Elana Sztokman
Award-winning feminist writer, researcher, educator and activist

I’m so excited to vote for Sen. Kamala Harris

There are a lot of reasons to be excited about the prospect of a Democratic sweep of the November elections. For me, personally, one of the main draws is the vision of Senator Kamala Harris as Vice President.

I’ve been waiting a long time to see a woman occupy the White House. It’s an astounding fact that America of 2020 has not only never had a women president, but not even a woman vice president. The United States currently ranks 85th in the world in terms of gender representation in politics –far behind other countries such as Finland (11th), New Zealand (20th), United Arab Emirates (4th), Mozambique (16th), Iraq (72nd), Algeria (75th), Tunisia (78th), and of course Rwanda, which is number one in the world, the first country to elect more than 50% of their parliament women.

Similarly, Israel, at 66 on the list, is better than the United States but still has much work to do. We had a female prime minister once, but to put that in perspective, she was elected the year I was born, and I turned 50 this year. There are currently no parties in the Knesset headed by women. As an American-Israeli woman, I am doubly tortured by the absence of women leaders in both places.

It’s not just in the political arena that American women are far behind their counterparts in the rest of the world. According to the Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum, which measures gender gaps in education, health, and the economy as well as in politics, the United States ranks at number 53 in the world, and Israel ranks 64. For both countries, these rankings are worse than they were a decade ago, demonstrating that the status of women is getting worse, not better.

The absence of women in political leadership is not just an injustice for women. It is also a halting problem for the entire society. When fifty percent of the population is unrepresented in decision-making, there are going to be key perspectives missing from the process of problem-solving. As an example, the Coronavirus committee in Israel removed all its women, and the problem is only getting worse. Could it be because the people in charge are more concerned with maintaining a power status quo than including ideas and perspectives of those who represent half the population?

All citizens need to be seen, heard, and served by the government. Anything less leads to disaster.

Exhibit A: The year 2020. A global and humanitarian disaster that is the culmination of four years of stunted and backwards American leadership. Are we really surprised that four years of self-indulgent, narcissistic narrow-minded toxic masculinity in the White House has landed us in a place of 180,000 Americans dead, a recession, and no solution in sight? I’m not.

The Democratic Party is on the frontlines of the struggle to bring creative, humane problem solving through diverse representation and leadership. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden should be commended for his commitment in choosing his running mate; from the outset he was committed to ensuring gender and racial diversity.

The outstanding choice of Senator Kamala Harris, a brilliant, hard-working woman with compassionate leadership ideas and skills, gives me hope for the future.

It is unfortunate that in order for Harris to get to her well-deserved spot in the West Wing of the White House, she is going to have to pass through a lot of sexist and racist muck. Like Trump supporters who dismiss her entire career by fabricating a  ‘slept her way to the top’ narrative, a favorite trope of those who don’t believe that a woman can ever be as qualified as a man, or worthy of her own achievements. And the trolls are only starting to get warmed up with attacks on her appearance, as if the only way to judge a woman is by whether obnoxious old men would be willing to rape her. And don’t even get me started on words such as ‘likeability’ or ‘electability’. In the circles of sexist pundits, there has not yet been born a female who is ‘likeable’ or ‘electable’. These are all codes used to intimidate women, and to get people to distrust and dislike women leaders.

Both men and women have to work hard to shut out this noise, and to fight off the cultures that teach us to treat women leaders with disdain. It’s time for Americans and Israelis to get with the program. It’s 2020, time to end all this outrageous gender injustice. It’s bad for everyone.

Personally, I’m thrilled to be able to vote for a ticket with Harris on it (and hopefully one day, to vote for her in the Number One position…)…  I’m ready to get my ballot, and I’m going to vote with joy and anticipation.

If you are an American citizen outside the US, you can request your overseas ballot at www.votefromabroad.org

About the Author
Dr Elana Maryles Sztokman is one of the founders of Kol Hanashim, the new women's political party in Israel. An award winning writer, leading Jewish feminist thinker, educator, social activist, indie publisher, and overall spiritual seeker, she has been involved in the movement for gender equality in Israel for 25 years, and has worked with many organizations and communities. She has written four books on gender and society, two of which won the National Jewish Book Council award. She is involved in many causes, and currently serves as VP for Media and Strategy for Democrats Abroad-Israel.
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