LAS VEGAS, Nevada—The indignation didn’t knock them down, it led them to mobilize. On the first day of Donald Trump’s presidency, millions of women took to the streets with pink hats and signs to send a clear, if not vague, message: they were ready to resist the Trump agenda.
One year later, they’re back for more, with hundreds of marches taking place across the country and beyond this weekend.
This time, the Women’s March has become far more than just a march. On its one-year anniversary, which is being commemorated today in Las Vegas, many women are celebrating successes: The first year of Trump’s presidency saw more women than ever running for office—and winning. Women are speaking out publicly against harassment and abuse. They’re pushing for equal pay and for respect for their reproductive rights, and they’re standing in defense of immigrants and other minorities.
Filmmaker Paola Mendoza, the artistic director of the Women’s March, told Univision the year that began with a call for direct action and to “resist” marked the start of a cultural shift.
“I don’t think it’s an accident that we started off the year with the largest mass demonstration in the history of the modern world, and ended with what is arguably the largest mass demonstration online with the Me Too campaign,” she said. “The moments that book-ended the year were about women and led by women.”
Now organizers want to keep the momentum strong and focused. This weekend marks the start of a new effort to elect more women and progressive candidates to office and engage a record number of voters to cast ballots in the November midterms.
Leading the Resistance
On January 21, 2017, 5 million men and women took to the streets in what became one of the largest single-day protests in world history. People showed up to the Women’s March on behalf of a range of issues, like reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, immigrant justice and climate change. That gave marchers a sense of the intersectionality of the budding women-led movement for change and resistance.
Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, told Univision that the march served to “galvanize a community to be ready to respond” to the actions of Trump’s government. And “everything we expected to happen did, in terms of the Trump agenda,” she said.
A few days later, when Trump signed an executive order that banned travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, tens of thousands of protesters—many who’d attended the Women’s March—spontaneously gathered and marched in cities and airports across the U.S. against the “Muslim Ban.” Lawyers, many of them women, offered their time and services to protect affected travelers in the courts.
“No one organized those airport protests,” Mendoza said. “That just happened.”
On International Women’s Day, March 8, the organizers of the Women’s March led the call for “a day without women,” for women to take off work, avoid shopping and wear red in solidarity.
And over the following months, while Congress debated healthcare reform and Republicans sought to sink the Affordable Care Act, women led protests across the country— some of them dressed as characters from the Handmaid’s Tale. And they sent postcards and made calls to their members of Congress.
Cindy Leive, the former editor of Glamour Magazine, said the march's broad umbrella was ultimately its strength: "One of the things I think the women’s march organizers did right is that they refused to make it a single issue march," Leive said, speaking on MSNBC last week. "In other words, there were people who said 'you should make it about reproductive rights, you should make it about reproductive rights or equal pay,' and they broadened it to make sure it also encompass racial justice and LGBT rights and environmental justice."
González-Rojas agreed: “The Women’s March proved that our struggles are interconnected, that has been very powerful,” she said.
Women are winning at the polls, and showing up to vote
Since November 2016, more than 26,000 women have contacted Emily’s List to say they want to run for office. That’s compared to 920 during the 2015 to 2016 cycle.
On November 8, 2017, a number of them won. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, it was a night of “landmarks for women.” Among notable wins: Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala become the first two Latinas to hold seats in the Virginia Assembly, both beating incumbent Republicans. Virginia also elected the state’s first female Asian American, the first openly lesbian and first openly trans woman to House of Delegates seats.
Data show that more women are running for Congress now than ever before. In 2016, 272 women filed to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. This cycle, 389 are already planning to run.
But women didn’t just run for office last year. Women—and black women especially—ushered in a number of key Democratic victories with their votes over the past year.
In Virginia, women voters played an outsize role in the race for governor. Democrat Ralph Northam won women by 22 points, larger than Clinton's 17-point advantage last year. Ninety-one percent of black women voted for Northam, while just 32 percent of white women did.
In Alabama’s Senate race, black women helped deliver Democrat Doug Jones a victory in a state that hadn’t elected a Democratic senator since 1994. A staggering 98% of black women voted for Jones, while most white women supported Moore, who’d been accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls decades earlier.
Me Too/Time’s Up
The year ended with an unprecedented reckoning over sexual assault and harassment … once again led by women.
After shocking allegations against Harvey Weinstein were documented in the New York Times and the New Yorker in early October, actress Alyssa Milano urged social media users who had experienced harassment or abuse themselves to share their stories using the hashtag #metoo.
#MeToo quickly went viral, propelling a national—and even international—conversation about the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment. Suddenly, there were consequences, and it seemed the the list of men being held accountable grew longer every day, from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley to Hollywood.
Tarana Burke, a survivor of sexual violence who started the ‘Me Too’ movement in 2006, was recognized by Time Magazine in its December package on “ Silence Breakers,” who were named Person of the Year for 2017.
The movement’s efforts have trickled down to working women who traditionally lack a voice. The year ended with the launch of TIME’S UP, a coalition of 300 Hollywood women—actors, directors, producers, writers, agents, and entertainment executives—who have also established a $13 million legal defense fund to provide support for women and men who’ve experienced sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace.
Now, Women's March organizers are rallying around continued momentum at the ballot box. The Women’s March "Power to the Polls" anniversary event in Las Vegas this weekend marks the start of the movement’s new focus: to boost progressive victories in the 2018 midterm elections. The campaign will focus on national voter registration and mobilization, targeting swing states, like Nevada. It set an ambitious goal to register 1 million new voters before November.