“I cried because I want my daughters to feel that blazing pride, that affirmation of their boundless capacity – not from their husbands, but from their world, from the atmosphere, from inviolable wells of certainty inside themselves. I cried because it’s not fair, and I’m so tired. I cried because I don’t even know what it feels like to be taken seriously – not fully, not in that whole, unequivocal, confident way that’s native to handshakes between men. I cried because it does things to you to always come second” – What Happened on Election Day by Lindy West for the NY Times
For many women, the results of the election were a shock to the system. I know for myself, it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. It was unimaginable that our country could elect a man who did not respect my mind and who did not respect my body. Watching a woman with 30 years of experience in the political arena be defeated by a hate mongering man with no political experience, who ran his entire campaign on the oppression of every marginalized human being in this country, who disrespected her at every opportunity was like watching misogyny take it’s human form before my eyes. I was so angry and sad the morning after the announcement of the presidency. I was so angry for women everywhere, even those who didn’t realize what this meant for their bodies, minds, and lives.
After spending quite a few days recovering and attempting to wrap my head around my emotions in the wake of the country’s decision, I wanted to focus on something positive. I realized that we have so many women who’ve risen above during this election. Strong, fierce, diverse women. I wanted to take a minute and recognize 10 of these women who have fought and will continue to fight for us.
Kamala Harris is our 1st Indian American/African-American Senator. After spending a large portion of her career as an attorney, in 2011, Kamala was elected Attorney General of California and held this position for 6 years. In 2013 she launched an initiative to reduce recidivism in order to lower the prison population. Kamala proudly supports Black Lives Matter and is a fierce defender of women’s reproductive health, immigration reform, the LGBT community, and criminal justice reform. Perhaps my favorite accomplishment of Kamala Harris is that she was a national leader in the fight against a legal argument in California that allowed people to commit a violent crime or even murder a person from the LGBT community after panicking upon discovery of that person’s sexual preference or gender identity. This legal argument was outlawed in California due to her tireless work and is bringing the fight nation wide.
Born in Thailand Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran, Amputee, and 2nd Congresswoman for the State of Illinois. She is the Director of Veterans Affairs and leader of several initiatives for female veteran and veteran homelessness. She serves on the House Armed Services, House Oversight and Government Reform Committees. In her race against GOP Senator Mark Kirk, whose campaign was frowned upon for derogatory comments about Duckworth’s heritage, she was quoted at a debate responding “My family has served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution. I am a daughter of the American Revolution. I’ve bled for this nation, but I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound”.
Catherine Cortez Masto
Catherine Cortez Masto is the 1st Latina to hold a seat in the Senate from Nevada. In 2014, she was the Executive Vice Chancellor of the System of Higher Education in Nevada and was also elected Attorney General where she served 2 terms. Catherine is a strong advocate of Women and Children who have been victims of sex trafficking or violence, social security reform, senior protection, women’s reproductive health, LGBT rights and immigration reform. She has passed several bills and laws that allow women and children who are victims of sex trafficking or violence to receive assistance and obtain justice through suing their traffickers. Catherine is also taking the fight for senior benefits and senior safety to Washington where she hopes to dismantle unjust programs that prey on the senior communities across America.
Mazie Masto was sworn in to the United States Senate in 2013 and was, prior to this election, the only woman of color in the Senate. As a Japanese immigrant, Mazie knew the struggles of growing up under difficult circumstances. She describes her difficult childhood on her website with an alcoholic father who gambled away their belongings at times. For Mazie, her mother mothers sacrifices are what gave her the opportunity to become what she is today and she says that “instead of watching our family continue to suffer, my mother made the courageous decision to seek a better life for us. She plotted and planned in secret, and when I was nearly eight years old, we literally escaped to this place called Hawaii and this country called America. My mother, brother and I boarded the President Cleveland in Yokohama and set sail across the Pacific in steerage.” Mazie Hirono’s story is inspiring and I look forward to seeing her bring her voice to the US Senate.
Ilhan Omar, a refugee from Kenya escaping the Somali Civil War, made history by becoming United States first Somali-American legislator in Minnesota. She is a Director of Policy and Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network. She has created advisory boards for businesses that are run by immigrants, women, and people of color through the Small Business Initiative. She has proudly stated, “For me, this is my country, this is for my future, for my children’s future and for my grandchildren’s future to make our democracy more vibrant, more inclusive, more accessible and transparent which is going to be useful for all of us”.
Tammy Baldwin, from Wisconsin, is the first openly gay person to be elected to the Senate. She is Co-Founder and Co-Chairwoman of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. In 2009, she was a leader of initiatives to expand hate crime legislation and benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. As a champion of middle class equality, Tammy plans to continue reforming higher education policies making college affordable for the young generation ahead.
At 16 years old, Pramila Jaypal immigrated to the United States and throughout her career has worked internationally and domestically advocating for women’s rights, immigration reform, and human rights. She was the creator of the advocacy group OneAmerica which is now the largest immigrant rights group in the United States. Pramila also served as a member of the Police Accountability Review Panel in 2007. In 2012, she fought for continued reform of the Seattle Police Department after several occurrences of excessive force were reported. Pramila is now the 1st Indian American woman elected to Congress.
Re-elected 4 times, Patty Murray was the first female senator for Washington State elected in 1992. She is the Senior Member of the Veterans Affairs and Appropriation Committee. Patty was a leader in the reformation of the No Child Left Behind Law and is a fierce advocate of healthcare reform. On her website Patty is described “As a unique voice in the United States Senate, Patty is known for her down-to-earth, determined style. She’s been called “a workhorse, not a show horse” by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for her intense, behind-the-scenes efforts to get the job done. She has also been described as “tenacious” in her work to address Washington state’s needs by the Seattle Times.”
Jeanne Shaheen was the 1st Governor and Woman elected to the Senate from New Hampshire. As an advocate for Women’s Right’s, Jeanne implemented the Shaheen Amendment which is now a law that provides abortion coverage to servicewomen who were victims of rape. She was a leader in the reauthorization of the VAWA or Violence Against Women Act and is a continued Civil Rights Advocate leading an end to LGBT discrimination.
Now a Senator from New York, Kirsten is the leader of a bipartisan coalition against sexual assaults on college campuses. She is the founder of the Off the Sidelines Project which raises funds for women candidates to ensure that they have the resources they need. TIME Magazine named her in their list of 2014’s Most Influential People in the world. The NY Daily News placed her at #4 of their 50 Most Powerful Women in New York list.
We didn’t win this time. We are allowed to be heartbroken and furious at the thought of our future as women. However, we can also remember the fierce collection of women who continue to fight hard to pave the way for us.
We move mountains, remember that.