From Protest to Progress: Hear Women Roar! | Vernā Myers

Vernā Myers

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03 Jan 2018

From Protest to Progress: Hear Women Roar!

What a difference a year makes. At the beginning of 2017, women came together in marches all over the county, raising their voices in support of social justice. By the end of the year, women’s courageous voices had spurred the #MeToo movement. Now, women are moving from collective protests to collective action—and swiftly! If 2017 was the year of women speaking up, 2018 is already looking like it’s going to be the year of women turning it up!

I was pumped when I woke up on the first day of the new year to the news about Time’s Up, an initiative created by powerful women in Hollywood to fight sexual harassment in the workplace. There are so many things I love about the way this movement is taking shape, including how it rightly draws attention to the experience of women of color. Historically so many women’s initiatives focused on the experience of white middle class women only. So, I’m so pleased to see Time’s Up prominently featuring women of color, including Shonda Rhimes and America Ferrera, and lawyers Nina Shaw and Tina Tchen.

I am also impressed with the major legal component of the initiative, including a legal defense fund to help women who may not have as many financial resources—like janitors, nurses and workers at farms, factories, restaurants and hotels (a disproportionate number of whom are women of color)—who experience sexual harassment and assault. As a lawyer, I know that justice and relief are hard to come by if you don’t have access to good representation.

And I love that some of the most influential people in our country are using their power to be a voice for women who don’t have the same platform and advantages they do, who all too often suffer in silence. The #MeToo stories that got the most media attention last year were the ones about famous and powerful men, but sexual harassment happens everywhere and the women who have the most to lose by reporting it are often the ones who have the least privilege to begin with.

Then, yesterday, I woke up to more news that made me want to shout “YES!”: The fabulous Hoda Kotb is replacing Matt Lauer as co-anchor of the “Today” show. It’s great to see that NBC didn’t think it needed to replace Lauer with another man. And while the optics are important, Hoda is more than capable, loved and respected by many.

I have a feeling there will be a lot more news like this as 2018 unfolds—milestones and actions being taken to move our society forward toward more respect and gender equity.

I also have a lot of hopes when it comes to these efforts toward gender parity and dignity.

I hope that women stay united as they push ahead and reject the divide-and- conquer strategies so often employed to separate and weaken change movements. We need the community, collaboration, and compassion among women to stay strong.

I hope that the voices and the needs of women at the margins—whether it’s women of color, women in low-paying jobs, LGBTQ women, women of religious minorities, immigrant women and very young women—will get the attention and support they deserve. Paying attention to the intersectionality of women is complex. Finding solutions that include women of every background is challenging, but if we’re not guided by the experiences, viewpoints and ideas of a diverse group, we will undoubtedly exchange one old unfair system for another, providing access and equity only to a select group.

My biggest hope by far is that as women become stronger, men don’t give into fear and anger. I have to confess, there’s some small part of me that worries about what the backlash to the progress of women might be. (It probably doesn’t help that over the holidays I binge-watched episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, which offers a chilling dystopian vision of a cruel society where women who had been fully independent and equal lose all control of their lives, bodies, and families.)

So I’m hopeful that men of every background, position, political affiliation and faith will remember that when women thrive, men thrive too. I hope that instead of getting scared, they consider how much more their wives, daughters, sisters, nieces and mothers could contribute to the larger world if they could be free of exclusive, demeaning, and physically threatening behavior. I hope they get invested in creating and maintaining cultures and structures that elevate women so we all benefit.

It’s only a year after the inauguration of our 45th president—a man who has been accused of harassment many times over, and who joked openly about sexually assaulting women. A year after millions of us stood on our feet for hours demanding and believing in a better America that hasn’t quite come yet. But we haven’t been deterred. There’s a new energy and hope among women right now. We’re coming out of the dark into a new light. There is pain, to be sure, as horrible experiences are shared. But I’m hopeful that as 2018 unfolds, both women and men will show compassion to those who have suffered and commit to finding ways to make our world better and brighter.