When I say “women of experience,” I mean women who have proved their resilience and brilliance in many different areas of life, they’ve stepped up and put up–with doubters, with ridiculous assumptions about their worth and looks, and with men who like to bulldoze and bamboozle. That’s what I saw in the Senator Kamala Harris debate performance last night. A woman of experience dealing expertly with Vice President Mike Pence, the retro-thinking, fly-attracting tin man. And I was proud.
I don’t think the term “man-splaining” ever came up, but there was plenty of it on display. Pence continually interrupted Harris, but she didn’t give him an inch. “I’m speaking,” she had to remind Pence on several occasions. (Pence also steamrolled another woman on stage, the moderator Susan Page, though his behavior was markedly better than his boss’s last week.)
“If you don’t mind letting me finish, we can have a conversation,” she said, after Pence interrupted her answer on Biden’s tax plan.
When Pence implied that she didn’t trust the U.S. justice system in regards to the death of Breonna Taylor, she hit back. “I will not sit here and be lectured by the Vice President about what it means to enforce the laws of our country,” said the former prosecutor and attorney general of California.
Breaking Through the Double Standard
It’s well-know that there is a double standard for women in politics. Lorraine Ali in the Los Angles Times described it as this: “Don’t be too aggressive, but don’t appear weak. Act strong, but not so strong that you threaten male voters. Eviscerate him, but don’t be a bitch. And whatever happens, don’t forget to smile!”
Many women have failed as they’ve made their way across this tightrope. Hillary Clinton in 2016 for example. Hillary Clinton in any election, actually.
But Harris seemed to keep her balance. She was empathetic and warm when she needed to be–talking about “Joe” with clear fondness and looking directly into the camera to address viewers. But she had her boundaries (don’t we all!) and she wouldn’t let Pence cross them.
She was commanding and compassionate, and any of us who have reached this age of “experience” know that we have many different facets inside of us. We’re never just one thing, even though the world likes to forget that as they paint us as caricatures or worse, push us aside. Thank you Senator Harris for showing people that they underestimate us at their own peril.