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Misogyny and the Vice Presidency

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Kate Manne observes that the first woman being elected vice president in 2020 would be only a small positive step:

For those of us who believe that a female president is long overdue, the past few years have been bitterly disappointing. From Hillary Clinton’s surprise loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election to the failure of the Democratic Party to choose a female candidate this year despite an abundance of qualified women, it’s been one setback after another. And though there’s abundant evidence that women can win elections in lower races, a slim majority of American men, and just over 40 percent of American women, still aren’t “very comfortable” with the idea of a female president.

Could a female vice president help to change this troubling situation? While there’s reason to regard Joe Biden’s pending selection of a female running mate as a step in the right direction, it’s ultimately a small one. And far from challenging the prevailing biases against powerful women, a female vice president would in some ways reinforce them.

However, Biden’s age does mean there’s a possibility that the vice presidency could be the springboard to a major change:

All in all, Mr. Biden’s commitment to have a female vice president serve under him is hardly revolutionary. It would remain incumbent on him to enable her to play more than a symbolic role in his administration — a robust position along the lines Mr. Biden himself occupied under President Obama. (The image of “Veep’s”Selina Meyer, doing photo ops for the president while being completely ignored by him, serves as comedic warning here.)

That being said, a female vice president under Mr. Biden might well end up playing an enormous role in the future of the Democratic Party — because of not only her own achievements but also the fact that, given his age, Mr. Biden would most likely be a one-term president. She could end up being the next Democratic Party nominee and the default leader of the party; she could even find herself unexpectedly assuming the role of president. But these contingencies do not touch the fact that in and of itself, the vice presidency is an unthreatening role for a woman to occupy.

There’s also no doubt that a female vice president could do a lot of good in this position if she and Mr. Biden are elected in November. The field of likely contenders — which includes Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, Karen Bass, Susan Rice, Val Demings and Tammy Duckworth — is rich in skill and talent. There are even reasons to celebrate the sheer fact of female representation, inasmuch as it may provide inspiration and solace to those who might otherwise justifiably feel that American politics remains ineluctably a boys’ club at the highest echelons.

How important a female vice president would be depends on some contingent factors — how much power Biden gives her, whether the media gives her the full EMAILS! treatment if she tops the ticket in 2024, etc. I’m relatively optimistic on he former, much less so on the latter.

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