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Opinion: Women’s March still matters two years later

On a cold January day nearly two years ago, more than 450,000 people showed up at the National Mall to create a movement for women’s rights.

This powerful sea of pink was replicated in cities across the country to create a unified wave over 3 million strong, according to the low end of Washington Post estimates.

Worldwide marches place the number closer to 7 million total people.

A lot can change in two years, but the force that is the Women’s March is still going strong. Millions are expected to turn out in over 200 cities across the country Saturday according to the Women’s March website.

Women’s rights have come to the forefront of legislature and attitudes have shifted to help women climb the ladder to social equality. While the Women’s March movement can’t claim direct responsibility for these events, the empowering energy it has created can’t be ignored.

Here are some of the strides American women have made in the time following the first Women’s March.

#MeToo Movement

Arguably one of the biggest social shifts of the decade, the #MeToo movement began in October of 2017 when actress Ashley Judd accused movie-mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct and blacklisting actresses who would not comply with his demands, according to a New York Times article.

The article included similar stories of abuse from other former Weinstein employees who had never met or disclosed their encounters, but experienced the same distress and initial hesitation to come forward.

As the story unfolded, numbers of other women in film stepped forward to support Judd’s claims and expose other questionable instances of their industry’s response to sexual misconduct.

This attitude shift toward harassment did not stay confined to media industries. Soon, men and women in a wide range of fields began to come forward to share their experiences in the hopes of shining light on the issue and preventing future incidents.

These stories keep coming to light and gaining attention – as the current predicament of R. Kelly shows.

Since the start of the #MeToo movement, our culture’s awareness and attitude toward sexual assault has seen a monumental shift. The sheer number of accusers has forced us to reconsider workplace and social norms. The support that has been shown to victims has helped to destigmatize stories of harassment and hold people in positions of power more accountable.

Women in Congress

In the midterm elections, voters took this momentum to the polls. The U.S. Congress now boasts 110 women – the highest percentage of female representatives in our nation’s history.

Among the 42 newly-elected women are prominent figures like 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar – a former Kenyan refugee.

The greater representation of women is coupled with an increase in the representation of other minority groups as well. This Congress is not only the most female in history – it’s the most accurate depiction of the American population we’ve ever seen.

But in that respect we still have a long way to go. The 110 representatives make up just 20.6 percent of the 535 members of Congress, according to the Center for American Women in Politics.

The numbers are just as low for representatives of racial and ethnic minority groups, at about 24 percent combined to include any identification other than white.

In case you forgot, women make up roughly half of our population. Racial minorities make up around 40 percent according to the Census Bureau. Something might be a little off here.

Even with the changes that still need to be made, the current Congress marks an important trend toward inclusion and accurate representation.

2020 Presidential Candidacies

Women are not only looking to fill Congress, as they could soon take on the White House as well.

And as one of the only developed countries that hasn’t had a female head of state, it’s about damn time.

As of Jan. 16, two prominent women — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. — have already announced official candidacies, and there’s speculation that others will do the same in the coming months.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, is also likely to announce her candidacy. The Massachusetts Senator has not officially entered the race, but she’s put together exploratory committees and visited key states in the past few weeks, according to her website.

The destigmatization of sexual assault and the increase of women in leadership positions are events we as an inclusive society can all be proud of.

We can especially take pride in the fact that these types of movements would not be possible without the support of individuals, but we still have a long way to go.

One voice can create a ripple, which, when partnered with others for the same goal, quickly becomes a wave.

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Photo by Caroline Cathey.

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