Tonight is the debate between Republican Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president.
We expect there will be discussion and debate from people of all political persuasions about who is the winner, who has the better platform, who articulates their ideas more clearly and which vision for America should be supported. This type of dialogue is good and necessary in a democracy for people to share their opinions ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
But we — as a country, as a society, as a community — should steer clear of gender-based criticisms and attacks.
It happened when Harris was selected as former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate. It happened throughout the 2016 election cycle with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president. It happened during the 2008 election cycle with Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential pick of GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain.
It happens whenever a woman in power, regardless of her political affiliation, takes center stage.
The insults come quickly — about her looks and appearance, the way she dresses, her sexuality. There are often innuendos about how she got to her current position. She is called any number of gender-based slurs. What she says gets lost in the analysis of how she says it, often with language that is applied primarily to women — was she speaking too loudly and aggressively? Is she too direct? Is her voice too shrill? Is she nagging?
All of this is dehumanizing and detracts from a valid and valuable conversation about a candidate's real assets or flaws.
Women who are being vetted for one of the highest offices in the country must be scrutinized as any other candidate would be. But the problem is when that scrutiny moves in the direction of gender-based attacks. Voters can hold their elected officials and candidates to high standards and can critique them against each other without resorting to that.
After tonight's debate — indeed, moving forward through our political landscape — let's focus on the issues, the platforms, the ideas put forth by candidates. Let's focus on their record, the way they have voted, their accomplishments and mistakes, and target our praise or criticism based on those aspects.
Gender-based attacks have no place in our politics, and we must reject any attempt to use them to tear down a candidate — in this election and in others.