“Respect my existence or expect resistance.”
This was just one of the phrases inked on thousands of posters seen at women’s marches across the nation on Jan. 20.
Starting this year off with a battle cry for gender equality inspires one to muse about what lies ahead. There’s been much discussion of 2018 being the “Year of the Woman.” While this term is certainly reductive – implying women’s rights only merit a single year of advocacy – there is nonetheless hope that this will, in fact, be a year of great strides toward gender equality.
For starters, we have an unparalleled deluge of women running for local and national offices. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, 397 women are running – or are likely to run – for the U.S. House of Representatives
Stirred to action by Trump’s reactionary policies, such as granting employers the right to deny insurance coverage for contraception, women are tenaciously entering the battleground. It’s plain and simple – no one understands the needs and struggles of women better than women. Though running doesn’t guarantee election, this is a strident move toward equality.
Even outside of Washington, revolutionary women are coming to the forefront. Several of the nation’s largest Fortune 500 companies have recently named women as chief executives, and there is no telling what they will accomplish in 2018. Bozoma Saint John, former marketing executive at Apple Music, was sought after to be the new chief brand officer for Uber in June 2017. Meanwhile, Rosalind Brewer, former CEO of Walmart’s Sam’s Club and first African-American or female to ever be a Walmart CEO, took on the role of chief operating officer for Starbucks in September 2017.
We’re seeing women’s stories on the bookshelves this year, too. Meg Wolitzer’s “The Female Persuasion,” the story of a young college student on the cusp of her future; Meaghan O’Connell’s “And Now We Have Everything,” a memoir on unexpected motherhood; and Michelle Dean’s “Sharp,” an investigation into the lives of some of history’s most brilliant minds, including Susan Sontag and Nora Ephron, will all hit bookstores within the next few months.
While, luckily, female authors and stories aren’t necessarily a new development, these books boast a unique nuance and specificity in dealing with the female experience.
The strongest defense against prejudice is knowledge, and the biggest impact we can make in the world of women’s rights is shining a light on women’s stories. By voicing their concerns in the political arena, guiding some of the nation’s biggest industries and writing about their experiences, women are infusing themselves into the contemporary culture on every front. Year of the woman? No, let’s make this the century of the woman.
Dana Munro is a sophomore majoring in musical theater.
Featured photo is a file photo from The Miami Hurricane.