A Moment or Movement?
AC BRAKE: Friday marks one week since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The week following the testimonies has been labeled by many as one of the most historical moments in American political history. It was one of the first major trials in the new “Me Too” America and a litmus test: how much has really changed?
Following the trial, I received the following text from a female family friend: “I feel like we lost our footing a bit today. Like we slipped. We got our faces shoved in the mud.” This message summarized my feelings about the events of the day and it kept bringing me back to a central question Professor (among many things) Donna Brazile asked time and time again concerning Me Too and the greater women’s movement in her class, Women in American Politics: is this a moment or is this a movement?
I was raised surrounded by strong, southern women. Reese Witherspoon was correct in asserting that women from the southern United States drink their whiskey in a teacup; we’re “steel magnolias.” The women I grew up with mostly worked in local and state politics in an era when women were still trying to break into the world of Kentucky politics. To this day, my county has never elected a female mayor nor a female county judge and the representation in the state legislature is one of the lowest in the country.
However, the sexual harassment and suppressed sexism they faced on a daily basis was never much of a topic of conversation; it was a fact of life. There was a commitment to changing the environment, but never through loud proclamations, but through soft subversive nature; actions speak louder than words. Femininity was never a quality to hide but was used by these women as their source of power.
Even as the Me Too movement progressed and was successful in many cases, a feeling of skepticism persisted among these women as to the lasting impact it would have. They said they grew up and spent many years in the professional sphere not knowing a campaign like this was needed until they were well into their thirties; they were raised and most importantly taughtthat this was just the way it was. “Many of us never considered anything like this would ever happen,” one woman said. “It is a great and important time, but people are delusional if they think this will result in actual change without something more,” another added.
While listening to Slate’s podcast, the Political Gabfest(my favorite podcast only second the Fly on the Wall) a few days ago, author DeRay McKesson said something that summed up my feelings about this tumultuous time and the future it holds for American women perfectly: it is not enough to yell at the people in power because you must be the people in power. He said, “protest creates space for the answer and helps people imagine a world that they have never seen.” Without electoral representation however, this imaginative world women have dreamed will likely never come to fruition. This is where I deeply empathize with the skepticism women I grew up with feel: they have been working towards this for decades and it is still imagination.
This Friday marks one year since the MeToo movement unofficially began. Today is also 32 days until November 6th, when a record number of women will be on the ballot and most likely a record number of women will be elected to public office. After Professor Brazile asked the class if this new era of female empowerment was a moment or a movement, she added that the answer to this question was in our hands. It is 32 days until Election Day. Is this a moment or a movement? It is up to us to decide.