The feminist resistance is far from over

Feminism in 2019 has got to be about more than counting down to 2020
By Carmen Rios    Published on 02/25/2019 at 9:00 AM EDT
We have to continue to persist if we want to see change. J. Bicking /

It’s been two years since the feminist-fueled resistance struck back during Donald Trump’s inaugural weekend, with one of the largest days of action in United States history. That year, activism became the new brunch—and one year later, a record number of women candidates were sworn in to a groundbreaking 116th Congress that is the most gender-diverse in history, and shaped by the voices of young, fierce women of color who smashed glass ceilings with aplomb.

Feminists helped elect those candidates. It was the many phone calls and postcards to Congress from activists that protected access to healthcare for millions of Americans. Lawyers, many of them women, provided resources and legal help to migrants being denied entry into the U.S., and feminists, who protested in large crowds outside of airports and challenged Trump’s Muslim Ban. Women lodging their bodies in between elevator doors helped lead to an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual assault facing then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. And it was feminist resistance that resulted in an end to the “zero-tolerance” border policy tearing families apart at the border.

Despite these victories, we still have a lot of work left to do. Families remain separated at the border, and people are facing fines and jail times for attempting to provide humanitarian aid to the women and children being denied asylum in the U.S., despite threats of deadly gang and domestic violence facing them at home. And in the wake of the powerful #MeToo movement, women remain underrepresented in Hollywood and other halls off power, including Congress, and sexual harassment continues to be a problem.

I’ve reveled in watching the movement I call home get bigger and broader and better over the past two years, even if it’s no consolation for the loss we all suffered. I savored every second of results rolling in from the November midterm elections, and I’ve delighted in the growing sassitude of the 116th Congress. And, like most of us, I’ve fantasized about the end of this era—a chance to finally close the door on this ugly chapter in history and roll up our sleeves in order to write the next one.

But we can’t just wait for the change we seek, and we can’t lose sight of the larger problems that we’re addressing in our activism. We can and must spend this year digging in our heels and fighting like hell, just like we have been, and demanding better from this country.

I care about who runs for president, and I will be doing my damndest to support a candidate who aligns with my values. I plan to spend 2019 doing my research on any candidate, and I know my friends don’t expect me to stay quiet once I decide who I’m standing with in the simmering Democratic primary.

I also remember that in the midst of a war between factions, a lot of us lost sight of the visions we shared—and our movement lost the energy it needed to overcome its challengers. I remember what came before the 2017 Women’s March, before November 2016, even before the July 2016 Democratic National Convention. I remember the underground Hillary groups on Facebook that we launched to escape harassment, not just from the right but from our so-called allies on the left. I remember the mudslinging, the sexist infighting, the shock at watching folks I loved and respected declare that they refused to vote for a candidate I cared deeply about.

Our unity for the past two years has been our greatest weapon. And now, with candidate declarations rolling in, new divisions are fomenting that are already threatening our power and, ultimately, our progress.

The fight for equality also doesn’t begin or end in the White House. I’m not saying this won’t be another one of the most important of our lifetimes—it will, and lives will hang in the balance. But this movement isn’t about Donald Trump, or the political affiliation of our president. We won’t dismantle the patriarchy just by electing a new commander-in-chief, and the jarring backlash to our progress that we’ve seen unfolding nationwide proves that we have a lot of culture left to shift. That long game is far from over—and when the going doesn’t seem so tough, we have to make sure we know better than to lose sight of it.

In 2020, we’ll still have work to do ending rampant violence on campus and epidemic levels of sexual harassment in the workplace. Many women were agitating for immigration reform before Trump, and we will still have work to do when his administration is packing up their offices. Abortion rights have been unraveling nationwide since Roe, and they’ll still need plenty of expanding and protecting after the next election. The fight for a higher minimum wage, paid leave and equal pay preceded Trump and will, no doubt, succeed him as well. The dangerous and growing presence of white supremacy, white nationalism and male supremacist organizations and individuals won’t just disappear at the next presidential inauguration.

I can’t predict the future, but I do know this: No matter what happens next year, we’ll still have a lot of yelling left to do in 2021 and beyond. In the midst of the excitement of a presidential race, we can’t stop raising our voices—or raising hell about what matters to us.

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