Remember the heady days of early 2017? One year ago, 24 hours after the inauguration of President Trump, more than 2.5 million women and their allies turned out to express their disapproval at Women's Marches across the country and around the world. They wore pink "pussy" hats and carried subversive signs, and the crowds grew into the largest single day of protest in U.S. history. The sheer volume of outrage was momentous, remarkable in and of itself.
But it's 2018 now, and we've learned something along the way: Outrage is not enough.
The impact of the original Women's March remains real and significant. With the emergence of grass-roots networks around the country, activism has flourished and women are organizing. They are running for offices large and small, and the number of women in Congress has reached an all-time high. "Indivisible" and similar movements helped to stymie destructive legislation such as the proposed Affordable Care Act repeal.
Outside of the political realm, it's not hard to draw a line from the outrage expressed en masse to the newly emboldened voices of the #MeToo movement. There, women have brought down powerful abusers and opened a frank discussion about sexual harassment and assault. And as the visibility of women's anger has increased, feminism has finally gone mainstream. More women's stories are being told, and by women themselves.
But not all women have shared in this progress equally.
From the moment it was conceived, the 2017 Women's March was inspiring but imperfect. Its attendees were mostly white; the majority were middle class. While there was enormous power implied in the number of people who gathered, it wasn't necessarily clear to whom that power would accrue. Critics worried that only certain women's issues would be taken to heart. They appear to have been right.
Yes, today there are more women seeking office, but the renewed interest in politics has not yet changed the lived reality for most. More than 1 in 8 U.S. women still live in poverty, and looming legislation aims to chip away at the policies that lend them support. More women are dying of pregnancy-related complications here than in any other developed country, and the rate is rising. Black women are especially at risk.
Yes, #MeToo has had a real impact. Predators no longer afflict as many shining stars. But what about women who work on factory floors, in restaurants or in domestic settings? Have their lives changed for the better?
And yes, feminism has gone mainstream, but feminism for whom? Many of the concerns that are particularly relevant to women of color — police brutality, voter disenfranchisement — are fading from view.
Outrage has served us well, but it hasn't served us all. So where do we go from here?
In 2017, millions marched for the cause of "women" writ large. In 2018, those same marchers should direct that energy toward more specific complaints. Women who style themselves activists should go beyond donning pink hats and raising signs, and lend their support to causes that may be outside of their usual sphere of interest. This should be a year for deliberate solidarity with women of color, with underpaid workers, with disenfranchised voters and with mothers who need help. When it comes to issues such as racial disparity, economic inequality and a shrinking social safety net, unfocused anger is not enough.
While outrage changes attitudes, solidarity is crucial to concrete policy advances. The women helping one another run for office should also push for policies that allow more men and women to vote — especially those who are fighting disenfranchisement in advance of the 2018 midterm elections. High-profile women who now feel enabled to take action against their abusers should take up the cause of those with fewer resources; the #TimesUp legal defense fund is a promising example. And rather than reflexively discounting women with more conservative politics, it's time to listen — and to find pro-women policies on which all can agree.
In 2017, women voiced their outrage. The work of 2018 will be to support the women whose voices still aren't being heard.