Photo credit from top to bottom: Matheus Ferrero ; William Stitt ; Christopher Campbell ; Damir Bosnjak ; Omar Lopez ; Jimmy Chang ; Debashis Biswas and Naganath Chiluveru

2018 Will Be the Year of Women, But It Won’t Be Easy

Ahead, A Bright but Challenging Future

Alison has always been an introvert. A shy gal. In high school, it took her more than half a year to get acquainted with her classmates. Nothing changed by the time she was in college either, where she graduated with honors — mostly by sacrificing her social life. Although Alison — now a prominent lawyer of human rights — is known by her friends and family for having strong leadership skills, she is usually quiet and reserved. Unfortunately, these traits have led male counterparts to impose their power and dominance over her multiple times, crossing all the boundaries of consent. For a long time, she quietly endured the misconducts thinking it was part of the game, believing that by hiding them she was, in fact, handling the issue. She felt helpless and alone in this. She didn’t think anybody would believe her, after all, a sexual predator could even become the President of the United States, unpunished. However, nothing could be further from the truth, her life was miserable. She developed anxiety issues and was depressed. She was suffering the emotional and psychological fallout from these dark experiences. Her self-esteem was obliterated. Destroyed.

Luckily for her, things were about to change. Since the wave of revulsion against men accused of sexual predation in Hollywood were uncovered last October, Alison (28) felt it was time for her to break the silence about the predator in the room with the groping issues. She was thrilled with hope, inspired by the women who were bravely sharing their harrow stories everywhere. Fiercely, and with determination she went to HR. She decided she didn’t want to give him more power and finally filed a sexual harassment complaint. She couldn’t believe what happened next, after speaking up others female coworkers followed suit and filed several more complaints as well. Unprecedentedly, by the end of the next day, the harasser was fired, and gone for good. Alison breathes easily now. She feels empowered. Strong. She knows that — along with her newly found allies — no one will ever hurt them again.

In 2017 we have seen an unbelievable progress towards gender equality, one that no one has ever witnessed the likes of. A myriad of headlines has taken us to this point from Trump’s election, the epic women’s march at the beginning of this year, the wave of revelations about sexual misconduct (and the quick fallout of its perpetrators), the rise of the #MeToo movement on social media to the hundreds of stories from sexual harassment victims, all together have unleashed one of the most important cultural moments for equality in the past 60 years, a distinct social change in history indeed.

For women, 2017 has become the year of resilience. There is an important tipping point happening in society right now. Women are coming together massively in droves, along with some men — as victims and allies — they have woken up, broken their silence and decided that it was time to take a step forward and fight back inequality, abuse, and mistreatment.

In 2017, women have transformed their anger and rage into a source of emboldening power for other victims, for empowerment. Allowing others to free themselves from the restraints of fear and shame. Powerfully, hundreds of thousands of women and men have courageously been speaking their minds, coming forward with their appalling stories — where the internet has played a crucial role, lurching the world into a new form of political and cultural order.

But this groundbreaking moment in history doesn’t mean that the future won’t hold any challenges, quite the opposite. In 2018, we will still need to continue to fight for gender inequality, sexism and violence. Even though we are witnessing invigorating times, there’s still much that needs to be done in 2018 before we will be able to claim equal rights for women.

Research has recently shown that women around the globe will have to wait more than two centuries to achieve equality in the workplace. Let’s also not forget that women are still making 77% what men make. And according to a report from the World Health Organization, one in three women worldwide have experienced physical violence or sexual aggression at some point in their lives. In addition, as of today women still are underrepresented in politics with only 47% of countries that have had a female head of state, while 28% of the world’s parliamentarians are female and 21% ministers.

In order to overcome these hurdles, from now on society will have to make a shift and in 2018 there are many ways to do so. First, change needs to start with governmental leaders who hold the power; only through legislation this cultural shift around women could become a much more tangible reality, governments have to make sure they are appointing women in governmental roles. Women need to sit at the table when decisions are being made.

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically change the world. And you have to do it all the time.” — Angela Davis

At the same time, companies should be required to publish information about their gender pay gap by law. This kind of transparency will allow women to know beforehand the job they should be aiming for, and that is the first massive step towards pay equality. Companies can also achieve this by voluntarily doing annual reviews, but I honestly doubt they will.

Women have nothing to gain, but everything to lose. And men must make sure they are not alone in this.

Kindly, and with profound dignity, honesty, bravery, and perseverance, we must align with the plight of the different types of challenges we still face in our society. Everything is possible when we, as people stand together and use our voices to ignite human rights as a whole. A feminist is not someone who only supports women exclusively, but one that sticks up for those who are marginalized whether that’s women, men or immigrants. Any minority in which their human rights are threatened.

The future of equality is in our hands, and as women and men, we carry a massive responsibility for the legacy we’ll leave to upcoming generations. We have the power to overthrow patriarchy and close gender parity once for all, but we must act together. Contrary to what many men believe, this fight is not against them, the issue has never been about gender, but about equality.

Future change only can be achieved if we foster it in the now. Together.

Whether this will lead to a broader societal change in the future is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure, the landscape is so shaken up right now, that indeed things are never going to be the same anymore. This is an amazing time for women and men to come out and tell their stories, by doing so they’re helping save the lives of so many people.

On a global scale, it remains to be seen how the culture at large will react to these changes in 2018. As Edward Felsenthal — Time’s magazine editor-in-chief wrote it last month — “There is so much that we still don’t know about its ultimate impact. How far-reaching will it be? How deep into the country? How far down the organizational chart? Will there be a backlash?

Still, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about what 2018 has in store. For example: Women everywhere are rising up, continuing to tell their stories, bringing this movement to the mainstream public. In addition, women political power is growing, and in 2018 there will be more women candidates elected.

I could write at length more about how the future will be female and how it will be shaped by them, but we should put our focus in the milestones achieved so far and use these achievements as fuel to set goals for 2018 and the years to come. The offspring we are experiencing is the reflection of an evolving debate, and years of fight and sacrifice — even though as of today there a gazillion things to do — little progress sure taste good.

Photo by Roya Ann Miller

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