First things first, I have to admit that I'm not a natural born activist. I mean I'm committed and vocal but as regards physically showing up somewhere to protest, The Women's March 2017 may have been a first. As a feminist though, we're living through a time when you just can't sit back and expect to hold on to the rights you have or expect that the outstanding ones are going to be fought for and delivered to you by someone else. So, I marched and I marched again this year.
Last year, I was all set to go to Washington for Hillary's inauguration. Hmm...the champagne was put away and I, like the majority of my fellow women, was outraged at the election of a man who had declared himself a misogynist on the Access Hollywood tapes for all to hear. It was a slap in the face to women, which amplified the pain of the loss of Clinton and a first Female President.
This year was very different though. I think it's probably been the most extraordinary year in domestic politics and also a pivotal point in the Feminist Movement with the activation of a new generation and the re-activation of older generations. Women's rights are under attack, directly through attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, the installation of conservative judges at all levels including some who have openly said they would like to see an end to Roe v Wade, the President endorsing Roy Moore a candidate tainted by serious sexual "misconduct" allegations, and indirectly through, for example, the establishment of the "Conscience and Religious Freedom" office at the Department of Health and Human Services.
So, what did I learn this time around?
1. It's Time To Stop Being Grateful for Crumbs!
With record numbers of women signing up to run for office due, in no small part, to organizations such as She Should Run and Emily's List the focus of this year's Women's March was the Mid-term elections in November. What has become crystal clear to all, is that the days of relying on the goodwill of men to benevolently address issues that affect only, or disproportionately, women, is well and truly over.
It's time to stop accepting a status quo that has us negotiating from a position of disadvantage and under representation. It's time to take our fair share and not be satisfied with crumbs.
I've always loved a quote by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg which was her response when she was asked about how many women on the US Supreme Court would be "enough" and the shock that her answer "When there are nine." would induce -
People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that!
The same is true of The House of Representatives and The Senate. The first woman elected as a Representative to The House was Jeannette Rankin from Montana who was sworn in on 2 April, 1917. The first woman to be elected to The Senate was Hattie Carraway from Arkansas in 1932. So, let's do a little math;
The Senate and The House first met on March 4th, 1789.
So, if we were to ask the question when will there be "enough" women in the Senate and The House, and answered in the style of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we'd say
When there are...
100 Women in The Senate, and 435 Women in the The House!
What are the numbers today?
Well, they're the best they've ever been but that only comes out to 21 Women in The Senate, and 104 Women in The House. So that's a combined percentage of 19% whereas the majority of the US population, 50.8%, is female. Now, that just isn't fair now is it?
So, the minority are today, and have been since the formation of the Republic, governing the majority. No wonder we're still looking for the full dollar, dealing with epidemic levels of violence against women, have no Equal Rights Amendment to our Constitution ,and constantly have to fight to push back the onslaught of anti-woman legislative proposals and attempts to defund life-saving health-care resources for women.. Crumbs!
Let's face it, the laws of our land weren't made by us, or for us. Women have just been shoe-horned in, and not too graciously either for that matter.|click to |
If men have been in charge with zero representation from women for a whopping 128 years...why not have women solely in charge for the next 128? It's only an outrageous proposal if you think that men being solely in charge for 128 years (and majority in charge now) is outrageous? And, let's face it, they may pay lip-service to equality but no man is proposing a 50% cap on the number of seats men can hold are they?
I suspect the country and the world would be a lot better off if we only ran women candidates for the next 128 years. I think the current occupant of the Oval Office proves my point.
What can I say? #Timesup
2. The Elders of The Sisterhood Are Not Lying Down!
Thank-you, Thank-you, a million times Thank-you
to every older woman who continues to show up for every woman. I nearly cried when three lovely women, leaving towards the very end of the rally in the Plaza in Santa Fe town center, leaned in to a little girl who was sitting in her push chair, there with her mom, and said,
"We're here for you. We're doing this for you!"
These women have seen it all in their time. They were all in their 70s, at least! We have a fabulous population of older women here in Santa Fe, active, engaged, opinionated. They showed up, raised their voices and, make no mistake, that has a massive impact on younger women.
America has one of the least active voting populations among developed nations. We rank just 31st out of 35 developed countries according to a Pew Research Study on Voter Turnout. In the last election only 56.9% of registered voters actually voted. Compare that to Belgium where a whopping 89.4% showed up to the polls at their last election.
39.3% of Millennials are not registered to vote (Source: Lake Research Partners) and are the most likely group to report registration problems as the reason for not voting. The obstacles to registration and the efforts made through gerrymandering and onerous voter ID laws to suppress the vote, are significant barriers to improving the representation.
I am not a citizen of the US as I've only lived here for three years and am not allowed to vote on a Green Card. However, last year as the Election approached I needed to do more than have a rant on Facebook or share a post, so I called the headquarters of the Democratic Party here in Santa Fe and volunteered in their offices on the phones. I was surrounded by "Elders of The Sisterhood" as I like to refer to older women.
So, if you ever think your actions can't make a difference or, it doesn't matter to you personally so you think you need not be involved, think of these Elders of The Sisterhood who show up for the next generation, quite simply because it's the right thing to do. On my sign at the March this year was this quote from activist and author Audre Lorde;
I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.
3. Male Allies Are Everywhere!
Awesome men are just everywhere and massively outnumber the dinosaur, sexist, alt-right out-right nutters out there. Perhaps we do have the current occupant of the Oval Office to thank for that, at least to some degree. So repugnant is his behavior to any man of substance, honor and character that any who felt they might be able to leave this fight just to the women, were woken up sharply and bounded off the couch, en masse, to join in the resistance.
Looking at the marches across the country men were out in force too. I mean it's "The Woman's March" but there they were, some donning pink pussy hats, others with their signs, and all in total solidarity with women. It was heartening to see because we need every voice and every vote and every signature and every warm body to show up for women's rights. It's not a part-time job, it's a full-time commitment and taking our collective foot off the pedal just allows the sexist status quo to prevail and the further erosion of our rights.
So thank-you to all the men who showed up in bitterly cold Santa Fe and in marches around the country. We need you and we appreciate you and together we can make this country truly worthy of the name, "The Land of The Free".
About the Author
Eimear Zone is an entrepreneur and Founder of feminist brand and social enterprise, PEBBLE + ROSE. She writes on feminism, entrepreneurship, and mindset management. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and IG @emtczone