When Women Are Safe, We Will Finally Be Free

For 400+ years, we’ve been playing by their rules. (You know—the ones cisgender white men made.) Not any more. Women are the majority of voters in this country and together we have the power. It’s time for a new set of rules that values all of us—our bodies, our lives and our work. The Majority Rules project—an artful essay and op-ed series from Ms. and Supermajority Education Fund—marks an essential step toward achieving gender equality.

Majority Rule 1: Our lives are safe.

(video narrated by Mariska Hargitay; op-ed by Alicia Garza)

When I imagine a better world, I think of a world where women are safe, everywhere we go. I envision a society where we can work freely without fear of harassment, love freely without fear of intimidation, and move freely without fear of violence. That’s the world we deserve. 

Safety is our most fundamental need, but our country aggressively denies it to women—especially women of color.

Violence grows out of a desire to keep power in the hands of a few—misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia. It’s cultivated by an unhealthy society where we criminalize far too much and invest far too little in our communities. It’s encouraged by government policies, which too often allow those who threaten our safety to do so without consequence.

The result is that with every passing minute, another woman is harmed by violence—and violence has many forms. 

In America, a woman is shot and killed by a current or former partner every 16 hours, and 81 percent of women have been sexually harassed or assaulted. The statistics are even worse for women of color: Black women experience intimate partner violence at higher rates, Indigenous women are significantly more likely to be sexually assaulted, and Asian American women are increasingly targeted by violent—and deadly—hate crimes.

But violence isn’t just direct physical harm—it is also mental and emotional harms that make women fear for their safety. The maternal health crisis, which is claiming the lives of Black women at three times the rate of white women, is violent. Repeated racism at work is violent. The prison system—which incarcerates women and girls of color at rates two to four times higher than white women—is violent.

These are the fears women wake up thinking about, walk home at night consumed by, and dream of escaping. These experiences are not just a part of our history—they’re our daily reality.

Every attack on our safety stands in the way of our freedom. We need policies that protect us—we need to get serious about the problem with serious solutions. 

We need common sense reforms to prevent gun violence and implement programs that provide support to people at risk of committing or experiencing gun violence.

We need to reduce the harm caused to women and their families by the prison system by decriminalizing poverty and healthcare—including abortion—and allowing caregivers to stay with their children.

And we need to invest in everything from mental healthcare to affordable housing to violence prevention to build healthier communities where violence is a rarity and survivors can heal.

At the same time, we need to reform our legal system so that it delivers justice to women who experience intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

Women have been betrayed over and over by our government, which has turned its back amid the crisis of missing and murdered Black, Indigenous and trans women; sanctioned violence through police brutality; criminalized women with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders; torn women from their families in prisons and immigration centers; and protected discriminatory legal defenses for people who commit violence against LGBTQ+ women.

But we still hope for a better future, and there are signs that this future is possible. State legislatures across the country—from Maryland and Virginia to Arizona and California—are proposing legislation to ensure that people who have committed violence can’t get access to guns, support families who experience domestic violence, improve investigative processes for missing Indigenous people, and fund mental health crisis services.

Women are the supermajority of voters in the United States, and we have the power to show our representatives that this is the response we need for women, our families and our communities to be safe. We have the power to put leaders in office who share our vision for a world where we live free of fear, intimidation and violence, no matter where we’re from, whom we love or how we identify. 

Let’s use that power to put our communities in safe hands.

In a world where our lives are safe, people of all genders, all races and all ages can live free of fear, intimidation and violence—at home, at work and in our neighborhoods, no matter where we’re from, whom we love or how we identify.

Mariska Hargitay

Explore The Majority Rules series, a collaboration between Ms. and Supermajority:

  1. Our lives are safe. (feat. Mariska Hargitay and Alicia Garza)
  2. Our bodies are respected. (feat. Cecile Richards)
  3. Our work is valued. (feat. Reshma Saujani and Ai-jen Poo)
  4. Our families are supported. (feat. Stephanie Beatriz and Amanda Brown Lierman)
  5. Our government represents us. (feat. Alicia Garza and Katherine Grainger)


Alicia Garza is a co-founder of Supermajority Education Fund and principal at Black Futures Lab, an organization she founded to make Black communities powerful in politics. Garza is also the co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter and the Black Lives Matter Global Network, an international organizing project to end state violence and oppression against Black people, and serves as the strategy and partnerships director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.