By Rep. Susan A. Davis
Women have been fighting for their rights throughout this nation’s history. As a woman who has been active in women’s empowerment as a leader with the League of Women Voters in the 1970s, I’m moved to see that women are more motivated and inspired than they have been in many years. We are not going anywhere — we are only stronger now. We are fighting back against pervasive harassment and repression, we are winning elections, and we are demanding respect.
What an inspiration it was to take part in the first Women’s March in Washington, D.C. The crowd was so large they had to reroute the march! Following similar events throughout the country, women were becoming more active in politics. Just from the events I hosted in my congressional district, I saw the impact.
I held two town halls at the beginning of last year. In past years, maybe 50 constituents attended. But for these town hall meetings, it was very different. The rooms filled to capacity in a matter of hours and the vast majority of the attendees were women, around 80 percent. More women are showing up to demand action on climate change, social justice and voting rights. And as always, women of color are at the forefront of these issues.
A Pew survey recently reported that 58 percent of women are paying closer attention to politics since the 2016 election. That is compared to 46 percent of men.
We are hearing stories of women attending a Women’s March and being inspired to run for office, which is good because women make up only 19 percent of Congress right now.
Not only are more women running for office, but they are winning.
Women led the blue wave that swept over Virginia in November. Of the 14 Virginia House seats that were flipped, 11 of the winners were women.
This trend of women being more engaged comes with the current #MeToo movement. Women are coming forward in record numbers — across a spectrum of industries — to confront sexual harassment and sexual assault.
In Congress, five members have resigned or won’t run for re-election after claims of sexual misconduct.
This has prompted taking a closer look at how Congress handles accusations of sexual harassment.
Our current system is designed to protect the member of Congress at the expense of the victims.
Congress is rightly working to change the process to include more transparency and more protections for victims. I am a co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation to revamp the process so it is more victim-friendly yet strictly maintains due process.
The most significant aspect of these reforms is that taxpayers will no longer foot the bill for compensation to victims, which is currently the case.
Under the new rules, members of Congress will have to pay such settlement money out of their own pockets.
So we are seeing positive change from the #MeToo movement. This is just the beginning.
The momentum from the Women’s March continues to build and we’re excited about where it might take us. We will continue to explore ways that we can learn from one another.
Increasing women’s participation in government and holding harassers accountable has been an incredible reckoning to witness. But I am also excited about the cultural shift that is beginning. We are demanding women be respected not just as co-workers, but also as mothers, wives, sisters, bosses and friends. Almost every woman I know has had the experience of voicing an idea at a table, only to be ignored. Moments later, the same idea can be repeated by a man, and it is met with praise. It will take the concerted efforts of men and women to “hear” and incorporate all voices.
At the State of the Union address on Jan. 30, I will be joining my colleagues in wearing black in support of the #MeToo movement, with a touch of suffragette white. Last year, I led the Democratic women in wearing white to honor the movement’s early trailblazers.
The work continues. Hopefully we will be seeing more women in Congress, state legislatures, and governors’ mansions. What cannot be denied is that a year out from the first women’s march, the number of women engaged is still high and growing. That is not only good for women, it is good for America. In all of my travels, one thing has always struck me — women are the strong backbones of their communities. Their resilience will continue to light the path forward.
—Rep. Susan A. Davis represents Congressional District 53, which includes the San Diego communities of Old Town, Kensington, Mission Hills, University Heights, Hillcrest, Bankers Hill, North Park, South Park, Talmadge, and Normal Heights, as well as La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, and parts of El Cajon and Chula Vista.