Shattering some glass with Emerge Vermont — Ruth Hardy

A year ago this week, our country elected a misogynist, sexual predator as president. Over these past 12 months, I’ve heard countless stories from women about the emotional landslide they underwent Nov. 7-9, 2016 — from exuberant anticipation to electoral shock to depressed misery.

Many of us felt betrayed. For Democratic women in Vermont, the added blow of Sue Minter’s loss in the governor’s race made us feel like our world was coming apart. Would women ever forcefully and permanently shatter that giant glass ceiling?

Two days after the election, Emerge Vermont sent a message to our supporters, acknowledging their pain and telling them that all was not lost, that over 70 percent of Emerge alumnae nationwide had won.

We wrote, “There is no question we are wounded. Take the time you need to mourn and heal, and then let’s get to work. The presidential election unleashed a hell-storm of hatred, and proved that sexism and racism continue to be strong and destructive forces in America. For those of us who want to ensure progress toward a more equitable and just society, we have to recommit to the work of making it happen.”

We ended by saying, “Let’s get to work. We have glass to shatter.”

Over the past year, Emerge Vermont and our sisters across the country have done just that. We have doubled down on the work of achieving gender equality in politics and public life.

In January, women executed the largest multi-site protest march in the history of our country, with women and their allies participating in women’s marches in cities around the world. Nearly 20,000 people flooded into petite Montpelier to make their voices heard the day after Inauguration Day.

Emerge women around the country held signs, “Today we march. Tomorrow we run for office.”

Emerge America affiliates have now trained nearly 3,000 women to run for public office, with six new states, ranging from Alabama to New York, joining our network in 2017. In Vermont, during the first half of the year, we helped train nearly 150 women to run for office during one-day workshops and weekend programs. This fall, we’re training our largest group of women yet during our six-month intensive Signature Training Program. Record numbers of women across the country now want to run for office.

During this year, women have stepped up to run and continued to march. Perhaps most importantly, we have perfected the practice of amplifying the words and stories of our sisters.

In February, Sen. Elizabeth Warren tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King on the floor of the U.S. Senate, prompting a censure by her male colleague and creating the wonderfully apt “Nevertheless, she persisted” rallying cry. A cry that has been adopted by activist women nationwide, with some literally tattooing the phrase on their bodies as a reminder to never give up the fight.

In August, Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ repeated use of the phrase “reclaiming my time,” in response to the ineffective rambling of the Treasury secretary, became what the Washington Post called “a rallying call for women, people of color and the LGBT community to reclaim their time and power.” And like “she persisted,” Waters’ ability to interrupt male political power with a woman’s voice made “reclaiming my time” an empowering, feminist phrase gone viral.

Finally, over the past several weeks, millions of women have proclaimed #MeToo on social media, a hashtag signifying the author has been the victim of sexual harassment and/or assault. Like nearly all my female friends, I posted and tweeted #MeToo; I’m not sure I could find a woman for whom the moniker would not apply.

And finally, a few chips have started to fall. Some high-profile men are losing their jobs and reputations. The difficult work of making our voices heard on the way to gender equality in this post-2016-election reality may be starting to slowly pay off.

In Vermont, we’re gearing up for an exciting 2018. This week, Emerge alumna Anne Watson announced she’ll run for mayor of Montpelier. If she wins next March, Watson would double the number of female mayors in our state, joining another Emerge alumna, St. Albans Mayor Liz Gamache. Women across our state will run for state and local offices next March and November.

A year ago many women embraced the “nasty woman” title, hoping that the power of the so-called women’s vote would propel the first woman into the White House. As we know, it didn’t work. The destructive forces of sexism and racism won out.

But throughout 2017, those “nasty women” and millions more who joined their chorus, marched, persisted, reclaimed their time, and shouted “Me too!” from the rooftops. Perhaps we’ll shatter the glass ceiling from above, from upon those rooftops. Proclaiming enough is enough, over and over again.

Today hundreds of women are running for office. They got to work, and many will shatter some glass.

Ruth Hardy of East Middlebury is executive director of Emerge Vermont, an organization that recruits, trains and inspires Democratic women to run for public office.

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