— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 20, 2021
From a Middle Eastern woman: this is how Kamala Harris sworn in as Vice President felt like.
I was talking to a close friend of mine in the United States while watching the inauguration ceremony.
This was exactly what I texted him:
“I was sobbing when Kamala was taking the oath and dad asked me why. I’m a woman. I’m not white. I’m single. I’ve been through hell and back, because patriarchy—of course I’m gonna be sobbing.”
I teared up when Lady Gaga started singing the National Anthem. Being a huge fan of Jennifer Lopez and seeing her up there also made me emotional. However, the moment I saw the first woman being sworn in as the Vice President of the United States, I couldn’t hold my tears.
Kamala’s victory is a victory for all of us.
You see? I am Lebanese. As a Middle Eastern woman, I have seen how the laws in my country have been unfair to women for ages—and they still are. We do not have civil laws that protect women’s rights. Lebanon has 15 religion-based personal status laws and religious courts for different sects.
There is even a law that prohibits Lebanese women from giving the Lebanese nationality to their children. Not to mention the other discriminating and humiliating laws that need to be changed. Believe it or not, I’ve been told by many that we are lucky in Lebanon because we are still way better than other countries. Thus, for me, the United States of America has always represented freedom, equal rights, and many values that I have held dear.
Ever since I was a kid, I thought I’d end up moving to the U.S. for good. Alas—reality bites. When I first visited the family I have in the U.S., I was surprised to see that it was not the utopia I had in mind. Also, I could sense the tension and the vibes I got from people talking to me differently, sometimes in Spanish, assuming I did not speak English.
However, what really broke my heart was finding out that the monster I’d be fleeing from would be awaiting me there too: patriarchy. Although I was more qualified than many men, I had to accept way less than I deserved because I am a woman. I had to work harder only to make the bare minimum to survive.
I even developed a defense and coping mechanism by becoming fierce and aggressive so that I don’t get harassed in the streets and in public transportation. I am sure that millions of women around the world can relate to these words.
Not long ago, I had to block someone on social media who commented that apparently if he uses a pen name as a female writer, people would read his work—like it is perfectly normal to think this way and blurt out these words. Some men are not even capable of acknowledging the talents of others, simply because of their gender.
So, yes. I cried today.
I cried tears of joy, faith, and hope. Joy because Kamala Harris is the first woman to hold this office, faith because she is the first African American and the first South Asian American woman to hold this office, and hope because she is the first woman who will fight for a cause and values that I would die for.
I cried because for the past “four years,” I had completely lost all kind of hope when I vowed that I would never set foot in the U.S. ever again.
To sum it up, I will quote what Hillary Clinton (and yes, I also cried when she lost the elections four years ago) posted on her Facebook page:
“It delights me to think that what feels historical and amazing to us today—a woman sworn in to the vice presidency—will seem normal, obvious, ‘of course’ to Kamala’s grandnieces as they grow up. And they will be right.”