Someone Like Me

Shreya Joshi

It isn’t normal to see someone that looks like me on my screen. Unless of course, that someone is family, and what is on my screen is a mom-selfie from Facebook or a random photo in a WhatsApp Chat. It’s definitely not normal for me to tune into a Vice Presidential debate, or C-Span and see someone that looks like me, a woman of color, in a position of power. 

For many, the rise in prominence of political figures such as Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a landmark life event. It’s a one-in-a-million moment to get to watch people we can relate to finally get a say, to watch ourselves finally get a say.

Unfortunately, that say comes with its own caveats. Namely, to see those like us be attacked for the very insecurities and disadvantages society has thrown upon us. 

For misogyny knows no clearer example than in criticisms of women being labelled as “aggressive” or “condescending” for the same actions men are being lauded for as “assertive.” When Senator Kamala Harris was interrupted during the Vice Presidential debate, the expectation was that she would stop speaking, allowing VP Mike Pence to make his point during her time. 

That’s the norm.

So when Senator Harris not only continued her point, but first called Pence out on his actions, the media blew up. Even my own father spoke to me the next day, discussing how Harris was rude and condescending.

I viewed the situation drastically differently. I saw a woman who looked like me, one who had been constantly fighting to be heard standing up for herself in a world where the color of her skin and the organs she was born with determined what society was willing to let her contribute.

I saw someone who had fought to assimilate, simply because she had to. I saw someone who perfected raising the octave of her voice and widening her smile until it seemed a little fake, because that’s how the white society women she was surrounded by did it. 

I saw someone like me.

In no way am I here to suggest that Senator Kamala Harris or any politician that is a woman of color should be free from criticism simply because they are a minority. The criticism simply cannot be a double standard; it cannot be rooted in their race or gender identity.

I would ask the reader to take note of the way that I am referring to people with titles in this piece. For a softer weapon of misogyny in politics, or academia, or any field where titles are offered, is the reference of women by their first names, and men by their last.

President Trump is rarely referred to as “Donald”; Vice President Pence, former President Obama, neither were called “Mike” or “Barack,” respectively. 

Senator Harris is almost always referred to as “Kamala”; Speaker Pelosi, former Secretary of State Clinton, Senator Warren, Representative Gabbard, and UN rep Haley are almost exclusively referred to as “Nancy,” “Hillary,” “Elizabeth,” “Tulsi,” and “Nikki,” respectively.

For most, this does not mean much. But for the women who work hard for their title, for it to not even be included, for the respect of a last name to be denied, it is just a reinforcement of their position - one that does not possess much power.

It seems the only way to keep fighting is to keep participating, keep finding women who are willing to be vilified, all in the name of clearing a path for those after them. All in the name of normalizing something that should already be normal.