As 2017 comes to a close, it is impossible not to acknowledge in what an important, albeit challenging, time we find ourselves. Over the past year we have witnessed not only a change in administration and therefore policy, but there too has been a shift in the ways in which individuals engage in social issues and causes—many of which have been impacted by the new administration and associated policies.
These fluctuations have created a chasm between political ideologies, seemingly positioning good versus evil, inclusion versus exclusion, right versus wrong, and somewhat surprisingly, men versus women, all of which are threatening to eviscerate the interwoven fabric of our country.
Recently, in fact, the United States has appeared to not be very united at all.
However, not all is lost. A great deal of good is emerging from this chaos, and it is fueling a new wave of activism—different from what we saw prior to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election and even earlier this year. Women in particular appear to be lifting their voice and becoming more engaged than previously reported.
Specifically, Phase 1 of the 2017 Millennial Impact Report found that women, in the initial few weeks and months following Donald Trump’s victory, were more engaged in social issues and causes of interest than they reported prior to the election. Participation in activities like Women’s Marches, signing petitions and writing representatives surged in Q1 of this year. These actions appeared to signal a change: Women were standing up and taking greater action for social issues and causes that were in jeopardy due to the newly established normal. Momentum appeared to be building.
And then … nothing. Spring and summer came and went relatively quietly. It seemed activism had returned to status quo—right where we were during the election season of 2016. Women again appeared to be less engaged in performing any actions on behalf of social issues or causes (similar to what was reported during the 2016 election), and they were definitely lagging behind their millennial men counterparts in taking any kind of action. In fact, this summer, when asked about the actions they had taken on behalf of social issues and/causes of interest, the second highest response for women indicated they had taken no action.
How could they not be standing up for what they believed in? Why had their voices quieted? There was speculation that women had become… unengaged… removed… apathetic, even.
And then it happened… the event that caused women to speak up and out.
Initially, one celebrity was accused of egregious sexual misconduct by a large number of women. Very quickly, this revelation unleashed a firestorm of similar allegations about a myriad of men across industries including arts and entertainment, major network news organizations and politics—even our newly elected president was not immune from allegations. Conversations about men’s abuse of power and status over women were rekindled … and women’s voices not only returned, but they were louder and more unbridled than in the past.
The question was—would they be heard? Unequivocally, the answer seems to be yes.
Interestingly, although we’ve seen a decline in the use of social media in millennials’ support of causes, #MeToo has been a powerful platform for demonstrating just how widespread sexual assault has been, and how it has negatively impacted so many lives. This movement bears witness to the magnitude of voice. Many women (and even some men) have been able to stand up and take action against long-standing degradation.
What happens next remains to be seen. But whatever the disposition, women have spoken; they have not remained silent. They are taking a stand. The awareness is now there. Men and women across the country are adopting this movement as a serious cause. But the next step toward creating change is just as if not more important: policy. Will policy be created to support this movement? When? Who will lead the charge?
So what can be learned from this painful example of activism? Perhaps women aren’t apathetic at all; instead, they are deliberate and purposive in their engagement with social causes. Conceivably, they purposefully disengaged during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election when they felt their voices would not be heard. Maybe they have deliberately chosen to withhold their voices until the cause or social issue of most importance warranted a strong and unified voice.
Then one woman stood up and spoke out.
As we near the end of 2017 and look to 2018, I suspect women’s voices—millennial women’s voices—will inevitably get louder… and stronger. They will not stand for this behavior and the effects thereof. I believe they will be a significant element to change that is about to take place. Because a meaningful cause has presented itself, they will no longer remain silent. They will continue to take action … and in a variety of ways.
In fact, the recent special elections witnessed higher numbers of women (and minority women, in particular) both running for office and voting against the status quo. Women are stepping up, speaking out and thoughtfully acting to create the change they want to see. These actions will inevitably influence policy in the future.
Contrary to the trends that had emerged earlier this year, millennial women—and women of other generations—are indeed not apathetic at all. They are proving that they understand just how powerful one’s voice can be … and how much stronger yet those voices become when combined with the roars of others.