OPINION: Madame Vice President Harris’s Win Breaks Intersectional Barriers


Elle Love

With Kamala Harris’s win as the vice-president elect, there is hope that the voices of Black women leaders will be amplified. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

As a young girl, did you ever dream that one day we would have a female president, or even yet, want to be one? Who would’ve thought that on Nov. 3 of Election Night, we would have our First Black and Southeast Asian Madame Vice President?

On Nov. 7, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris spoke after a historic victory with President-elect Joe Biden.

“Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often too overlooked, so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy,” Harris said.

Harris reflected on the history of the women’s suffrage movement for over a couple of centuries from the 19th Amendment passed in 1919 to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. She thanked running mate, President-elect Joe Biden for providing the pathway to break substantial barriers of women in executive leadership by selecting a woman as his vice president.

“But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” Harris said.

At the time of racial divide, lack of leadership during an international health crisis and the overall divisiveness in the country, there needs to be a change and shift in leadership. The United States of America electing women into an executive leadership role is long overdue.

Female leaders like New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made swift decisions that resulted in “systematically and significantly better” outcomes for their citizens.

Ardern’s quick response to the COVID-19 epidemic in New Zealand, including an early lockdown, financial support, and a direct speech to her citizens exemplified warmth and empathy that is lacking with other world leaders.

Female leadership internationally is not a new concept. However, female-led countries have significantly fewer deaths and spread of COVID-19 than countries led by men, said Professor Supriya Garikipati from the University of Liverpool.

“Our results above clearly indicate that women leaders reacted more quickly and decisively in the face of potential fatalities,” said Garikipati, in an interview.

Women are every bit as capable of being good political leaders, according to the majority of Americans in the Pew Research survey.

In 2019, prior to the pandemic – 47 percent of the world’s population believed that men made better political leaders than women, according to a study by the United Nation Women website. In the same study, lower COVID-19 death rates and effective virus containment policies in countries like New Zealand, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland and Slovakia disproves many stereotypes associated with women because of their quick response.

Even prior to the pandemic, many women have aimed for the White House, especially Black women.

Shirley Chisolm was the first Black American and first woman to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, where her campaign focused on civil rights and poverty. Her campaign slogan was “Unbought and Unbossed.”

However, Chisolm’s campaign was severely underfunded and she was a victim of misogynoir, including a 1972 New York Times article describing her appearance as “[Not] beautiful. Her face is bony and angular, her nose wide and flat, her eyes small almost to beadiness, her neck and limbs scrawny. Her protruding teeth probably account in part for her noticeable lisp.”

Because their candidacies weren’t taken seriously in the media in the past, their messages often become skewed and were rarely heard. They have also faced strategic discrimination, where party leaders anddonors or primary voters worry that others will object to a candidate’s identity which results in the lack of funding, endorsement, or votes for candidates who fall outside the norm, according to a research published by the University of Ottawa.

However, 91% percent of Black women voted in favor of Biden and Harris according to the NBC exit poll results, thanks to many voting efforts from other Black women like U.S. Governor Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams and Black Voters Matter Co-Founder LaTosha Brown fighting against voter suppression in their own states.

I’m optimistic that Madame Vice President-elect Harris will direct the type of leadership like many female leaders around the world and amplify our voices to make a change in our country.