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Why feminism didn’t lose in 2016

Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, and Hillary Clinton’s loss, was a devastating blow to feminism. America had a selection between its first lady president and an alleged sexual predator; between “women’s rights are human rights” and “grab ’em by the pussy”; between telling our daughters they will do something they need, and telling them that something could be achieved to them by highly effective, entitled males.

We know which choice America selected. We additionally know it might have chosen in another way if “one person, one vote” have been something however a cruel joke underneath our Electoral College system — however that’s irrelevant now.

“However freakishly contingent [Trump’s] triumph, it forecloses the future feminists imagined at least for a long while,” Michelle Goldberg argues at Slate. “We’re going be blown backward so far that this irredeemably shitty year may someday look like a lost feminist golden age.” 2016, Goldberg writes, may go down as “the year the feminist bubble burst.”

In some methods, it’s onerous to argue together with her conclusion. Federal coverage on women’s issues is more likely to turn into a practice wreck over the subsequent 4 years — from Congress defunding household planning providers, to civil rights enforcers shrugging at rape on school campuses, to labor businesses dismantling the few protections there are towards gender-based discrimination in the office.

It’s additionally an enormous blow to morale, Goldberg argues, when an clearly certified lady loses the presidency to such an clearly less-qualified man — a blow that “can’t help but reverberate through the culture, changing our sense of what is possible for women.” Goldberg says her nightmare state of affairs is a brand new anti-feminist backlash of the type we haven’t seen because the Reagan years. She fears the daybreak of an period in which males who’ve been “stewing about political correctness” can begin mistreating women with much more impunity.

Part of me shares these fears. Backlashes to social progress are actual, they usually occur with miserable regularity. But, truthfully? I’ve a tough time seeing this specific nightmare — males feeling any extra entitled to women’s our bodies than regular, or feminism being any extra credibly blamed for all of women’s issues than regular — coming to cross.

Yes, feminist hopes have been dashed — however feminist efforts haven’t failed. The solely “bubble” that’s been popped is the one which had some individuals satisfied misogyny was already over, or at the very least properly on its means out the door.

There have been some deeply painful losses in the continued battle for women’s rights and equality this yr. There’s no approach round that. But Trump’s victory didn’t vanquish feminism. It simply clarified the challenges that feminism is actually up towards — even now, nonetheless, in America in 2016. And the essential half is that this: 2016 proved that feminism is as much as the problem. And it’s steadily profitable battles in a really, very lengthy warfare towards one thing even greater than Trumpism.

2016 was nonetheless a yr of reckoning for males who act with sexual impunity

2016 did, sadly and predictably, sustain humanity’s thousands-year development of males committing sexual violence towards women or in any other case behaving badly. Jezebel has a whole list of “Men Who Got Away With It in 2016,” the place “it” ranges from felony mischief to home violence to genocide, and the place the lads in query are all well-known and nonetheless principally doing simply high quality for themselves.

But a few of them didn’t get away with it, no less than not totally. And the explanations for which might be causes for feminists to be optimistic. It’s getting just a little simpler for victims of sexual violence to return ahead, it appears, and it’s getting just a little more durable for perpetrators to flee penalties.

Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes turned “former,” to not point out “disgraced,” because of the decided efforts of Gretchen Carlson — the previous Fox anchor who sued Ailes for sexual harassment, secretly taped his advances (which Ailes nonetheless denies making) for a yr, and impressed quite a few other women to go public about comparable experiences with him.

There have been limits to this feminist victory. Carlson might have gotten a $20 million settlement and an apology from Fox, however Ailes got a $40 million golden parachute. Carlson confronted public skepticism from her colleagues and assaults on her character, like so many women who go public about sexual misconduct. And how are bizarre women with atypical help networks presupposed to really feel about coming ahead when even a well-liked TV character like Carlson is just vindicated after a yr of devoted groundwork, and solely after an much more well-known colleague (Megyn Kelly) additionally comes ahead to again her up? (We might have a gender wage gap of 80 or so cents on the greenback — however relating to public perceptions of sexual violence, we’ll be fortunate when a lady’s phrase is value 80 % of a person’s.)

Nonetheless, Ailes was some of the highly effective males in media. He made Fox News what it’s as we speak. It was by no means, ever a foregone conclusion that he might be taken down in any respect by one thing like this, a lot much less that he’d lose his job over it.

Other high-profile instances of sexual misconduct in 2016 got here with equally combined, however nonetheless highly effective, feminist victories. Bill Cosby’s accusers were ignored for years until a male comedian said something in 2014 — however in 2016 Cosby confronted legal costs (which he might or is probably not convicted of, however there’s damning evidence towards him), and his popularity is in the bathroom. Former Stanford scholar and convicted rapist Brock Turner solely served three months of his six-month jail sentence — however after his sufferer’s eloquent plea for justice went viral, his mild sentence turned a national scandal.

