by Rebecca Davis
In many ways, 2017 was a tough year of chaos and upheaval, but it was also a year of women fighting back and making chaos of their own. Some women are fictional, some are real and yet larger than life, some are solo acts and some are whole movements of women and allies. These women didn’t just survive last year, they made it a year worth remembering.
A year ago, the Women’s March drew between 3-5 million people in the United States alone, and five million worldwide. While the impetus for the march was the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, the message was so much more than that of a protest against one man. We marched for something, not against someone. We marched for immigrant rights, for access to healthcare, for black lives, for LGBTQIA, disability, environmental, and reproductive rights.
I will always remember a parent talking to his young daughter on his shoulders at the San Francisco march. He explained why we were all here, why people were upset, what they wanted, and what it meant to stand up for what you believe. At six years old, she may not remember everything he told her that day, but I hope she will remember how it made her feel.
Days later, Serena Williams won the Australian Open for the 7th time, her 39th Grand Slam win, furthering her position as one of, and likely THE greatest athlete of all time. Not the greatest female athlete, not the greatest tennis player, just the greatest athlete. There are no qualifiers needed or wanted. And she did it while pregnant. I’ve sat at my computer for two minutes now trying to think of how else to convey to you my awe of this incredible human, but there are no words. Just, wow. Badass Lady.
Even entertainment in 2017 was dominated by strong women with lessons to teach. The Handmaid’s Tale was one of the most talked about shows of the year, and its main character June (called Offred by her captors) showed us that even after unimaginable loss, and in the midst of unfathomable pain, we must fight back. Game of Thrones’ Lyanna Mormont taught us to be fearless despite age, size or gender when she refused to defer her good judgment or permit hypocrisy from the old men of the North. Wonder Woman showed little girls all over the world that girls are superheroes too. She also proved, along with Belle and Rey from Beauty and the Beast and Star Wars, that women lead in the box office by being the most popular movies at theaters in North America in 2017 — something that hasn’t happened in at least 37 years.
The year ended like it began, with a group of women coming together when the #MeToo movement took social media by storm. Tarana Burke started the Me Too movement a decade ago but didn’t get the attention of the masses until a celebrity with a different skin color stepped in. The campaign spread like wildfire and has been called a watershed moment in the work against sexual harassment and assault. TIME Magazine named women who spoke out about assault as its person of the year. Survivors are speaking out publicly like never before, despite the fear of embarrassment, judgment, personal and professional repercussion, and that speaking will trigger painful memories. People are talking about what sexual harassment means and what options are available to women.
In politics, 2017 was a pivotal year for women to stand up and speak out. Both Representative Maxine Waters and Senator Elizabeth Warren taught us to ignore those who interrupt us, to not sit down, and to not let others silence us. To persist, nevertheless and to reclaim our time. Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person elected to a U.S. statehouse, taught us that the world is changing for the better, and hard work on the issues in your community make a difference. In addition, the U.S. Congress is finally taking a hard look at its policies around the reporting of sexual harassment. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand proposed legislation to do this and thirty-two senators, including Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, called on Senator Al Franken to resign after sexual harassment allegations. Here’s hoping 2018 sees reform of these policies. Or, better yet, don’t hope. Call or write to your representative or senator and ask what they are doing about it.
2017 may have been a tough year, but it was a year of tenacity, empowerment, and reclaiming our time. I for one, look forward to what 2018 will bring.
About the author:
Rebecca Davis is a co-founder and board member of the B.A. Rudolph Foundation. She currently serves as its development director, overseeing the organization’s general long-term growth and fundraising efforts. In addition to her work with the foundation, she is a trained genetic counselor and works as a consultant for the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation, an organization providing support to families of people with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. She is a 2008 graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, with a bachelor of science in biology.