Women in Politics: November 2017

Women have been a force in political news this month for reasons both exciting, disheartening, and an interesting mix of the two.

From the surge of women gearing up to run in the 2018 elections to the surge of women coming forward to share their experiences of sexual abuse by powerful men, one thing is certain — women are speaking out and showing up in Washington like never before.

Let’s recap:

  • More women than ever before are running for Congress

According to the Center for American Women and Politics, the number of women running for the U.S. House of Representatives in this election cycle has increased by over 75 percent — 272 filed to run in 2016, and 357 are already running in the 2018 cycle. Forty women are running in the 2018 Senate race, where only 21 are currently serving. 

These increases are driven largely by women in the Democratic party, and 183 are challenging Republican incumbents.

  • Women have already won big in state elections

Last week in Virginia and New Jersey, more women were on the ballot than at any time in the last 10 years — 53 and 79 respectively. In Virginia, the 100-member House of Delegates will now be 27% women, including Danica Roem, the first transgender person to be elected to a state legislature. That is nearly a 50 percent increase in women’s representation.

  • Women are calling men out for sexual harassment, and society is listening

The Washington Post reports, “Many of the new Democratic women who chose to throw their hats into the ring this cycle attributed their candidacies to Donald Trump.” Seeing a man who has been accused of (and has admitted to) sexual misconduct be elected to the highest office in the United States has motivated women to run for positions of power traditionally held by men, and to hold powerful men accountable for their inappropriate behavior towards women.

Following the women who came forward to reveal sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, women have been speaking out about politicians with histories of sexual abuse, including but not limited to U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, Senator Al Franken, and George H.W. Bush.

It is an understatement to say the prevalence of women experiencing sexual abuse in the United States which has been recently been brought to light is disheartening, but there is a silver lining: society’s response.

Historically, women’s claims of sexual assault have fallen on deaf ears — especially in Washington. Think Anita Hill, who faced harsh criticism for accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, and then watched him be confirmed to the Supreme Court despite her claims. Now, men accused of this kind of conduct are facing real professional punishment, and risk losing their positions of power that have long protected them.

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