The new year is starting on a high note with the swearing in of 127 women in various offices across the US. The hope for change has become more attainable in light of this monumental shift in Congress. The same women that were fighting to be heard are now representing their respective states to affect policy within the current administration. You can argue that this sudden surge of women in office has increased as a direct result of the election of President Donald Trump, and you would be right. By seeing constant images of women marching in Washington DC and Trump making his infamous and outlandish comments, it had propelled individuals to go to the polls and encouraged more women to start their campaigns. It’s unfortunate that such a negatively polarizing figure got the ball rolling, but his win reflected some major issues within the foundation of America. These women will be able to start the year truly encompassing the words “new year’s resolution.”
image via: cosmopolitan
After saying all that, we still have a long way to go, but this is going to be a year full of firsts. Let’s start with the numbers. As stated before, a total of 127 women were elected to Congress and “of them, 42 are women of color, and at least 3 are L.G.B.T.Q” (NY Times). Diversifying office seats will lead to new ideas, but it will also contribute to the optics surrounding certain decisions in Congress. Instead of seeing a myriad of men attempt to speak on women’s issues, you will begin to witness these newly elected women confront them with sympathy and first-hand experience. Fortunately, not only women’s issues will be re-evaluated, but maybe a more sensible way of approaching other topics as well. Women were also able to snag nine governorships, which is up from 6 in the previous two years. Just to put things into perspective, “in 1992, the first ‘Year of the Woman,’ 54 women were elected to Congress, more than ever before, or about 20 more seats in the Senate and House than in the years immediately prior” (NY Times). I want to think that the women who ran for office under the current administration were greatly influenced by the influx of women’s voices that were heard during the 1992 Congressional election, just reiterating, optics are essential. Continuing this pattern will only push the limits of what we can become as a society, with proper representation from the most marginalized. Of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 102 will be women, which is 19 more than in 2017. In the Senate, 25 women were elected which accounts for 25% of the total number amongst men and women. Now that we have the analytics, some notable women in this surge are making their marks early.
Here are some firsts according to CNN: Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan will be the first Muslim women serving within Congress. America has a very skewed reality of the Muslim faith, so this is a significant step within the community. Two Native American women will also be serving, Representatives Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland. Ayanna Pressley will be the first African American woman to represent Massachusetts while running on what she calls, “activist leadership,” as a way to advance her agenda. You may have heard the next name on numerous occasions within the Republican party, and it wasn’t positive. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York will be the youngest in Congress at the age of 29. Her confident demeanor and what many are calling, ‘radical’ viewpoints, such as healthcare and educating all children free of cost is already making some waves across parties. She will be one to watch in the coming months, bringing in the fresh ideas that so many have rallied for. Among the firsts, there are also some familiar faces being re-elected, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Her handling of the Republican party is highly praised among Democrats, sighting the most recent televised meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Senator Chuck Schumer. Her unwavering support of not building the border wall did not fall on deaf ear and was refreshing witnessing another politician stand up to Trump. These women and others will be the catalyst for change in the next couple of years, bringing new insight to the issues that have been neglected so far in this administration.
Women have been making meaningful strides in the past few years, so it only makes sense for this evolution to make its way into government. Almost any significant environmental or civil action needs to come from the policy change, and these women will not be silenced.