Quote card by Opinion. Buy this photo.

On Friday, March 26, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at an annual Clinton Global Initiative event with her alma mater, Howard University, to discuss women’s empowerment. Ironically, however, she was accompanied by former President Bill Clinton during this conversation. Though the three-day event featured many leaders and college students, this particular conversation discussing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the population of women in the country was between Kamala Harris, an important figure for women, and someone that is quite the opposite — Bill Clinton. Why aren’t more people outraged?

Harris received backlash for choosing Clinton as her partner, though this criticism does not extend far enough. Of course, Clinton is easy to criticize for his sexual assault allegations and impeachment, but Harris should be receiving much more of this heat. She could have chosen to speak with any other woman, really. Even Hillary Clinton was a speaker at this event; how is she not an obviously better selection for this conversation? 

When Harris was elected to the office of the vice president last November, she set an important precedent for women and especially women of color. Having the first woman and woman of color to ever hold to the title of vice president gave hope to the American people for the future of our country in having proper representation and activism. However, disappointment from many is valid in this situation for choosing a man for a conversation about feminism. During the most important month of the year for celebrating women, Harris missed an opportunity to give women a platform to speak out about their personal experiences during the pandemic. Instead, she gave this voice to not only a man, but a man that represents the very system that creates inequalities for women and women of color. 

During this event, Harris said it was a “true honor” to present with Clinton. Of course, we can expect cordial comments like these to be made when presenting together, but does this mean Harris is selling out to save face within the Democratic Party and sacrificing her feminist identity to do so? If Clinton was featured at this event to try and prove something about his support of women, then Harris appearing alongside him only hurts her image, especially when looking at the broader goals of intersectional feminism. Further, it would cost the trust of many women who looked up to her to carry on her important precedent with honor. Clinton did seem to use this event to his advantage in repairing his image as he supported her belief of one needing to “forgive yourself.”

Although this one event will not repair any preconceived opinions of Clinton, Harris aiding him in making this statement hurts her powerful standing as a role model for women. No one in a position of such honor as a feminist icon would allow a perverted and corrupt man of power with multiple sexual assault allegations against him the opportunity to speak publicly about forgiving oneself. Clinton was brought into this conversation mainly to discuss how to help lift citizens out of poverty since this was an important issue during his time in office, but his sexism undermines his legitimacy to speak on such issues.

Rage against Clinton is far from being over, as the past publicization of his controversial relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, a sex trafficker and a close acquaintance of many politicians, caused more individuals to speak out. For instance, Virginia Giuffre, the leader of a non-profit called Victims Refuse Silence tweeted at Harris, “@VP you think you can cherry-pick what survivors of sexual abuse you can support? Think again!! Abuse is abuse is abuse! Do the right thing, our country is counting on you!!” Giuffre expressed her anger directly at the vice president and focused on her position to do the right thing for her country, a level of accountability to which we should all be holding Harris.

Clinton is disgusting. There is no debate in saying his predatory actions are disturbing and unacceptable. But with Harris in office and regarded as a strong female role model, she is responsible for uplifting women in the country through events like this. We need to hold each of our politicians and representatives accountable even when it is so easy to focus on the wrongdoings of all of them at once. Clinton should not have been given this platform, and Harris has now been given the name of a hypocrite because of it.

Dimitra Colovos is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at dimitrac@umich.edu