Archived Opinion

It is a steep hill we climb

Vice President Kamala Harris. Vice President Kamala Harris.

Last Wednesday was a day women have been waiting for, working for, speaking out of turn for, making trouble for — for hundreds of years now. 

On Jan. 20, 2021, Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President of the United States of America. She was given the oath of office by Justice Sonya Sotomayor, the first Hispanic, Latinx member of the Supreme Court. Later in the ceremony Jennifer Lopez performed “America the Beautiful” and the youngest ever inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman, recited her inaugural poem. 

This election cycle there are more women than ever in Congress. Between the House and Senate, women hold 144 of 539 seats, 27 percent. That is a 50 percent increase from 96 seats just a decade ago. 

Today I think of all the women alive and well that will get to live the rest of their lives with the assurance that a woman has held this office. I think of all the young girls, born and unborn, that will grow up not knowing the world before this moment, a world where a woman hadn’t been where Harris went today. 

The value, the meaning of this cannot be understated, and in some ways it dwarfs the rest of the horrors ravaging our nation. Today will not be remembered for the previous president’s childish and petulant actions, it will not be remembered for another old white man who promises to unite our nation. It will not be remembered for resilience in the face of violent insurrection. It may not even be remembered for the pandemic plaguing our world. 

Today will be remembered for the rise of women to this office. 

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Today I think of the First Nations, immigrants and slaves that forged this nation with nothing to see for their toil for generations. Today it was the Black daughter of immigrants who joined the club of men who have ruled our nation. The first woman to walk into a room of almost 100 men.  

Today I think of my grandmothers that worked their entire lives in a world where a woman never reached this office. In the world they inhabited, a woman never served the highest post in our nation, and yet they had more rights, more voice and more power than generations of women before them. Hundreds of millions of women, long since passed, lived in a world where they rarely even had a say. It is a steep hill we climb. 

I think of all the casual sexist jokes and sayings, the women jokes, the #metoo jokes that we have all let alternatively roll off our shoulders or snap back at and get called a bitch — get told it was just a joke. 

I think of how women and men are fundamentally different and for so long that difference was interpreted as less than and more than. 

I am not fool enough to think that this is much more than symbolism, that things will be different tomorrow. That women will be more accepted in positions of power, that their voices will be heard with the same gusto and attention as a man’s. 

I know that is not how time moves, how change and history work. Change is a wheel that moves slowly and is powered only by those moments outside the bounds of normalcy, moments like this one. I am proud and gracious to live in the moment when Kamala Harris became Vice President of the United States. We are capable, we are worthy. 

(Hannah McLeod is a staff writer for The Smoky Mountain News. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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