Twitter is coming to the defense of California Sen. Kamala Harris, who was scolded by male colleagues for her line of questioning during a Senate intelligence committee hearing on Tuesday.
During the hearing, which centered on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s role in potential Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, Kamala questioned Sessions about a policy that prevented him from divulging more information.
“Sir, I’m not asking about the principle [of the policy],” Harris said to Sessions, per Talking Points Memo. “I am asking, when you knew you would be asked these questions and you would rely on that policy, did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would be the basis for you refusing to answer the majority of questions that have been asked to you?”
After Sessions declined to answer the question, Sen. John McCain jumped in: “Chairman, the witness should be allowed to answer the question.” Senate intelligence committee chair Richard Burr added, “Senators will allow the chair to control the hearing. Senator, let him answer.”
Twitter quickly leapt to defend Harris.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) June 13, 2017
Harris gets told to “let him answer” after Seasions gets flustered by qx about specific written policies.
— Tanzina Vega (@tanzinavega) June 13, 2017
Once again Burr reins in @SenKamalaHarris. So rude and sexist.
— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) June 13, 2017
Harris herself weighed in with this tweet:
It was a simple question. Can Sessions point to the policy, in writing, that allows him to not answer a whole host of our questions today.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) June 13, 2017
During the same meeting, while denying he had contact with any Russian officials, Sessions accused Harris of rushing him to answer questions and that her interviewing style made him “nervous.”
It’s actually the second time in a week that Harris has been shushed in a meeting.
During a June 7th Senate intelligence committee hearing about potential Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, while Harris was questioning Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about his contribution in the firing of former FBI director James Comey, McCain complained that Harris was steamrolling Rosenstein.
Later, while Harris was speaking to NSA Director Michael Rogers, Burr asked her to “provide the witnesses the courtesy, which has not been extended, fully across, for questions to get answered.”
According to Talking Points Memo, when Harris said a male senator had spoken for much longer than his allotted time, Burr interrupted her again. Harris sighed and left the room shortly after.
Her frustration is something many women can relate to. In early June, during a panel discussion in New York City at the World Science Festival, a female physicist — the only woman on a panel of six — was repeatedly talked over by a fellow panelist until a female audience member shouted, “Let her speak, please.”
“There’s been interesting metadata on the different ways that men and women interrupt each other,” Christia Brown, a professor of developmental psychology and author of Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Men tend to interrupt as a way of seeking dominance — more so to women and in group settings — and women do so to affirm their support.”
Women in Harris’s position often face an impossible decision: continue asserting themselves at the risk of being disliked, as research shows, or stay silent as they’re talked over. “Women often develop strategies for navigating these limitations,” says Brown, “such as making commands in the form of a question to appear softer or prioritize relationship-building.”
Adds Brown, who notes that the issue is intersectional: “That sigh from Harris may symbolize a lifetime of being shut down in these types of situations for many women. Women of color are particularly reprimanded for voicing their opinions.”
One way women can support each other in group meetings, suggests Brown, is with “amplification,” a strategy popularized by female White House staffers: When a woman makes a point, another woman reiterates it, crediting its author to ensure that female voices are better acknowledged.
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