For many of us, myself included, 2017 was kind of an awful year. There were so many discouraging and disheartening events happening in the world and in our country that it became hard to see what good would come out of such a terrible year. Women especially have borne so much of the heartache and defeat that came from the last 365 days. 2017 carried so much more strife than I imagined it would, something that I believe holds true for others as well. All of this in addition to our personal struggles makes for a heavy load to bear.
I have hope, though, that 2018 will be better for us, and not just because anything in comparison to 2017 has to be.
Women from all walks of life went through an exhausting year. We have always been victims of oppression, discrimination, harassment, you name it; this year, though, our struggles were thrust into a brighter spotlight than ever before. In a way, this is helpful: I’d like to think that people are more aware of women’s struggles than they were before this year. For those women who became objects of scrutiny and victim-blaming, though, the benefits of this representation came with a cost. Women have a sturdier platform now more than ever before, and I believe that in 2018, we’ll make the most of it. It’s very far from likely that these instances of discrimination and assault will cease or even diminish next year. I believe, though, that spending a year watching so many highly-publicized cases has conditioned us to follow in the footsteps of those brave women who fought back.
My year started with the historic Women’s March on Washington, the largest single-day protest in American history. This was just the beginning of women all over the world organizing to stand up for what we believe in. Although 2017 put us through hell, we’ve come out of it more mature and educated than American women have ever been. We are the generation most knowledge about what we need and most prepared to do what it takes to get it. As a population, Americans in particular are maturing in their ability to voice their grievances with our democracy. Although our voices sometimes shake, we are making them heard.
Women have become incredibly adept at organizing on several platforms. We harnessed visibility through hashtags and storytelling online. We left countless messages with the secretaries or interns of our representatives, and if no one picked up, we left voicemails. We wrote letters, on paper and by email, to voice our concerns to an apathetic government. We protested in staggering numbers, literally standing up for our rights.
The women I know personally have grown so much over the past year. I watched my mother go to protests with huge signs and chant over and over to make her voice heard. My classmates used what they’d learned at Kenyon to engage in productive, respectful dialogue about the best way to move forward. My sorority sisters took on positions of leadership within and outside of our organization. My friends educated themselves on the issues and did all they could to enact change.
As we have for generations, women have carried the burden (emotionally, physically, and socially) of a particularly awful year. Overcoming this challenge doesn’t have to go to waste, though. My point, though, is that we can learn from everything we went through in 2017, and I believe that we will.