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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Kunin: New Political Era

A wide shot view of the crowd gathered at the Women's March Vermont, with snow on the ground, taken from the Vermont Statehouse steps.
Bayla Metzger
The crowd gathers at the statehouse steps in Montpelier for the 2019 Women's March.

There is a new women’s movement in America. The first indicator was the Women’s March two years ago when women took to the streets in record numbers and demanded that their voices be heard.

Then, after years of a trickle of change in the number of women in Congress, in 2018 the dam broke. 102 women were elected. And many of these women are very different from the pioneer women who preceded them. They are younger. And they come from different backgrounds, including a teacher, and a nurse. Several had no prior political experience but they jumped into the fray, and won. These women are more outspoken than the usual freshman legislator. They do not wait to be instructed by their more experienced male colleagues.

Next came the MeToo movement in which women who have suffered from sexual assault, or bias, are speaking up and calling out the men who have abused them.

At the President’s State of the Union speech rows of Democratic women dressed in suffragist white cheered when the President recognized them. “We are here,” they seemed to say. “Watch Out.”

This female surge of activism is, of course, in part because the nation is once again debating issue related to the fundamental treatment and well-being of women from abortion and immigration to climate change. The list is long enough to inspire concern on many fronts.

Women have figured out where power lies. A good case in point is Speaker Nancy Pelosi who exemplified women’s new exercise of power when she stood toe to toe with the President of the United States and didn’t blink. What’s more, her refusal to allow the State of the Union speech to be delivered in her House of Representatives until the government was open again was powerfully symbolic.

No longer are women content with writing letters or pleading from the outside. They want to on the inside; to be seated at the tables where decisions are made that determine their lives. It’s no longer good enough to ask men to speak for them. They can speak for themselves.

And they will not only be seen, they will be heard.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont, and author of "The New Feminist Agenda, Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family," published by Chelsea Green.
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