There’s not much left to say about Vogue’s February cover featuring Kamala Harris, Vice President-elect of the United States. The magazine’s choice of Harris in a casual look, wearing her classic Converse sneakers and a relaxed pant suit, has been widely covered with disappointment, disapproval and dismay.
Many have called Vogue’s choice as being tone-deaf to a country and a world desperately seeking symbols of hope and progress. Harris represents our highest ideals as an enlightened society. As the first woman, the first Black woman, the first South Asian woman holding the second highest office in the most powerful country in the world, Harris personifies the pinnacle of our democratic values at a time when we need it the most.
Our collective psyche subconsciously conjures up images that represents this historic moment. The image is one that conveys leadership and command, one that denotes that a woman, a woman of color, can don the uniform of head of state, the “power suit,” and wield authority over the world. Vogue’s final choice of the cover image hit a nerve and disappointed because the image was a diminution of that role.
Representation matters, and, as I often like to say, “If you can see it, you can be it.” Seeing a woman hold the office of the Prime Minister of India was a message to me as a young girl growing up in India that there were no limits to what I could aspire to be. Role models inspire young women to positions of leadership. A historic achievement like Kamala Harris’ ascendancy to vice president sends a message to young girls all over the world that they can do it, too.
The lack of visible representation or strong role models in the mainstream is one of the biggest obstacles that leads to minority women not aspiring to certain careers or self-selecting themselves out of them.
This is why the SEEMA platform aspires to showcase the other reality, of South Asian women breaking barriers, of shaping their own futures and destinies. We are determined to tell these stories and ensure there is ample representation for young girls who can aspire to be whoever they want to be. They can go beyond limits set for them.