Even Today, I’m Giving Thanks

Categories: Misc.
11/16/2017

With Thanksgiving a week away, it’s important that we, as a nation, take the time to reflect upon what we’re grateful for. And, I would be lying if I were to say that this past year hasn’t been difficult for women both personally and politically. We now live in an America where our president has bragged about committing acts of sexual assault, our vice president has a policy of only dining with women when his wife is present, and our Congress has been overtaken by a party that would sooner protect the safety of a fetus than a victim of rape. We find ourselves in a country where we’ve always known that we weren’t viewed as men’s equals, but can now find more and more obvious manifestations of these injustices living and breathing in our halls of government. By all accounts, we should be downtrodden, bitter, and defeated.

And yet, as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude in terms of where we are as a movement compared to where we were last Thanksgiving. I can still feel the raw anxiety that clenched deep in my gut as I sat down at the dinner table and the conversation turned to Donald Trump’s election that had only occurred weeks before my family’s Thanksgiving meal. I was sad, I was scared, and when the moment came for each person seated at the table to name one thing that they were thankful for, I genuinely struggled to find something positive to say because I was so overwhelmed by the prospect of a Trump presidency. But this year, when it’s my turn to name something that I’m thankful for, I already know what my answer will be—change.

“I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude in terms of where we are as a movement compared to where we were last Thanksgiving.”

A change in activism and a change in leadership— all fundamentally achieved through the brave and determined contributions of women throughout America. A new generation of women’s activism was born on the fateful evening of November 8, 2016 and baptized during the Women’s March on January 21, 2017. In the last year alone, we’ve seen tangible proof that when women are able to effectively organize and mobilize for causes that we believe in, we can achieve anything.

It’s largely due to the efforts of women—both outside and inside of government—that we’ve prevented millions of Americans from losing their healthcare to a haphazard repealment of the Affordable Care Act. Women turned out in droves to contact their legislators, write op-eds, canvass door-to-door, and attend town hall meetings to ensure that their voices were heard. And women in Congress on both sides of the Hill and both sides of the aisle stood firm in refusing to add their names to any bill that would hurt, rather than help, the overall health of American citizens. Because of the strength of these women, we were able to help block bill after bill that, in theory, should have been able to pass a government where both chambers and the presidency are controlled by the same political party.

Since Trump’s election, thousands of women have begun running for office in record numbers, and they’ve been winning. If the most recent election held this November has indicated anything, it’s that in the future women are going to be increasingly active and present in government. During Election 2017, women consistently made gains on the local, state, and federal level, oftentimes beating out male incumbents. Their increased representation in government will not only help prevent legislation counterproductive to women’s progress from becoming law, but will also encourage the introduction of legislation beneficial to women.

So, have we been placed in difficult circumstances? Yes. But with these changes in activism and changes in leadership, we have and can continue to make a change in the political narrative. And if that’s not something to be thankful for, then I don’t know what is.

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Emily Wasek recently graduated from the College of William & Mary with a major in Government and a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. While in college, Emily served as president of Women’s Initiative in Leadership, an organization dedicated to cultivating the next generation of female leaders.
Much of Emily’s previous work has focused on the intersection of women and political progress. Her honors thesis, “A Women’s Place in the State House: Exploring Backlash Effects of Women’s Increased Descriptive Representation” examined whether women’s increased elected presence resulted in a legislative backlash that could increase policies counterproductive to women’s interests. As a research fellow for the Project on International Peace and Security, her white paper “Mobilizing Change in Central America: Fostering Women’s Networks to Combat Gang Violence” analyzed how women’s coalitions could be used to enhance anti-gang policies in Central America.