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Edelman: 2017 was the year of female discontent

As we prepare to put a wrap on the outgoing year, it’s time to acknowledge where we’ve been and look forward to where we’re headed.

On the national scene, 2017 will go down as the year when women’s discontent took to the streets. The day after Donald Trump was inaugurated, the Women’s March was the largest single-day protest in American history. Between 3.2 million and 5.2 million people, most of them women, marched in 680 separate events across the nation. While the marches were nominally held to protect human rights in general, the message was clear: The marches were to protect women’s health, reproductive rights and health care reforms.

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Women’s political activity continued throughout the year, with letter-writing campaigns to Congress, additional marches and the birth of “March On’s Fight Back PAC,” one of several organizations committed to elevating the visibility of the issues from the Women’s March.

This message spread well beyond our borders: more than 5 million people participated in more than 100 rallies in 89 countries last January.

Republicans in Congress spent considerable effort resisting the march’s goals: The Trump administration reversed Obama Administration initiatives to make it easier for women (and racial minorities) to identify cases of pay discrimination. Trump also signed legislation to allow states to withhold federal money from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Trump’s Administration also moved to eliminate requirements that health insurance plans cover birth control. The Hill, a moderate news outlet, wrote “In every way imaginable, Trump has turned back the clock on women’s health and rights.”

Revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s monstrous conduct broke open the floodgates for hundreds of women to speak out and name names of men who had harassed or abused them. Credible, documented reports of instances of abuse resulted in dozens of men being removed or forced to resign from positions of power in government, entertainment, the press and business. Roy Moore’s defeat was at least in part due to many women attesting to his inappropriate behavior with them. And as of this writing, at least 17 women have come forward to accuse Trump of aggressively groping and kissing them. Those charges date back as far as 1970, and they’ve led to several calls for the President to do the right thing and resign. The impact these charges have had resulted in Time magazine awarding its Person of the Year to the “silencer breakers,” the women who spoke up after many years of being the targets of unwelcome sexual advances.

With that as background, 2018 will see more and better organized women’s movements, cutting across social and political issues. In addition to the more prominent concerns over reproductive rights, healthcare and protection from sexual predators, the 2018 election cycle will have a greater number of female candidates for office at all levels of government.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand put it this way: “One of the only silver linings of the Trump presidency is that more and more women are feeling emboldened to raise their voices and fight for the issues that matter most to them, from sexual harassment in the workplace to paid leave.” Emily’s List, an organization devoted to getting women elected, reported that more than 25,000 women have filed for office since the 2016 election. With public opinion polls showing a strong preference for Democratic candidates, there’s a very fair chance that many of those women will succeed in replacing mostly Republican men in Congress and State Houses. In Carroll County, women are running in District 5, and also to unseat Tea Party Republican Andy Harris in U.S. Congressional District 1.

This movement doesn’t stand only for women’s rights. It is for equal opportunity, for people to enjoy equal protection under the law, regardless of gender, race, religion, or national origin, in deed not just in words. Back in the 1970s, Helen Reddy co-wrote what was probably the first song of the Women’s Rights movement, “I am Woman, hear me roar, In numbers too big to ignore … .” This may be the year when that actually happens.

Yes, 2018 will be a year of change. May it also be a year of health and prosperity for you and your family.

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