As for Donald Trump, properly, he gained the election. But whereas many citizens have been capable of overlook his blatant misogyny, that doesn’t mean they favored or authorised of it. The Access Hollywood tapes, and the various women who got here ahead after that to accuse Trump of sexual assault, dealt a huge blow to his marketing campaign — one which solely the last-minute chaos of FBI Director James Comey’s letter about Hillary Clinton’s emails might actually assist him get well from.

All of those main tales have one factor in widespread: women’s voices, amplifying and being amplified by different women’s voices. One lady talking out, inspiring a dozen others to comply with go well with as a result of they know they’re not alone. One lady talking out, and altering the story we inform a few highly effective man — in public, as an alternative of the standard whispered warning to different women behind closed doorways, or the standard ashamed silence.

More women are talking out, and extra individuals are listening to them. This is a brand new regular that may’t simply be reversed.

Perhaps greater than ever, 2016 was the yr of women each talking out and being heard. This doesn’t appear to be an excessive amount of to ask for, nevertheless it’s additionally not one thing we will take as a right.

In simply the previous decade or so, feminism has turn into mainstream, culturally hip, and politically savvy. Beyoncé, for example, has made feminism each interesting (assume the FEMINIST signal on the 2014 Video Music Awards) and difficult (assume the proud black feminism of her 2016 album Lemonade) to mainstream audiences.

In 2016, women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour ran election tales that any other outlet would consider major scoops. And some individuals on the web seemed shocked — shocked! — that Teen Vogue would function hard-hitting coverage of the 2016 election and never simply magnificence ideas.

But none of that is shocking, as Sady Doyle explained for Quartz: The rise of feminist blogs in the course of the George W. Bush years ended up “training an army of female journalists and editors” who now write for main retailers just like the New York Times, or who’ve discovered their house at profitable new digital publications. Even although it nonetheless will get dismissed and made enjoyable of, feminist information protection has gone mainstream.

No marvel then, maybe, that many years of rape allegations towards Bill Cosby didn’t even start to meet up with him till late 2014, or that this yr featured a broader cultural counting on sexual assault, or that Hillary Clinton determined to vocally embrace her gender and feminist values in 2016 after having executed the other in 2008.

Social media has additionally given women big platforms and communities to debate issues they could in any other case have stayed silent about — or that they could by no means have discovered the phrases for till somebody gave it a reputation.

When Trump’s “pussy” tape impressed writer Kelly Oxford to tweet about her first sexual assault, and encourage different women to do the identical, she was inundated with responses on the price of a minimum of one per second for no less than the subsequent day. And once I wrote about her tweets, women I do know began telling me about experiences they’d stored to themselves for years.

There are many reasons — stigma, disgrace, trauma, and so forth — why women won’t speak brazenly about assault, regardless that it’s so widespread. But we’ve additionally been raised to anticipate that this type of factor occurs on a regular basis. That it’s no huge deal if a man casually gropes you at a bar, or that it’s flattering if he provides you a kiss you weren’t anticipating. That the sick, hole feeling you may get about it afterward is your drawback.

If you get sufficient women in a room to speak about this, although, they could begin realizing all of them have the identical “problem.” They may give that drawback a reputation, like “sexual assault,” and determine there’s no good purpose to place up with it anymore.

They may even begin naming and cease tolerating a few of “the small indignities that make even the most privileged female lives taxing,” as Goldberg put it — like “mansplaining” (a person condescending to a lady on a topic she is aware of higher than he does) or “manspreading” (when males take up an excessive amount of area on a subway, e.g., and crowd others out).

Can this get somewhat ridiculous or trivial? Perhaps. Then once more, it’s not like sexism saves itself for the actually weighty, critical issues. Sometimes misogyny is definitely so ridiculous, so absurd, that the one smart response is blowing raspberries and laughing in its face. Lord is aware of we’re all going to wish just a little levity underneath Trump.

Systemic sexism will depend on silence — individuals who will look the opposite approach, or who will shut up these loud women who don’t have the courtesy to close themselves up. But as soon as silences are damaged as extensively and deeply as they’ve been for women this yr, this decade, it’s very onerous to place all of that again in the bottle.

In 2016, loud women fought off an excessive abortion ban in Poland, led a fierce battle towards the Dakota Access Pipeline, and smacked down the idea that women ought to ever be embarrassed about their durations. Loud women deliberate an enormous March on Washington for the day after Trump’s inauguration that might be the largest-ever mobilization of its variety.

Women simply aren’t shutting up, and it’s arduous to see why they might begin now.

The close to way forward for feminism shall be native and decentralized. That doesn’t imply it gained’t be efficient.

