By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
OK, Kamala Harris is a woman. And?
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ election to the nation’s second highest office “is a testament to how far we have come,” said Felicia Davis, president and CEO of Chicago Foundation of Women.
Don’t we remember that the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920? Which means that one woman’s rise to political power in the U.S. occurred a century after the triumph of the women’s suffrage movement. Therefore, Harris’ election to the vice presidency — in 2020 — is a testament to how backward we have been.
This is the bewildering aspect of American society. It boasts of “equality” as its main value; yet, there are incessant talks about a supposed struggle for gender equality and a monotonous chant about “breaking the glass ceiling.”
Other nations put us to shame. The world’s political history is filled with women presidents and prime ministers. Among them: Golda Meir (Israel), Margaret Tatcher and Teresa May (UK), Indira Ghani (India), Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan), Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (Philippines), Julia Gillard (Australia), Tsai Ing-wen (Taiwan) , Hilda Heine (Marshall Islands), Isabel Peron and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina), Sirimavo Bandaranike (Sri Lanka), Elizabeth Domitien (African Republic), Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Denmark), Yingluck Shinawatra (Thailand), Angela Merkel (Germany), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia), Sheik Hasian Wajed (Bangladesh), Dalia Grybaukaite (Lithuania), Dilma Rousseff (Brazil). These countries ask: “What glass ceiling?”
On Guam, it’s old news, as well. You just have to look at the three branches of the local government.
Back in America, Kamala Harris is this year’s biggest news, eclipsing Joe Biden. There are more stories about Harris being “the first woman, the first Black woman and first person of South Asian descent to be vice president of the United States” than stories about her actual accomplishments. What do we really know about what she has done and what she will do for the nation? Being a woman is not an accomplishment in itself, but somehow, most people find gender ideology more romantic than merits.
We have misguided discourses — too obsessed with gender, I think — that we lose perspectives. I am a proud American. I chose to become a naturalized citizen because I am attracted to American values. I recognize the existence of equal opportunities and choices. Even choosing to be a stay-home mom is an option rather than an imposition.
I am probably one of the few who get tired of womencentric talks. But I recognize the irony of this statement given that this piece is about women. This is my own rebellious contribution to the “Vagina Monologues.”
But who is stopping women, really? We sabotage ourselves by fighting phantom foes. If there was a glass ceiling, Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t have been the speaker of the U.S House of Representatives. I do not believe there was a conscious decision to give her a second speakership term based on her gender.
In 2016, 63 percent of women who were eligible to vote said they cast ballots in the presidential election compared with 59 percent of men, according to a Pew survey. That year, Hillary Clinton did not win the presidential election— not because of her gender but because of her past failures and transgressions as the state secretary.
Last year’s U.S. presidential election evinced a political door that is wide open. In this political era — with a record-breaking number of women seeking the presidency — the game has been reinvented.
But it doesn’t help when we continue to perpetuate the victim mentality.
“Why is women’s leadership not in the headlines?” reads the title of an article on unwomen.org. “The question that we need to ask is, why is women’s leadership invisible?”
The answer is because political decisions and policies are better discussed based on their merits rather than the gender of the leader who makes them. This is the true gauge of equality.
Our generation has been presented with options and opportunities. We can choose to lead or we can choose to stay home. We pick what we want to do. This is how we show respect and gratitude to the first wave of feminists, who make this happen for women.