Hindsight Is 2020: Celebrating Feminist Victories

A June protest in Philadelphia. (Penn Today / Creative Commons)

The year that just ended was one for the record books: a global pandemic; a divided nation; a contentious election that never really seemed to end; and people of all ages, races and political persuasions uniting in protest against racial injustice in cities large and small.

As we catch our collective breaths and look forward to a new administration, the eventual end of the COVID nightmare, and a return to semi-normalcy in a post-pandemic, post-Trump world, it’s worth looking back at the year behind us—not to relive the traumas and heartbreaks, but to recognize and celebrate the victories and achievements that may have been overshadowed or lost in the tsunami.

1. We closed #MeToo’s first chapter.

Harvey Weinstein is in prison. On February 24, after five decades of sexually abusing women, the man who once oversaw one of Hollywood’s largest production companies is breaking bread with child molesters, bank robbers and murderers. He awaits extradition to Los Angeles for more hearings on more charges.

He got there because dozens of brave victims spoke up and were heard. 2020 was the year that finally brought closure to the first chapter in the #MeToo saga—but it was just the start to a very long process. One man is paying his dues, but we should not rest until there has been a full accounting for all the Weinsteins in the world.

2. We voted.

Despite a horrific pandemic and in the face of threats, intimidation and misinformation, Americans showed their belief in democracy and their love of country by turning out in historic numbers in November. More than 155 million people braved unprecedented challenges to cast their votes, electing Joseph R. Biden as the 46th president of this country.

(Cindy Shebley / Flickr)

Women—especially Black women—played a decisive role in the vote. In the centennial year of the 19th Amendment, minority women proved that they understand what’s most important. They will do whatever it takes to ensure a just and equal society for future generations.  

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3. We empowered women.

We threw a huge rock through the glass ceiling when we elected Senator Kamala Harris to be America’s first female vice president, first Black vice president and first Asian American vice president: With this historic vote, the country ushered in a new era of female leadership.

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris speaking with supporters at the annual West Des Moines Democratic Party Summer picnic at Legion Park in West Des Moines, Iowa, in July 2019. (Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Under the new administration, women will be heard in ways they’ve never been heard before. More women will hold leadership positions in cities, counties and states across the country and will stand proudly at the top tiers of government.

By the end of the year, President-Elect Biden had named a team of shining female stars to his galaxy:

  • former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen as the first female treasury secretary;
  • NRDC president Gina McCarthy as his climate czar;
  • Rep. Deb Haaland as the first Native American to head the Interior Department;
  • former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granhold to lead the Department of Energy;
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.N. ambassador;
  • Avril Haines as the first female national intelligence director;
  • Susan Rice to lead the Domestic Policy Council;
  • Rep. Marcia Fudge as secretary of housing and urban development; and
  • Jennifer Psaki as White House press secretary.

(Allow Ms. to introduce you to all the women appointed to join this historic administration.)

4. We embraced diversity.

In 2020 we witnessed a sea change in the make-up of our representative bodies, including the most Native Americans ever elected to Congress, the most trans people ever elected to state legislatures, and a higher number of Republican women elected to Congress.

Most critically, on June 15 a U.S. Supreme Court populated with Trump appointees put law and justice above politics when they ruled that no one can be fired from their job for being gay or transgender. In a landmark decision, the justices said that members of the LGBTQ community are protected against workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

5. We called on our better angels.

In May, a horrifying act of police brutality—the killing of George Floyd—led to a movement the likes of which have not been seen in decades. The last moments of his life, captured on video, launched an outpouring of protest in cities and state capitals across the country

The names of the victims—Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, and so many more —became part of our common vocabulary and sowed the seeds of reform. and reflection. People of every size, shape and color held up Black Lives Matter signs and called for a long-overdue national soul-searching. As with #MeToo, this was just the beginning. We have centuries of injustice for which to atone.

Yes, 2020 was a year few of us would want to repeat, but there were miracles and moments that made us and our world better, and will make 2021 a year that we can welcome with open arms.

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Genie Harrison, who represents plaintiffs in employment and sexual abuse cases as lead trial attorney at the Genie Harrison Law Firm in Los Angeles, is President of Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles. She credits Ms. as a lifeline to the feminist movement during her college years; now, she writes about legal and social issues to provoke action. You can contact her at genie@genieharrisonlaw.com.