statue of Millicent Fawcett, suffragist, holding sign which says Courage calls to courage everywhere

“Times up” – Women Are Now Up And “Off The Sidelines”

                                                                      by Jennifer Puebla


 

Throughout history women have often been courageous and vocal in the face of overwhelming silence, or dissent, from their male counterparts. We have seen women spearhead reforms and movements that have rocked and shaped the world.

They have ruled empires, commanded armies, even fought alongside their forces, and were the judges of their nations.

It was a woman who goaded Jesus into performing His first public miracle when He’d rather have waited thus beginning His ministry that would change the world forever.

Outspoken women have raised kings and brought them down. They have been testaments of courage and the catalysts of change. Women have said, “yes,” “NO,” and “Never again” in ways that will never be forgotten. They have nagged, seduced, marched, encouraged, and stood their ground, or remained in their seat, for justice and the betterment of mankind.

Women lead. They always have. Often behind the scenes, sometimes in the wrong direction to be sure, but their power and influence cannot be denied.

Today their leadership is growing as never before as women have had enough. The #MeToo movement coinciding with the Trump era has catapulted women to take the lead and speak up in the face of both opposition and silence from their male peers and leaders.

#MeToo and the Rise of Trump

During the Presidential election of 2016 it was the Evangelical community that most loudly supported Trump’s campaign. The male driven, often anti-Biblical, superstars such as Jeffress, Falwell, Robertson, Graham, and Dobson, backed him 100% in what they said or didn’t quite say. Other lesser known pastors banged the Trump drum and their flocks followed.

And while several Christian men spoke up, they didn’t receive the attention or vitriol that Beth Moore and her female peers received. The ladies didn’t back down or lose interest in the fight.

The Access Hollywood tape was the last straw. Upon hearing Trump’s infamous “grab them by the pussy” boast Moore Tweeted

“Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement & power. Are we sickened? Yes. Surprised? NO”

“Try to absorb how acceptable the disesteem and objectifying of women has been when some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big a deal.”

“I’m one among many women sexually abused, misused, stared down, heckled, talked naughty to. Like we liked it. We didn’t. We’re tired of it.”

She was attacked by both male and females in the Evangelical community as were other women who spoke up on #MeToo and Trump in general. In fact, I had no idea how hard she was hit until research for this article. I may disagree with her on some issues, but they threw her to wolves over Trump and her speaking out against his, and the church’s, misogyny.

In October of 2016, before the election, Rachel Held Evans posted this on Facebook:

“Christians, please hear me: Donald Trump will not be a champion for the unborn. That would run completely contrary to everything we know about his character and worldview. This is a man who consistently valuates life based on its perceived usefulness to him.

Anyone he perceives as weak—people with disabilities, prisoners of war, immigrants, refugees, ethnic and religious minorities, women he considers ugly or insubordinate—are expendable, worthy only of his contempt.

Do you really think a man who mocks people with disabilities will speak out against aborting babies with Down Syndrome? Do you really think a man who believes women are either “nice pieces of ass” for him to grope or “fat, ugly pigs” for him to demean will help the pro-life movement become both pro-life and pro-woman?

Do you really think the man who has called for the death of five innocent black boys and for targeting women and children in war will hold a consistent, admirable pro-life ethic? Do you really think a pathological liar can be trusted to appoint the Supreme Court judges you want? Do you really think that after decades of being pro-choice, this man has suddenly had a change of heart?

Donald Trump is not a champion for the voiceless. He is an exploiter of the voiceless, a mocker of the voiceless. He uses people to get what he wants and he is using pro-life evangelicals to try and get the presidency.

Please, don’t let him.”

Unlike some of her male counterparts, such as Erik Erickson, she remained anti-Trump and fought against his indecencies and the church’s acceptance of them until her death in May of this year regardless of the attacks on her career and on her personally.

With everything worldly to lose they refused to stand by and be silent any longer. They are off the sidelines

But of course, it wasn’t just Christian women finding their voices again. #MeToo gave millions of women the courage to not just speak up but to march.

Women Rise

The organizing began within days of Trump’s election and it spread worldwide.  That this serial abuser and accused rapist could lead the free world was more than most women could accept quietly.

