The Year 2017 saw renewed political activism and may well be remembered as the Year of the Women
By Anne Howard and Brandon Hinojos
We may not have witnessed the election of United States’ first female president, but 2017 has triggered an unprecedented number of women actively getting involved in politics and running for office. Now that this year is coming to a close, 2017 will go on record as the highest amount of women running for office.
Many women are no longer sitting idle when it comes to issues surrounding reproductive rights along with the #MeToo Movement that brought dozens of sexual misconduct cases to the surface. Because of this, women from all over the country are now pursuing a place in politics or other positions of power to respond adequately and prevent similar injustices from taking place.
There is division among women that are not well understood and call for deeper analysis, but regardless of political affiliations, they have made their voices heard.
It is noteworthy that more than half of the white women who voted in the presidential election cast their ballot for Donald Trump, and supported Roy Moore, while ninety-eight percent of black women voted for Jones, and sunk Roy Moore’s candidacy Alabama.
The numbers honestly do speak for itself, and we can see the sharp contrast of female participation skyrocket following Trump entering the presidential office. Before his presidency, only 1,000 women expressed interest in running for office but has now jumped to over 25,000 in total. Moreover, an excess of 15,000 women have participated in She Should Run, a non-partisan 501(c)3 platform dedicated to providing support and resources for those considering a future role in politics. As of December 7th, more than 365 women are planning to run for Congress, and an additional 41 set their sights on the U.S. Senate. These numbers mark the highest number of female candidates in recorded history.
Liz Cheney was sworn into the House of Representatives earlier this year and has become one of many candidates attempting to change the political environment for women nationwide. Daughter of former Vice President, Dick Cheney, Liz has been outspoken about President Trump’s view on NATO and relations with Russia. The first female African American Secretary of Labor and member of Delaware’s Congress, Lisa Blunt Rochester, has also criticized the president on his response to the Charlottesville Race Riots, DACA and his decision to cut access to birth control.
One of the most notable figures in the rise of female politicians has been Virginia’s own Kimberly Anne Tucker. After running and subsequently losing for the 81st District of the House of Delegates, Tucker is still proud of her accomplishments along with her vision for the future. Being a survivor of IV Colon Cancer, she fought for the right to access affordable healthcare. Tucker wrote in an article on the official website of Independent News that:
Too many people from across the political spectrum are skeptical, disconnected, and believe that politicians are more concerned with winning elections than they are about meeting the needs of people.
Tucker plans to continue encouraging everyone and especially women that they can become a “champion” for those who need it most.
CNN also revealed data confirming the rise of women on the political radar saying:
You could say that Trump opened the floodgates.
Then there’s Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand who has been holding the New York seat since 2007, longer than Clinton did and who has made sexual harassment her signature issue. Long before the Harvey Weinstein scandal, long before Taylor Swift stood in a court case and used the word “ass” repeatedly to describe her sexual assault allegation, long before the #MeToo movement became a cause celebre, Gillibrand fought for women in the army. Early on, she raised concerns about assaults in the U.S. military, and pushed for immediate changes to how accusations are processed and reported, and to protect the women in the process.
She used her political clout to try to get more women to run for office and 2017 may have granted her wish. Gillibrand told NPR in 2013:
Sometimes people say, ‘Well, why do you just focus on women’s issues?’ Well, why do you focus on issues that pertain to 52 percent of the population? It’s pretty important. And women are such the untapped potential in this economy.
And she is the fifth Democratic senator to call on Trump to step down following the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him made by 20 women from the early 1980s to 2013. All charges have been denied by President Trump but aren’t going away.
You may be mistaken to think that the #MeToo movement began with allegations against Harvey Weinstein or by Taylor Swift. In fact, it was started a decade ago by Tarana Burke, an activist from Harlem and founder of Just Be Inc. Burke launched the movement a decade ago as a response to sexual abuse in her community, but there is no doubt that 2017 is the year when women of all walks of life stood up and spoke against sexual violence and harassments.
But it was Alyssa Milano, an actress and American activist who took the movement to Twitter; some may say the appropriate platform since Trump uses it daily to communicate with his audience. She tweeted
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Waking up the following morning to a staggering 55,000 replies and the #MeToo hashtag trending No one on Twitter, Milano witnessed the hashtag go global, strong in 85 countries on Twitter and posted 85 million times on Facebook in the 45 days following her tweet. Ezyinsight reports it as being the number one “biggest splash” on social media of the year.
Morning television was forever changed when Matt Lauer was fired a short ten-hours after the first allegations were made against him, a short week after veteran journalist Charlie Rose was given the boot for similar charges. Louis CK and Kevin Spacey’s career took a downturn, among others.
While the public and private sector have reacted differently to the accusations, the campaign may even have its impact on governments and legislation, as politicians behavior is scrutinized.
The movement did more than exposed various political and entertainment figures lousy behavior. It primarily prompted a robust societal dialogue; the #MeToo movement may have a long-term effect on companies and how they proceed to hire, impact on management and human resources functions, establish and apply their ethics code on this while accused political figures may be forced to resign or at the very least make amends.
More than anything else, women feel a new sense of empowerment and have lifted the veil of shame surrounding sexual harassment and assaults.
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