US Senator Kamala Harris was recently speaking at MoveOn Big Ideas Forum when the discussion veered towards gender pay gap faced by women of colour. But before the presidential hopeful could express her views, a young man stormed the stage and snatched the mic out of her hands, alleging that he wanted to discuss a “much bigger idea”. The man has been identified as a 24 years old animal rights activist, who says he wanted to bring attention to the mass extinction of animals. A valid cause. But of all the platforms that he could have stormed, of all the voices that he could have shut down, he chose to do so to that one voice which seldom gets to showcase its views- women of colour. Who gave him the authority to decide what was the “bigger idea” for women to discuss?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • A male animal rights activist snatched the mic out of Kamala Harris when she was to speak on gender pay gap.
  • He alleged that he had bigger issues to discuss.
  • While his cause was crucial, it was not right of him to feel entitled that it was more important than what women were discussing.
  • The visual of a man snatching a mic out of a woman’s hand, because he feels he knows better, is so familiar. 

Of all the platforms that he could have stormed, of all the voices that he could have shut down, Cook chose to do so to that one voice which seldom gets to showcase its views- women of colour.

The dude, Aidan Cook, has said, after he was bundled off the stage by the organisers and Harris’ husband (Spouse of the year anyone?) that he was aware of the visual impact of his actions, a white man snatching the mic away from a woman of colour, to voice his own agenda. He added that he had tried to show his “profound respect for each of the people onstage.” But did he? Of all the places Cook could storm into, and there are innumerable, where men who match his description get a platform to speak, he chose to shut a woman down. A woman of colour, nonetheless, is discussing issues faces by the likes of her, with other women. No, Cook was too entitled to fully understand dynamics here.

Animal extinction is definitely one of the most crucial issues in the world right now. Many species are facing mass extinction due to arrogance, indifference and reckless behaviour of humans. Unless we voice our concern and force our kind to change our ways, the same fate may befall us, as we continue to ruin this beautiful planet. But should raising these concerns come at the cost of devouring the voices which are the weakest and struggle the most to be heard? It is especially not easy for women of colour to bring attention to issues like gender pay gap where the discourse is usually devoid of their voices.

It isn’t just about what you endorse, but how. Are you willing to share platforms, or raise a voice of dissent at platforms crowded by those in power, or are you simply going to snatch the mic from the weakest?

Harris, who could possibly become the first woman president of the US, is an icon for many women of colour. Her views on the subject of pay parity are of paramount relevance to them because even in this day and age not many women of colour manage to confirm a birth in the upper echelons of power. Cook felt entitled that his voice and cause mattered more than that of Harris and the issue of gender pay parity. He was in no place to make that decision for those at the gathering. But he did. This is why the image of him snatching the mic out of Harris’ hand bothers us so much. We have seen this happen time and again, men deciding the course of dialogues across fields, even when it is women’s agendas. They have been brought up for centuries to believe that their voices are the most rational of all. That they know what is best for the world, and thus they have the right to interrupt women.

While Cook may have targeted Harris purely as a she is the senator of California, he should have been more empathetic to those in attendance. He should have taken into account that to those in attendance, the matter of pay parity was equally important. But he didn’t take the context of women’s oppression or how racism affects all dialogues in our society into account. This entitlement has cost him the support of many, even while he is backing the right cause. Because it isn’t just about what you endorse, but how. Are you willing to share platforms, or raise a voice of dissent at platforms crowded by those in power, or are you simply going to snatch the mic from the weakest? The choices you make and how they’ll be projected matter today. Inclusion matters, and the sight of a white man snatching a mic from a coloured woman’s hand, speak of the opposite. Cook should have known and thus acted accordingly.

Picture Credit: nbcnews.com

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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