The Gender in Politics News I’m Watching This Month

Amanda Hunter | Jan 13, 2021

I was initially optimistic about the start of 2021 and was stunned, horrified, and heartbroken by what transpired in the last week. I watched last Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol with a mix of grief and anger. In any horrible situation, though, our founder and President Barbara Lee often urges us to “look for the blessings” so that is what I am trying to do. And I see many of them for women in politics right now and in the year ahead.

For one, in the midst of last week’s attack on the Capitol, it was a quick-thinking woman Senate aide who directed staffers to protect the boxes containing the electoral college votes and bring them to safety. That extraordinary step amidst a dangerous situation likely averted a disastrous turn of events, and it enabled the confirmation of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to eventually proceed late on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a number of Congresswomen demonstrated sound leadership and support for others even in the midst of a terrifying situation. Representative Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA employee, warned her staff about wearing clothing that identified them as Capitol Hill staff beforehand, then reportedly helped members of the press evacuate to safety during the invasion. In the midst of the chaos, when Capitol Police sought to usher Senator Tammy Duckworth to safety, she understandably wouldn’t open the door to her office until they said the magic sentence: “Senator Duckworth, Senator Klobuchar said to come to the door.” In a harrowing account of the day, Representative Pramila Jayapal, who is using a cane, described being helped down six flights of Capitol stairs by Representative Mikie Sherrill.

And, in just one week, we will see the historic election of our first-ever woman and woman of color Vice President when Kamala Harris takes the oath of office alongside Joe Biden. The significance of Kamala Harris as Vice President cannot be overstated. Little girls and other women with dreams of running for office will see a reflection of themselves in the second-highest political position in our country.

With the inauguration, we will also see the implementation of a historically diverse Biden-Harris administration. As we’ve covered here on GOTB, Biden has appointed a number of trailblazing women to important positions, and the official start of the administration will mark a watershed moment. The diversity of the Biden administration, the record-breaking number of women in our newly elected Congress, and the many women mayors who led their communities through 2020 have made permanent progress towards breaking the “imagination barrier” that exists in many voters’ minds and keeps them from seeing women as executive office-material. Looking ahead, a homogenous slate of candidates for a major election in our country looks increasingly unlikely, and that’s something to celebrate.

Finally, I know we will continue to see extraordinary leadership on the Covid-19 crisis from the women governors and mayors across the U.S., particularly as we continue to execute an unprecedented and urgent vaccination effort.

The circumstances of 2021 have already proved to be singularly difficult for our country, but I look forward to watching many courageous women electeds continue to inspire us to act bravely, to look out for each other, and to work toward building an inclusive, resilient government.



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