On January 21, 2017, the day after his inauguration, they took to the streets. It is estimated that over 5 million women, and men, protested in the US and over 7 million in nearly 700 marches around the globe.

photo of Women's March in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2017.
Hundreds of thousands march down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women’s March in Washington, DC, January 21, 2017.

Most of these women were not “activists”. Most were just victims of a system that could no longer be tolerated and of a system that now saw at its head the most abominable example of its fruit.  These women were harassed, bullied, assaulted, and defamed. But they refused to be silenced.

“We are mothers. We are caregivers. We are artists. We are activists. We are entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders of industry and technology. Our potential is unlimited. We rise” – Alicia Keys

“The President is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. WE are America. And we are here to stay.” – America Ferrera

“I’m not nasty, like the combo of Trump and Pence being served up to me in my voting booth. I’m nasty like the battles my grandmothers fought to get my into that voting booth” – Ashley Judd

And they didn’t just march for themselves. What began as a movement against sexual abuse grew to encompass many people groups and the issues of racism and bigotry in general.

“We recognize that we are collective agents of history and that history cannot be deleted like web pages…

This women’s march represents the promise of feminism as against the pernicious powers of state violence. “An inclusive and intersectional feminism that calls upon all of us to join the resistance to racism, to Islamophobia, to anti-Semitism, to misogyny, to capitalist exploitation…The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance.”

-Angela Davis, author and civil rights activist

Trump’s many victims became emboldened by #MeToo and I believe in part by the outspoken, ever snarky, Stormy Daniels whom he had a sexual encounter with and later paid $130,000.00, in violation of campaign finance laws, to remain silent.

More than 17 women, including an initial accusation by his first wife Ivana which she later recanted because he had convinced her that there is no such thing as “marital rape”, have made accusations against Trump for sexual abuse and rape. The youngest accuser saying he raped her at only 13 yrs of age.

Just recently, Karen McDougal filed a defamation suit against Fox News for their reporting on her consensual affair with Trump. McDougal, a former Playmate, also claims Trump attempted to pay her for her silence.

Revelations and Elections

It was a woman, Julie K. Brown, who opened her own investigation spanning over 2 years into Jeffrey Epstein and published her finding and interviews in a series of articles in the Miami Herald. She did not quit. She wouldn’t be silenced. Her research could, if the truth is not left to “commit suicide,” bring down dozens of the most rich and powerful men, and women, in the world.

Some of Epstein’s and his clients’ victims, by having someone take them seriously and giving them their voices have become empowered as well and continue their fight for justice. Many are still frightened.

protestor with sign that says "grab them by the mid-terms"
Women’s March 2018

2018 Midterm elections saw a record number of women running for office across the country. These campaigns resulted in a record number of women winning their primaries and ultimately their races. 

Among those are several firsts.

  • Ilhan Omar (D) is the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.
  • Kyrsten Sinema (D) became the first openly bisexual senator and first female senator from AZ.
  • Marsha Blackburn (R) the first female Senator from TN.
  • Deb Haaland (D) and Sharice Davids (D) became the first Native American women elected to Congress
  • Kristi Noem (R) the first female Gov of SD

While not all of these women will stand up to Trump and the male machine in D.C. they still provide evidence that women are speaking up, out, and to power. For most though, their campaigns were a referendum against Donald Trump and hate.

Many of these new officials refuse to play “lets just get along and support the men.” Look at the canyon of difference between AOC and Stefanik. One toes the line and the other obliterates it.

The Squad, made up of Reps Omar, Ocasio Cortez, Tlaib, and Pressley (and 82 yr old Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) who asked if he could join) so intimidated trump and his supporters for months they could talk about little else even going so far as to tell these American born and naturalized citizens to “go back” to where they came from in blatantly racist attacks.  The Squad spoke even louder.

The Fall of 2018 also saw the bravery of Christine Blasey Ford as she came forward to give her testimony regarding the alleged sexual assault of then SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Kristine Blasey Ford being sworn in for testimony against Kavanaugh
Kristine Blasey Ford

While Kavanaugh threw tantrums, talked about liking beer, treated female Senators with disdain, and even cried, Ms. Blasey Ford conducted herself with composure, dignity, and courage.

She spoke her truth despite multiple death threats, which she continues to receive to this day, and became a hero for many victims of sexual abuse and women in general.

