Internet slams headlines calling Kamala Harris 'the female Barack Obama’

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., addresses the media on Jan. 21 2019 at Howard University in Washington, D.C. after announcing her run for president. (Photo: Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., addresses the media on Jan. 21 2019 at Howard University in Washington, D.C. after announcing her run for president. (Photo: Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images)

Do a quick internet search for “Kamala Harris aka” and the result is instant: “the female Barack Obama.”

But as the ambitious California senator prepares to build a name for herself following her Jan. 21 announcement that she’ll mount a presidential campaign, many are decrying the moniker as reductive, seeing her merely as the “female version” of a powerful male.  

“Hey, let’s focus on Kamala Harris for who she is instead of calling her a ‘female Obama,'” one woman tweeted. “No offense to Mr. Obama at all. But Ms. Harris is her OWN person !”

Harris first earned the nickname nearly a decade ago, when the late PBS journalist Gwen Ifill dubbed her “the female Barack Obama” on the Late Show With David Letterman. However, after formally announcing her presidential aspirations, that comparison with the 44th president has resurfaced — and many observers aren’t having it. 

“That’s some crap a White male journalist came up with thinking it would be catchy,” one user tweeted (rather ironically). “Black Women don’t need to follow in the steps of Black men. They create their own path!”

Some have called the comparison “inevitable,” citing parallels in the two politicians’ biracial background, their careers in the law, their similar progressive platforms and their political ambitions, as freshmen senators aiming for the Oval Office.

But when asked about her “male counterpart” at a state dinner party in 2018, Harris both expressed admiration for the former president and defiantly declared, “I’m my own person, not someone else.”

People online agreed. “There are many ways to talk about biographical similarities without characterizing a leader like Harris as just a female version of a powerful man,” another woman tweeted. 

Aside from objections that the nickname is “sexist” and “racist,” others online argued that calling Harris a female Obama only undermines her accomplishments as a prosecutor, California attorney general and the first black woman in California to become senator.

“She’s neither the female Obama nor the black Hillary,” one user tweeted. “Her resume qualifies her distinctively.”

Harris, of course, isn’t the first female politician to be subjected to such unfair characterization by both the media and the public. In the aftermath of the historic women’s wave in Congress and the series of women announcing their 2020 bids for president, the media has been under fire for the biased way it covers women in the political field, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

But people need not worry about this presidential hopeful. Harris has already proven that she will not back down under intimidation of any kind, including sexism. She is famous, after all, for relentlessly questioning former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite repeatedly being interrupted by her male colleagues, and for pressing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings.

The women of the United States Senate will not be silenced when seeking the truth,” Harris tweeted at the time of the Sessions hearing. “Fight back.”

Read some of the best tweets shutting down the nickname “the female Obama,” below: 

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