It’s necessary to keep in mind that women nonetheless made historic nationwide electoral features regardless of Hillary Clinton’s loss; the variety of women of colour in the Senate is about to quadruple, from one to 4. Plus, the symbolic milestone of Clinton’s marketing campaign — the primary lady presidential nominee of a serious get together, who gained the favored vote by about three million votes — actually does matter regardless of her loss, and is in some methods a feminist triumph.

Of course, a majority-Republican Congress and a Trump-Pence administration don’t bode nicely for advancing women’s health or rights on the federal degree. But there’s super alternative and power for progressives and feminists to make some critical positive factors on the state and native degree in the meantime — which additionally occurs to be a a lot better long-term organizing technique than obsessing over presidential politics.

2016 was the best year yet in a promising struggle to move paid sick and household depart on the state and native degree. The United States is the one developed nation that doesn’t have nationwide paid maternity depart, and the momentum to vary that — no less than regionally, so long as Congress does nothing — is robust. Three states, one county, and 10 cities handed legal guidelines in 2016 that require staff to have the ability to earn paid sick days, and New York State and Washington, DC, each handed very beneficiant family leave insurance coverage packages.

And amazingly, reproductive rights may very well be on the upswing — in spite of every thing, together with a promise from Trump to nominate “pro-life” Supreme Court justices who might overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Supreme Court’s choice this summer time to overturn two Texas abortion legal guidelines was a sweeping pro-choice game-changer; it’s already been used to strike down abortion restrictions in different states, and extra courtroom victories will in all probability comply with in the close to future. That determination additionally makes it much less likely that the Court would overturn Roe v. Wade in the close to future — no less than not until and till Trump will get to nominate two or three new conservative justices.

Collectively, states additionally proposed about 300 payments that may increase, fairly than prohibit, women’s health and rights, together with higher entry to contraception and higher maternal health care. It’s a promising avenue to shore up women’s health at a time when complete protection beneath the Affordable Care Act could possibly be in jeopardy.

There’s additionally a minimum of one fascinating, and really promising, state and native aspect impact of Hillary Clinton’s loss: She is reportedly inspiring a massive surge of interest amongst women in operating for native political workplace. Driven by shock, worry, and anger over Trump’s win, many women say they need to be the change they need to see in authorities.

That’s extremely necessary: Research shows that women’s political ambition, or lack thereof, is among the largest hurdles to getting extra women in political workplace and dealing towards equal illustration in authorities. Some women are certified and pushed, however have simply actually by no means thought-about operating for workplace as a critical risk. Others really feel intimidated by fears of sexism on the marketing campaign path, or don’t really feel supported by their political institution.

Either means, there’s a scarcity of certified women in the pipeline to advance in political workplace. And if extra women run and win, particularly on the state and native degree, they won’t solely set themselves up for extra highly effective workplaces later — they’ll additionally change how their government works.

With somebody like Trump in workplace, it’s a lot more durable to argue that sexism is a factor of the previous. That’s a superb factor.

It’s tempting to think about these developments as the beginning of a sea change — the final stand of the “good old boys” who used their energy to abuse women with impunity and belief that everyone else would look the opposite approach, as an example. But we shouldn’t begin writing rape tradition’s obituary simply but.

Younger generations could also be extra liberal than older ones in basic, however research suggests that they’re not essentially extra progressive on issues associated to gender equality and sexism. While there’s been some progress on these issues, the sexism that is still can truly be extra harmful — as a result of individuals shall be much less ready to consider it actually exists, and thus much less outfitted to cope with it.

In a 2013 Pew survey of Americans, as an example, millennial males have been the most possible demographic group to say that each one mandatory modifications have already been made to result in gender equality in the office. That’s nuts: Women face workplace discrimination in virtually each conceivable method, from the very real gender wage gap, to being pregnant and parenting discrimination, to unequal illustration in management, to America’s full lack of any nationwide paid maternity or household depart.

But complacency in the face of all of that could possibly be harder when your president is the type of man who thinks his own daughter ought to simply change jobs if she have been ever sexually harassed at work.

I consider the established order on sexism, racism, and different types of bigotry as like dwelling in a city constructed on prime of a poisonous waste dump. The barrels aren’t as well-sealed or deeply buried as individuals assume, and your youngsters are nonetheless getting sick, and nonetheless solely sure sorts of crops will truly develop in that soil. But metropolis officers insist the whole lot’s fantastic — and actually you need to rely your blessings, as a result of in the subsequent city over everyone has to put on fuel masks.

But then someday, Hurricane Donald comes alongside. It roars via and rips up the grass and soil, and all of the barrels bob to the floor and ooze poisonous black goo all over the place, the stuff you thought and hoped was lengthy buried.

It’s a a lot greater and extra apparent mess, and no one’s joyful. But at the very least no one’s fooling themselves anymore, and you realize simply how a lot arduous cleanup work continues to be forward.


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