Importance of Kamala Harris For Indian Women By Chaitanya Srishti, November 2020
Why should Democratic Party’s Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris’ story be so important to the modern Indian women?
If you follow politics, especially international politics, you must have come across the name Kamala Harris last year. And if not last year, you surely are aware of her by now.
Before anyone objects, this article is both political and non-political.
Political, because women’s issues are political. They should be. In politics we study, public is private, and, private is public. Non-political, because this article is not about the Republicans vs Democrats debate. This article doesn’t take any sides.
An Indian immigrant in the US, Shyamala, marries an American citizen, Donald, and gives birth to two daughters, Kamala and Maya. In Kamala’s own words, her mother would take both her daughters to her research lab. While the young girls played, Shyamala would be busy working on her research on breast cancer.
Why is her story important to us?
Why should this story be so important for young Indian girls today?
Because it reflects a lot of what we are doing today.
Our mothers and sisters have struggled so we stand shoulder to shoulder with men in labs and lecture halls, and every where else.
But most importantly, we still have to take responsibilities of our children. And not every modern Indian family is blessed with a man who would happily take care of the kids while the woman is away working.
Why is this story all the more important?
Because how we weave our stories today can and will inspire our kids, and you never know, may be your family prepares for this nation a Kamala too.
Her being elected is important to all of us. It’s no news that Indira Gandhi was our first female Prime Minister. And that happened a very long ago than most nations had their first female leaders. The US is still struggling. But what about India’s second female PM? Would it have been possible for Indira Gandhi to lead the nation had she not been the daughter of our first PM?
Politics is still incredibly male dominated. Our females get elected even at the grassroots, but a lot of times the reigns are in the hands of the husband of the village Panchayat head.
Same applies to our Parliament. Every political party has a very strong army of female party workers but they aren’t given ticket to stand and fight in the election. Thirty three percent reservation in our parliament and assemblies is still a dream.
She represents us, the Indian women. Which is why, a woman running for the second most important office of (supposedly) the most powerful nation on the face of earth is so important for us. That woman looks like us. Her mother was one of us. Someone from amongst us, who has migrated to the US, might finally feel represented. Women as popular and influential as Padma Lakshmi or Mindy Kaling are rallying for her because they personally feel represented, just like many first and second generation Indians in the US.
And this, overall, is a moment for personal elation for many women who feel represented.
Would it have been different had she been a man? Like most women in the public sphere fighting for their space and rights, Kamala has had her share of struggles. But what most of us still can relate to are the attempts to tarnish her image. Because what better than to malign a woman’s image to harm her? It’s the best feudal weapon.
With little research on the internet, it was clear that she never had an affair with a married man (she was briefly involved with a man who had separated from his wife many years ago). They both have gone on record to clear it. Neither did he do any personal favours for her, because he was influential. He had helped many people, some of who are known public figures today, one of them was Kamala.
But the question remains, had these issues been so important (read gossipy) had Kamala been a man? There are men who fought elections and won, when they had sexual harassment cases against them. And this has happened in all corners of the world.
She is proud of who she is and we should be too. Many even go on to disagree with her being more vocal about her Black ancestry and not her Indian ancestry. But she is just as proud of her Indian genes, as she is of her Black identity. Calling herself ‘Brown’ or South Asian is also a smart political move as to take all ‘Browns’ in confidence for a larger vote-bank. There should not be anything wrong with that. Isn’t that what womanhood and feminism all about? Taking everyone together? Isn’t that what a leader should do during uncertain, trying and at extremely volatile, divided times?
Hers is a story that will inspire generations to come. We may or may not like her or agree with her. Her fate on result day shouldn’t bother us. But we cannot ignore the fact that she is one of the most talked about personalities right now, and for all the right reasons. And as an Indian, and as a woman, her story is the one we can tell in our homes, and office spaces, and be proud. Her story is what should inspire our kids to dream big because dreams see no boundaries or borders.