Harris’ vice presidency makes me feel seen

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Joe Biden walking while giving a thumbs-up. wikimedia commons

With women told not to speak up, it’s meaningful when one does

As a child, I was always told that I was too loud, too talkative, and too opinionated. It’s a common criticism that women, especially young women, face around the globe.

I talked too much and was too assertive. I was too passionate or overly-excited. The list goes on and on. Regardless of intent, the steady stream of assertions that I was “too much” played a large part in my desire to not take any leadership roles later in my teen years. In my younger days, I didn’t join the student council or any outspoken groups at my high school. Instead, I kept my opinions and thoughts to my friend group, and tried to coast through my education with my head down.

In truth, I had even entered this university campus with that same mentality. “Get your degree, get out, that’s it. Nothing extra.” How was I to ever be taken seriously in a leadership role if, at every turn, I had been told I lacked what was required?

This is why the young girl in me was floored, and so excited, to see Kamala Harris take the seat as Joe Biden’s vice presidential running mate in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. Harris stood for everything that I had been told was a detriment. She was passionate and loud; she stated her points clearly and demanded to be heard. Most of all, she dodged every sexist comment that was tossed her way and continued, despite it all, to speak her mind.

Now, I understand the controversy that surrounds Harris, and this article isn’t to discredit or knock the very valid critiques that people have offered about her policies or the Biden administration. This article is not an attempt to speak over that, but instead is meant to acknowledge how wonderful it was, as a young girl who seldom saw herself represented in places of power, to finally watch it happen.

When I saw Harris get interrupted or shut down by other officials – told she was overreacting or didn’t have the proper qualifications – I saw myself in her. I saw the little girl who was told all those same things years ago, and internalized them, altering how she expressed herself.

Early into Harris’ victory speech in November 2020, there is a moment when the camera cuts to a young woman in the crowd. Tearfully, she turns to the man to her right, bringing a tissue up to her face, and then turns back to Harris in awe. All the while, Harris speaks about “ushering in a new day” for their country.

That is the face of someone who feels seen. Who has, for the first time in their lives, witnessed what has felt like the impossible. They are witnessing someone that represents them take the stage and speak on behalf of their people. Most importantly, they are watching someone like them be heard.

Growing up, when I was told that my voice was in the way, too loud, or too opinionated, I would have adored seeing a woman like Harris in office – a woman who had heard all the same things, and yet rolled them off her shoulders to get her work done. For the first time ever, I and others have been able to watch a woman who has faced our common adversities take on a position no woman has ever had before.

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