On the deeply modern marriage of Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff

It was a clip from a video that was taken just before President Biden’s first speech to Congress: a clip of Doug Emhoff, America’s second gentleman and a longtime high-profile lawyer (he was an associate from law firm DLA Piper before stepping down last year for a new teaching gig), blowing kisses from his wife and giving her an affectionate nod. A girl on Twitter posted the video with a caption about how the perfect man is over there, and it got me thinking about what a deeply modern marriage is, Vice President Kamala Harris. It’s the kind of marriage that women of my mother’s generation didn’t know could exist. For decades, popular culture has told American women they have a choice: marriage or career. The idea that you might get married for the first time in your late forties was something my mother’s generation unimagined. Harris married Emhoff in 2014, when they were both almost 50; this is Emhoff’s second marriage and Harris’s first. At that time, Harris was attorney general for two terms in a state larger than many countries. In a country where the median age of a woman to marry is about 28, Vice President Harris is an incredibly exciting outlier.

It’s hard to write about the marriage of the first female vice president without taking a moment to reflect that one of the things that derailed Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate in the general election, in 1984 , was his marriage. (Her husband, John Zaccaro, pleaded guilty to fraud obtain bank financing in a real estate transaction.) It was 36 years before America succeeded in electing a woman vice president.

Few cultural changes have been as seismic as the one that has occurred in the veep’s office since Biden moved to the White House. The Trump administration had many Handmaid’s Tale– as elements (the worst of which was probably to allow violence against Women’s law expires), but none upset me more personally as the daughter of a second wave feminist than the ex-vice president’s incredibly outdated notions of marriage and gender roles. The Pence wedding was like something from another century. Mike called his wife “mother” and refused to have dinner alone with other women. He and Karen became evangelicals together. Mike had a set of rules to “avoid any temptation of infidelity, or even rumors of impropriety. It was the kind of wedding that would have looked old-fashioned in the 1950s.

When Karen introduced Mike to CPAC, she mentionned his “job is to keep him humble.” I mean, I guess we should have been happy that she didn’t say her job was to iron, but we got the idea: women were lovely accessories, supporting actresses in their own lives. Rolling stone reported, “Pence reportedly called Karen the family’s ‘prayer warrior’.” And of course Karen is antichoice super-duper, telling the group during the Walk for Life, “Before we got to Capitol Hill, we were supporting emergency pregnancy centers and talking for life.” Despite the fact that this was actually Mrs. Pence’s second marriage, a fact often overlooked in Pence stories, there was something alarming puritanical about it.

We don’t know what’s really going on in people’s marriages. Writing about them is a highly speculative endeavor. But despite the inability to understand how a couple behaves behind closed doors, from a feminist representational standpoint, it is powerful to see a career woman, in such a public role, with a different kind of backstory. love.

I am happy that my teenage daughter can see a woman who has it all: a loving husband, two stepchildren and the second most powerful job in the country. The only thing that would be a better message for young girls is if this woman had the most powerful job in the country.




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