As Washington experiences a constitutional crisis, and while most of us anxiously anticipate an indictment, another Mueller report, anything in the hope that Trump somehow gets impeached, let us not forget to commemorate the Women’s Suffrage Centennial, celebrated on the 26th of August. With the US presidential elections approaching, the year 2020 will be a significant one as it will also mark the 100th anniversary of the historic adoption of the 19th Amendment, granting (most) women the right to vote in the United States for the very first time.
An opportune occasion, the upcoming centennial is a strong reminder of the landmark achievements of the women’s suffrage movement, and a chance to honor their relentless fights and sacrifices that many years later won women’s civil and political rights across the country. The suffragist movement is up to this day remembered as women’s ongoing fight against bigotry and rejection; the embodiment of female persistence and sisterhood, and a representation of the democratic values we stand for.
As the last 3 years have gone by, Trump’s political presence, although much disputed and condemned, has in a sense served a bigger purpose. With his administration sparking outrage and vibrant debates on just about everything: justice, political transparency, and migration, to name a few, a social breakthrough took place. As a society, we have realized that it was high time we exercised our own due diligence, and similar to a cathartic experience we are collectively acknowledging and confronting our real problems. We are speaking out and are seeking to change the system socially, culturally, politically, and economically. Following Trump’s derogatory and racist rhetoric on women, and all succeeding accusations of sexual harassment against other big, powerful men, the #Metoo and Time’s Up movements surged. As the chain of events unfolded, we began to openly denounce and discuss sexual harassment, discrimination, violence, unequal pay, and misrepresentation. Change had begun to take place in the narrative of the status of women.
The current state of affairs galvanized women’s determination to take matters into their own hands, and now there are more female representatives in Congress for the first time in US history. A new generation of diverse and strong congresswomen promise to lead differently, by firstly exposing all political wrongdoing, and by improving public policies for all, with responsibility and accountability as the main principles at hand. There are now more women than ever running for the US presidency. Around the world, there are increasingly more female activists, scientists, mathematicians, sportswomen, and entrepreneurs of all ages, breaking down barriers and showing the world that women are equally capable, and indispensable troubleshooters and leaders. Women are now standing up with newfound confidence, seizing the historic opportunity to set things right for themselves, once again.
In a conflicted society, women have found each other silently facing the same existential problems, while submissively accepting the status quo of double social standards and values. Trump’s unexpected victory and overall misdemeanor has fueled women’s decisive uprising and reckoning that remaining silent is no longer an option. Opinions of women of course may vary as they wish to align with their party’s values. According to a survey, published in the Huffington Post, 74% of Democratic women, while only a 30% of Republican women agreed that gender discrimination in the US is a serious problem. Whether or not women acknowledge and admit the issue, and regardless of political affiliation, gender discrimination at all levels is a persisting problem across the US, and worldwide.
The sisterhood is gaining momentum around the world. Earlier this year, we witnessed Alaa Salah, dubbed the “woman in white”, an activist who came to symbolize the revolution in Sudan that overthrew now former president Omar Al-Bashir. Her iconic image recalling the fierceness for women’s call for change has created an impetus for young people and particularly women across the Arab nations to resist patriarchy and defend democracy, equality and the rule of law.
On January 2019, in the southern state of Kerala, India, about 5 million women formed a 620km wall of protest upholding their right to access the prominent Hindu temple of Sabarimala. They formed a human chain in support for gender equality and calling for an end to gender-based violence. This constituted one of the largest ever demonstrations and congregations of women in the world. Their “wall” of resistance sent a strong message globally.
If there is a wall we need, it is the wall of women standing up to what they rightfully and legally deserve
In Rwanda, 33-year-old Safi Mukunda, a genocide survivor- and the only one in her family- created Safi Life, a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower, educate and help advance young Rwandan women through scholarships and mentorship. In daily life, examples are seen everywhere. When one sister supports and shares her power, another sister benefits from it.
In the US, the recent archaic abortion bills, pushed women to come together to defend women’s reproductive rights. Had there been more women in the Alabama State Senate, for instance, the bill would not have been so categorically approved. More women in politics translates to fairer and more balanced policies that favor everyone and not just the one. Politics matter to us all; it has a multidimensional impact on everyone’s life and development. Of course, not all women agree or should agree on everything. There will always be discrepancies and divergent opinions, which is indeed the essence of every enriching debate and dialogue. Nevertheless, women ought to remember they were born into a system, which was intended to discriminate them in the same manner their mothers and grandmothers endured discrimination and subjugation. And yet, history is filled with women resisting this system that has been threatening their existence as self-determining and self-regulating individuals, unequivocally equal to the opposite sex.
A woman has the same merits a man can certainly have, if she’s only given the same encouragement and trust a man receives throughout his whole life. This should not be a matter of gender, but of potential: the latent qualities an individual can own that may be developed, if given the chance, to succeed in life. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women despite receiving more graduate degrees than men, on average earn about 20% less nearly in every single occupation, while in many professions they are still underrepresented and discriminated. IWPR’s report also suggests that it will take women, in the US only, around 40 years to reach pay parity; that figure might be even higher for women of color.
Women are each other’s support system as we need to raise each other up. We have to, if we are ever to see an equitable and balanced society. Women have created a sisterhood that transcends politics and borders; we’ve given birth to a community where we can relate, and are empowered to coexist without passing judgment and be free from prejudice. We are not each other’s competition; we are an alliance positively disrupting society, fighting with one voice against the omnipresent and unjust gender gap. History is on our side. The suffragists fought for each other’s right to vote, regardless of their political preferences. Their union had a common purpose: equality.
What unites us women is far greater than what divides us; we share a long history of overshadowed ambitions, stolen opportunities and silenced aspirations. Our sisterhood, if in good faith, can be the backbone of a better, more inclusive and just future. Since 1920 and the historic passage of the 19th Amendment for women’s rights, we have come a long way; united we can go even further.
This story was originally published on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hundred-years-later-wall-sisterhood-stephania-constantinou/