We’re not even in February yet and so far we have several Democrats who are officially running for president in the 2020 election. Though I have to admit, I wasn’t really excited about any of the candidates until Sen. Kamala Harris confirmed her bid. The California senator has embraced a lot of progressive programs including Medicare for All and if she wins, she could become the first black female president. And yet for some irritating reason, folks out there seem to think it’s necessary to talk about Harris’ dating life — even going as far as calling her a prostitute. We haven’t even entered the primaries yet and the gendered attacks have already begun. Ever since 84-year-old former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown decided to let the world know that he used to date the 54-year-old senator, it’s become all everyone wants to talk about. But why? What does any of this have to do with Harris’ qualifications to be president? Nothing.
The attacks all began after Willie Brown decided to conveniently write a column in the San Francisco Chronicle about how he dated Harris 20 years ago and was still married at the time. Brown claims that he and his wife had been estranged when he and Harris started seeing each other. Why he thought it was necessary to write about this is beyond me though he claims that he was being “pressured by the press” to explain their former relationship.
Long story short, Harris’ former relationship of 20 years ago has been making headlines ever since with Fox News going as far as heading one of their stories “Extramarital affair with Kamala Harris? Former San Francisco mayor, 84, admits it happened.” Quite a few folks on Twitter have also gone out of their way to refer to the senator as a “gold digger” or “prostitute” and all for dating a 64-year-old politician when she was 34. Honestly, that’s her business. None of this has anything to do with the policies she’s put out or her qualifications for president and the truth is if she was a man NO ONE would even care.
Should someone’s sex life or past dating life matter when trying to run for oval office? Not really. Harper’s Baazar mentioned it should only matter if the candidate was involved in acts that harassed or sexually violated another individual or if they were involved with someone underage and I couldn’t agree more. None of that seems to be the case for Harris and yet here we are, witnessing multiple news outlets and folks on social media ripping this female candidate apart — basically because she’s female. Implying that Harris dated Brown for professional and political gain is not just disgusting but insanely sexist and misogynistic especially because we would never make that claim if the roles were reversed.
Let’s be real, for a second. The fact that there are people on this planet that can’t grasp the idea that maybe just maybe Harris reached success on her own — without the help of a man — speaks volumes. Just because they dated doesn’t mean he necessarily helped her move up, and even if he did connect her with the right people or gave her advice on certain things that certainly doesn’t mean Harris didn’t put in the work. The fact that we would question whether this woman deserves to be where she’s at now professionally or potentially president one day all because she happened to date a man 20 years her senior who is also a politician is sexism at it’s prime. It also speaks to a man’s privilege. By suggesting that she was with him for professional gain, it implies that men are always the ones who hold the power and women need to date, fuck, or at least associate with these men in power in order to even gain a fraction of that power. Men never have to face these kinds of accusations because why would they? They are born with a level of privilege that makes it way easier for them to find themselves in positions of power. That was the case 20 years and that is still very much the case today.
Men are hardly ever held to this standard and when they are, we’re quick to forgive or forget. But when it comes to women, our sexuality is often seen, criticized, and depicted before our work, our intelligence, our capabilities, and our success and it’s sad. We’re living in 2019 and yet still experiencing our fair degree of gendered attacks. The next time we decide to look into a presidential candidates’ past, let’s put more of the focus (unless it involved harassment, assault or dating an underaged person) on the political and career choices they made and less on who they dated. Let’s put an end to this sexist mindset once and for all.