With a record number of women being elected into the US Congress representing diversity in ethnicity, race and sexuality, there are exciting times ahead for feminism.
Last week, 102 women were sworn into the US Congress, making it a landmark moment in the country’s political history.
The 116th class of Congress “broke all barriers” from the perspective of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality and age. There were many firsts, including 20-year-old Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York becoming the youngest women to be elected to Congress. The first Native American women to be elected to Congress are Democrats Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico. Davids is also the first openly LBGT member elected to the Congress.
Muslim women finally found representation in Democrats Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. The former is also the first Palestinian-American member to the Congress, while the latter is the first Somali-American member.
Yes, it’s 2019 and we are still talking about such firsts in a progressive country like the US, but these are nevertheless feats that should be lauded in the country’s current political climate.
The Democrats have never been this diverse especially in contrast with the white, mostly male, suit-clad Republicans. It makes for a great message, for its reflects people who stand up for diversity, inclusion, energy and an emerging voice. And the last few days have been just about that, and much, much more. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar captures the enormity of this feat in her tweet:
In this gendered world that we inhabit and are continuously trying to change, it was just a matter of hours before the jibes started. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest member in the Congress, had her picture taken from behind with a comment that wondered how she could own an expensive coat and bag. One of her old dance videos too was hurled at her. She was also the only person who was booed at while she voted for Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House, yet another big win.
Taking all of it in her stride, Alexandria showed us she is not one to cower in the face of vindictive slander.
Indeed, the Capitol Hill has perhaps not witnessed so much excitement in recent times!
With 102 women in Congress, things are definitely going to get exciting. We can already see role models, women who are fearless in the face of criticism and are turning everything thrown at them into something that many of us can relate to. Alexandria is already pushing for reforms she wants and using social media to make her point of view known, while still reminding herself and each one of us that: "Let us never, ever, ever give up."
Smiles, laughter and children
I am loving the swag of the newly sworn-in Congresswomen but there is more to them than what meets the eye. They are going to be changing the way we look at working women. With single mothers, mothers with infants and young children making their entry, a lot is going to change in Congress. Vox’s coverage of the swearing-in pictures shows us exactly how the Congress is going to look like. This will undoubtedly usher in change in the way the Congress provides for women in the workforce.
Each of these women brought their unique dressing styles and aesthetics, giving us a wonderful reminder that when you get the opportunity to be who you are before the world you should not shy away from it.
It is a sign of things to come. We can expect women with different experiences, different social, cultural and economic backgrounds in the backdrop of a strong sense of camaraderie, sisterhood and healthy competition. Something that will show women across the world how important it is to support one another.
That’s not all; Congress itself will need to gear up for managing the demands of working mothers and single mothers. It looks like things are already moving on that front. According to NPR, the new Congress opened a childcare facility exclusively for employees of the House of Representatives.
The Politico reported that the wheels of change are already turning. With an increasing number of women serving, the Capitol Hill is looking at making things woman- and parent-friendly. Nursing stations are being set up, and as Politico reports there's talk about how parents can be in touch with their children and support them and also make it back home in time. Which means the Congressional schedule may have to be planned better.
Well, to me, this is the biggest change of all. If Capitol Hill can account for and provide with solutions to challenges working mothers face, it won’t be long before corporates and PSUs follow suit. This means eventually we have more and more women being able to work and contribute to the economy with fewer challenges holding them back.
There are expectations that the newly elected Congresswomen will also bring up and address issues surrounding childcare, working mothers and their health, etc. It's about time women took a call on things that directly impacted them.
One of the big ways that the US Congress development will make a difference is that this is a win for women world over: this is going to show girls and women across the world that we can dream and we can dream big and we can work towards that dream and live it. So may role models to inspire more girls not just in the US but across the globe to join politics and someday aspire to be leaders. Women as heads of state across the world does not look like a distant dream anymore.
These women are here to stay and change things. It may be #TimesUp for gender bias and patriarchal notions of what women can and can't do but we can't help but dance with joy. The wheels are turning, the world is changing as sisterhood gets stronger.
Patriarchy and gender bias, here we come!