She has received several awards for her bravery including the Rodger Baldwin Courage Award, YWCA Empowerment Award and she presented the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Award to Rachael Denhollander.

As part of her video presentation to Denhollander she said, “We all have the power to create real change, and we cannot allow ourselves to be defined by the acts of others.” 

Denhollander was the first to publicly accuse Larry Nassar, her USA Gymnastics Team doctor of sexual assault. Her speaking out led to 250 young women making accusations against him and led ultimately to his conviction as a serial child molester.

During his sentencing over 150 women and girls confronted him with Denhollander speaking last. You can read her entire statement here.

With the Blue Wave of 2018 Nancy Pelosi took control of the House and 2019 has seen her school reporters, fellow members of Congress (including AOC), and Trump. Though not a newcomer to leadership she has become one of the most powerful and influential voices against Trump and his policies.

Watching the old white men circle the wagons around bigotry, racism, and all things trump has inspired a record number of female candidates for President in the 2020 campaigns. Elizabeth Warren, who also ran in 2016, along with Kamala Harris (recently dropped out), Marianne Williamson, Amy Klobucher, Kristen Gillibrand (dropped out in Aug) and Tulsi Gabbard.

With the possible exception of Warren it is unlikely we will have a female President elected in 2020 but the evidence of women at least attempting to rise, having the courage to get in the ring, to greater leadership roles is again evident.

Testimony Under Fire

Perhaps most importantly we have seen extraordinary women coming forward or answering the call to testify in the impeachment investigation and hearings which are currently ongoing. Without Fiona Hill, Marie Yovanovitch, Laura Cooper, and Jennifer Williams it is unlikely this case could have gone forward.

Recently our own Tony Wyman wrote addressing Trump’s and the GOP’s attacks on Yovanovitch and his history of attacking strong women. “But it is more than that, much more.  Mr. Trump’s attack on Ms. Yovanovitch is another in a seemingly endless series of broadsides he’s leveled at women who have dared stand up to him.”

These women, and the men who have also testified, have utterly shamed those men who refuse to comply with both requests and subpoenas to give Democracy saving testimony before the House committees. And they have given their testimonies, again, under threats, even of death.

Trump himself made a threat against Yovanovitch by promising Ukraine’s leader she would be “going through some things.”  A man’s threat not unlike what most women have experienced at some point.

“‘Keep your mouth shut or something worse will happen.’ Yes. I’m familiar with the concept. Sometimes it’s terrifyingly true. Still, we speak” – Beth Moore (2016)

These women have conducted themselves on the stand with far more decorum than the GOP members interrogating them.

Prof Pamela Karlan testifying before Judiciary Committee
Prof. Pamela Karlan

Their professionalism and honesty have made the men, and women, of the GOP look foolish, childlike, and emotional.

The latest to join their ranks is Professor Pamela Karlan whose testimony on Constitutional law dominated the Judiciary Committee hearing last week.

She stood her ground and refused to be subdued in the face of obnoxious badgering from the Right.

I do not mean to diminish the bravery and honor of Lt Col Alexander Vindman, Kurt Volker, Tim Morrison, David Holmes, or even the Whistle-blower (thought to be a man). They have also received threats. These are all brave, patriotic Americans.

Is it a double standard to applaud these women who have been standing up to Trump and his ilk since the beginning while saying little to include the men who have done so as well? Applauding those who have always had power, always had a voice and a vote is different.

These men, while they have received some harassment and threats have not come from the world from which these women have come. They have, for the most part, been taken seriously from their first breath.
They haven’t spent their lives modulating their existence to prevent being a victim of the very type of men they are now looking square in the eyes and standing their ground in opposition to.

This is, for now, unnatural for women. It’s extraordinary. So, it is a different standard not a double standard.

Young women with girl power written on her cheek holding a sign that says "deal with it"
Girl Power

Women are done with being “likable” and being told to “smile.” We are done holding back rather than claiming the strength of our “Grandmothers” who helped shape civilizations.  I don’t know if the “future is female,” a popular phrase on social media right now, or not.  I’d like to believe the future is human with “Liberty and Justice for all.”

But women have found their voices again and they will be used. Women will speak against the offences of men and scream into their silences. Only those who attempt to stick a gag or bridle back on us have any reason to be insecure about it. 

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