Illustration: Eleanor Shakespeare

OPINION

Good riddance 2017. This is the year of the woman

Let’s go, 2018, says Marisa Bate. We’re ready for you

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By Marisa Bate on

Dear 2018,

Hello and welcome! We’ve been looking forward to *you* arriving. 2017 was hard. Like, really hard. And angry and tiresome and frustrating and heavy in our hearts. Yes, we marched and protested and we broke silences. But it wasn’t easy. Telling stories, hearing stories – ones that echoed our own, ones that united women in the plain understanding that a) This Shit Happens and b) most men just don’t get it. Not even close. Even if they’ve seen it, and whether they are silent or outraged, they can’t and won’t ever truly understand (hence the strange political panel debates trying to spell out the difference between office flirting and sexual harassment). And that’s not all. Oh, no. That’s not all 2017 dumped on us. Families were hungry. In 2017, my mum’s Pilates teacher cried to her in Sainsbury's because she couldn’t feed her daughter, thanks to the Universal Credit disaster. In 2017, a Tory MP cried in the House of Commons when hearing the stories of poverty in this country. In 2017, I cried when I read Terri White’s incredible essay on taking refuge in a woman’s shelter from a violent man with her mother as a child, told only as a warning of the realities many will face in 2017, thanks to government cuts forcing refuges to close and resulting in many women and children having nowhere to go, left to stay with men who might kill them. I know – no year exists in isolation; the events of 2017 are a culmination of decades of politics and economics and a society run by powerful men, but, unlike Taylor Swift, damn, we were glad to see 2017 go.

Which is why we’re so pleased you’re here, 2018! You’re our clean slate, our fresh start, our new beginning. And while our expectations are high, we’re realists (that’s what a year of 2017 does to you). We know, for example, that while companies have to legally reveal their salaries this year to address the gender pay gap, it’s not going to be pretty. (These shenanigans are already underway. An FT investigation from December found that four companies, including Hugo Boss, initially claimed zero gender pay gap, only then to submit a different set of numbers that suggest there is.) We know that some companies are already going to town on their paternity leave – which is great – yet, despite their excitement over new policy, this still doesn’t mean it’s OK to pay women less. One thing for sure, 2018, the world will be watching.

We must hope, 2018, that this lays the groundwork for a seismic cultural shift – not token lip service but preventive, thorough and rigorous change

We know that the world will be also watching as Hollywood comes together, after they launched an inquiry in 2017 to combat sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, including the biggest powerhouses in the game, from Lucasfilm to Disney and Netflix, led by the legendary Anita Hill. We must hope, 2018, that this lays the groundwork for a seismic cultural shift – not token lip service but preventive, thorough and rigorous change. 2018, you’re going to be busy.

This year, I hope we see more women at the table. Remember that first Brexit table? It looked like a stag do! Remember when an Uber employee started a rumbling that turned into an avalanche that brought down Travis Kalanick? Uber did bring more women to the table, but only when every last drop of shit had hit every single last fan. 2018, may you see the death of bro-culture, the death of all-male panels, the death of all-male boards and, gee, I don’t know, an understanding that women are equals and are capable of excelling in the fields of entrepreneurship and technology. Across the pond, more women are trying really hard to sit at the table. Emily’s List, an organisation in the US that gets more women running for office, has been contacted by more than 22,000 women since Trump’s election and more women than ever are expected to run for congress in 2018.

But if women do run in 2018, I hope the internet giants make the internet a safer place for women – finally. In the six weeks in the run-up to the snap election in 2017, Labour MP and Britain's first black female MP Diane Abbott received half of all the abuse targeted at female politicians. Half. She was threatened with rape and lynching, an intersectional horror show almost beyond comprehension. Yet, here we are. Women still want in on politics. That’s how mad 2017 made us.  

And, 2018, this year I hope that there is a renewed focus on how the economy is skewed to harming women and, in particular, women of colour. I hope MP Stella Creasy’s mission to have equality impact assessment written into law to help understand how women are affected by the government budget doesn’t seem like a feminist’s pipe dream, but becomes a reality reflecting how women are always on the sharp end of other people’s failings or broken promises – be it their governments or their employers or perhaps just the men in the lives.

I can’t pin all my hopes and dreams for a feminist utopia on you, 2018 (although it is the centenary of women getting the vote in this country, so I don’t see why not). But I think we’re in for something big. When Anita Hill lost her watershed sexual-harassment case against Clarence Thomas in 1991, it was a devastating blow to women and to women of colour. But the following year became known as the “Year of the Woman”. In reaction to Hill’s bravery, a record number of women ran for Senate and won.

Because women are resilience and women are the resistance.

CNN has called you, 2018, the Year of the Woman.

Let’s go.

@marisajbate

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Illustration: Eleanor Shakespeare
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amazing women
harvey weinstein
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