a woman is highly qualified, she is still second-rate to a man who was barely liked. If this country truly supported women, the current Administration would look very different. A woman might have been the Commander-in-Chief, and perhaps she would have had a wingman at her side. Maybe then men would understand the plight of women in politics; qualified and quieted to a horrendous honcho.