The men beside the woman

These men are feminists and comfortable enough in themselves to not only witness but to encourage women into power

Adele Barlow
3 min readNov 9, 2020

Here in London, we’ve just gone back into Lockdown 2, which feels like the extended, unrequested sequel of a bad movie that’s already gone on for far too long. I know it’s important to stay positive, but sometimes it’s hard to remember why. (I loved this description of lockdown life.)

And then something happens that makes 2020 suddenly feel like a year of hope and change.

“Dream with ambition. Lead with conviction. And see yourselves in a way others have not, simply because they have not seen it before,” Kamala Harris said as she addressed the crowd.

Over the last few days, we’ve been hearing a lot about Harris, about her background and biography and plans for the future. But what I kept thinking about was the two men who played a role in her win — because the truth is, no matter how qualified or brilliant or amazing a woman is — since so much of the world is still run by men, the decision to put her in power often rests with them.

First of all, Joe Biden. Why did he pick Harris? According to Scott Mulhauser, a longtime Democratic aide (and deputy chief of staff to Biden during Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign) it was partly because she “ran in the progressive lane and was able to nicely balance the progressive approach with a history of pragmatism, and that balance is exactly where Biden wants to be.” Mulhauser said that Biden “wants to dream big, but get things accomplished.”

Harris thanked Biden herself in her first speech as VP-elect, for his “audacity” in selecting her as running mate, enabling her to break “one of the most substantial barriers that exist in this country.”

Second of all, her husband Douglas Emhoff, a.k.a. America’s first second gentleman. If you don’t know much about him, Oprah collected 8 fun facts here. In short, he’s hugely supportive of his wife, a father and a lawyer. The day after their first date (they were set up by a mutual friend) he emailed her saying, “I’m too old to play games or hide the ball. I really like you, and I want to see if we can make this work.”

As this CNN video says, “What’s notable to gender politics watchers is how Emhoff is changing the norms for American men.” The video argues that Emhoff shows other men “the need to sometimes step back and lift up women’s voices in this process” and that this will “be important to influencing future generations of men.”

So, is Harris an incredible inspiration in her own right? Of course. Can any of these men take credit for her achievements? No. But when it comes to putting women into positions of influence that they’ve never reached before, we’re still at a stage where talent alone is not enough. The men beside the woman matter, because they’re a key part of dismantling barriers.

These men are feminists. They’re comfortable enough in themselves to not only witness but to encourage women into power. And I am very grateful to Harris not only for all that she represents and has already accomplished but for making the choice to include these two men in her life.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash