More than a few Americans and people elsewhere in the world expected 2017 to be the Year of the Woman, or more specifically, the Year of One Particular Woman – Hillary Clinton. That did not happen, as we all know, proving that America is not quite ready for a woman president. We are apparently ready, though, for women leaders in other high places. Writing for The Washington Post, Petula Dvorak pointed to three new women U.S. senators, the first woman to head a major Unified Combatant Command, the first woman NFL coach, and the first woman depicted on U.S. currency, all of which came to fruition in 2017.
So there is progress.
What is more, 2018 is shaping up not as the Year of the Woman, but the Year of Women. The Women’s March a year ago in Washington, D.C., and other cities across the nation brought millions of women together to mourn a loss and to celebrate what will surely come in future years. It was a historical moment filled with hope and energy. It was also a moment that cannot be duplicated, though women’s marches around the country are also planned for later this month.
That was then, though, and this is now, and the difference is a year in which women of all partisan stripes declared they were running for public offices from the U.S. Senate and governorships down to local school boards. Some of those women were elected in 2017, and some will be on ballots in 2018.
What we are seeing is women demanding seats at decision-making tables and voters deciding women candidates are often more trustworthy than men who have jealously guarded the status quo for not just decades but centuries. Women make up 51 percent of the American population, and millions of those women have decided we do not like the way we have been treated in oh-so-many ways.
Women are tired of being shut out, yes, but feminine activism is also fueled by the election of a president who bragged openly about groping women, which in turn led to the #MeToo movement. Famous and powerful women, and others who lead more private lives, have stepped forward to report sexual harassment and abuse, some of it criminal, toppling men from high places in politics, media, business, and even restaurant kitchens. At times, it has felt like a tsunami of men tumbling head over heels, a phenomenon political commentator and humorist Celia Rivenbark describes as “raining men.”
It is true that the women energized to run for elective office and even the millions of women marching last year are but a small fraction of the 154 million plus women in the United States. Most women have done neither of those things, but make no mistake. Women are watching the actions and achievements of their sisters, and they are nursing their own stories of gender inequities and worse. They are watching and cheering, sometimes silently, advances they see that will benefit themselves, their daughters and others in general.
It shocks me every time I think about it to realize that my own mother was born into a country, the United States, that did not yet allow women to vote. That baby girl grew into a woman who voted at every opportunity, as do her two daughters. Hillary Clinton did not become president for many reasons – not only her gender – but almost a century after American women got the vote, Clinton did run on a major party ticket and came close to becoming the leader of the free world.
The bottom line here is that some women are more capable than men in almost every field or endeavor, and some are not. What the Year of Women is about is leveling the field so that the most capable person rises to the top and so that power in public and in private is not used selectively based on gender.
If nothing else, 2018 is going to be an interesting, energizing and profoundly hopeful time to be an American woman.
L to R: Ilhan Omar, America’s first Somali-American Muslim woman legislator; Kathy Tran, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates; Vi Lyles, the first African-American woman mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. These women are just a few of many who are changing hundreds of years of the male-dominated status quo in America.