Opinion: VP Debate Drenched in Misogyny


While the first and only vice presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence (featuring “the fly”) left us considerably less furious than the presidential debate on September 29, there were running themes throughout the night that struck a chord with women across America. From the classroom to the workspace, women are constantly spoken over by men: Wednesday’s debate demonstrated just this. Vice President Mike Pence openly displayed his misogyny in front of a large national audience. 

After the immature behavior in the first presidential debate, many hoped that moderator Susan Page would sternly enforce traditional debate decorum. Unfortunately, this was not the case: both candidates talked well over their time limits and interrupted each other. Pence especially struggled with speaking within his time limit —  he interrupted Harris at least twice as much as she interrupted him and went over his time at least eight times more. Much to Pence’s disappointment, Harris persisted through his toxicity and the candidates ended the debate with close to equal speaking time. It is clear that  the Vice President entered the debate believing that he could not be verbally defeated by a woman. However, Harris looked past his immaturity and kept her cool.

Pence also patronized Page throughout the debate. Although all of this year’s candidates have referred to the moderator by their first name, Pence had an especially supercilious tone when acknowledging Page (which he often failed to do as he talked past his time). Realizing that Senator Harris was winning the debate, Pence changed his strategy and began to roadblock the conversations. He completely deflected questions and undermined Harris’ chance to produce a substantial rebuttal. 

One example of this rhetorical strategy was Pence’s response when asked about systemic racism and the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Pence stated there is “no excuse for what happened to George Floyd,” then quickly followed with a “but” and the claim that, “there’s no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed.” Pence clearly felt it was more important to condemn the looting than the systemic racism in our justice system, refusing to admit its existence and decrying the accusation as a great insult to law enforcement. 

Between his ignorance, his disrespect to Harris, and the abundance of lies he embedded throughout the debate, Pence displayed that he had no real way of winning by just trying to convince Americans that his problematic policies were acceptable. On the other hand, Harris explained her and Biden’s plans significantly more transparently while still managing to be respectful and professional. With this, it is clear to us that Senator Harris won 2020’s only Vice Presidential debate.