The Future is Female: The Ladies Who Took Centre Stage at Joe Biden’s Presidential Inauguration

Gender

The Future is Female: The Ladies Who Took Centre Stage at Joe Biden’s Presidential Inauguration

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Is it just us, or does it feel like the dawn of a new day? This week, Thursday is less of a throwback, and more like the beginning of a bright and shiny future. Yesterday evening, viewers from around the world tuned into the inauguration ceremony of the newly-minted President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala “Aunty” Harris. American politics are always a matter of global interest, but never more than last night, when the world was saying goodbye to an old leader as well as hailing a new one. President Trump – known variously over the years as Cheeto-in-Chief, the Orange Menace, and Cinnamon Hitler – is gone, and with him the constant, looming threat of the next devastating international incident.

Over the past year we’ve all experienced the impacts of the US being in crisis, from dealing with an underfunded World Health Organisation in a pandemic to the strange diplomatic bedfellows created by the volatile Trump administration. Biden’s inauguration speech, both steadfast and moving, seemed specifically designed to wash away these worries and bring us all a sigh of relief. The ceremony, in a feat that seems superhuman after four years of gaffes, went off without a hitch. Lady Gaga belted out the national anthem in a massive red dress, while J.Lo followed up with a patriotic song medley and a shout-out to the Spanish-speaking community; Senator Amy Klobuchar acted as MC and managed not to say anything offensive; and young poet laureate Amanda Gorman gave a stirring spoken-word performance that brimmed with hope for her country.

Even aside from the performances, it can’t be denied that this inauguration belonged to the women. Kamala Harris, in addition to being the first Black and South Asian Vice-President, is also the first woman to hold the position, in a country that has not yet seen a woman in the top job. Harris is a former senator and attorney-general from California, with a long career as a prosecutor. To make her inauguration even more momentous, she was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is the first Latina woman ever to serve on the US Supreme Court. Ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who four years ago became the first woman candidate to be nominated by a major party, looked on with pride, as did her fellow former First Lady and popular public figure Michelle Obama.

Along with Harris and Clinton, Obama chose to wear purple, a colour adopted by the suffragettes to symbolise loyalty and purpose, and one that represents the union of the blue Democrats and red Republicans.

Earlier, Obama strode in with her husband Barack, dressed to kill in a wine-coloured jumpsuit that will no doubt inspire countless fast-fashion copies in the weeks to come. But the significance of her fashion choice went beyond just the look: Along with Harris and Clinton, Obama chose to wear purple, a colour adopted by the suffragettes to symbolise loyalty and purpose, and one that represents the union of the blue Democrats and red Republicans.

Meanwhile, the new First Lady, Dr Jill Biden, was resplendent in a blue coat and dress – and, refreshingly, she even kissed her husband without looking like there was a gun to her head. Although she was there to show her support, Dr Biden has been vocal about becoming the first First Lady to continue her regular job as a teacher, and she plans to be an advocate for educators. No matter where you look, there is no dearth of powerful women in and around the Biden administration.

In a way it’s fitting that a slew of capable women have come to the fore to clean up the mess of an outgoing government that will go down in history for its widespread incompetence. If anyone is up for the challenge, it’s the women who shone at the Biden inauguration.

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