Usually, the spouses of vice presidents of the United States don’t attract much public attention. Many Americans probably can’t even name more than two or three second ladies, but that is just a guess. Yet Doug Emhoff is the husband of Kamala Harris, the first female African American, South Asian American Vice President of the United States. He’s becoming a household name and breaking down barriers as America’s first Second Gentleman as well as the first Jewish spouse of any vice president. Does that really matter, you might ask yourself? It shouldn’t, but it does. Let’s take a look at a clip from an interview taking social media by storm that gives us insight into his popularity:
So is he ‘just’ a father as well as a charming and supportive husband of a ‘Powerfrau,’ as we would say in German? Or will he play a real role in American life and politics? What can we expect of a man in the role of Second Gentleman?
“It is my honor to be here, to stand on the shoulders of those who came before,” Kamala Harris, the first female, the first black, the first Asian American Vice-President of the U.S.A. proudly said in her first address to the nation on inauguration day. Her tone is optimistic, her goals are ambitious, and her energy seems unlimited.
It is true, we all are standing on the shoulders of those who came before, all the women who prepared the way for our progress, our achievements. And there has been quite a bit of progress as Carol Dyhouse, a social historian at the University of Sussex, describes in her new book, Love Lives: From Cinderella to Frozen. The title is a bit misleading. Though myths, fairy tales, and popular culture tropes still influence us, Dyhouse outlines how women in the western world have abandoned the restrictions of domestic life since the 1950s and gradually, though often painfully, have claimed access to education and the professional world. A long path it has been to self-determination and economic independence.
But even now the question remains: Have we made enough progress? Because I do worry about “my girls” these days, as Michelle Obama describes them. I worry about “my boys,” too, but this is a blog post to remind ourselves of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Both encourage us to reflect on those who came before, but also on those to whom we pass the baton, whose legs we steady on our shoulders.