Last week marked the 51st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling of Roe V. Wade, protecting a woman’s constitutional right to choose. As I reflect on how much has changed since its overturning two summers ago, I am brought back to 2017, when my mother and I walked together on the National Mall for the first Women’s March following the loss of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Presidency.
At 20 years old, there were few moments I had experienced in my life where the energy was as electric and tangible as that day. As we marched, surrounded by women from all different walks of life, I couldn’t help but wonder why in history have women mostly chosen to come together after a moment of loss rather than before it – and how can we use this moment in time to change that?
Since that first march in January of 2017, I would show up to march each year, and each year the crowd dwindled in size. Until last summer, when the energy was reignited, potentially unlike ever before, following the ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson dismantling 50 years of protection. The clear return of energy back to the one I felt in 2017 led me to question why women’s voice in politics tends to shrink with the change of news cycles.
Historically, Women’s movements can be captured by a moment in time. Starting with the first wave of feminism in the 1920’s with the suffrage movement and the demanding of women’s right to vote. Following that success, the wave of female advocacy mellowed until the 1960’s and the “second wave” of feminism took place. The surge of advocacy then dwindled once again, and was continued with what has been called the third and fourth waves of feminism by historians in the 1990’s and early 2010’s. Each wave follows an urgent need or flight-or fight type response that awakens advocacy movements in women. They are immensely powerful, and showcase the strength of the women’s movements, but they have been overwhelmingly reactive rather than proactive.
The problem with this is there are no “men’s movements”, that is just called politics.
Take for example “The Year of the Woman”. In 1992 and 2018 the country was faced with a series of high-profile sexual misconduct cases, from Anita Hill to Bill Clinton and modernly Donald Trump. Women in the country were furious and it resulted in a record-breaking number of female candidates running for office. In each of those years when ballots were counted, a record breaking number of women were also elected- making each year be dubbed “The Year of the Woman.”
These years showcased the force and sheer power of the female vote when it is ignited. But we must ask ourselves, why were these two moments in time 26 years apart?
Women’s voice and political participation is only continuing to grow, and it will permanently change the dynamics of our elections and our political landscape. As we reflect on what could have been the 51st anniversary of Row, we can choose to remain engaged when the news cycle changes. That is the only way. Today I urge you as you reflect, to find that energy or anger you feel and promise to hold on to your engagement even as the next election season ends. Integrate it into your everyday life.
And then, maybe, we can make every year the “Year of the Woman”.