By Nickella Pierre
The midterms were a victory for women across the nation.
The historic elections held Tuesday night elected many firsts of different races and orientations leading the way for Congress to become more diverse.
In New York, 29-year-old Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman to ever be elected into Congress. She had never held office and defeated Rep. Joesph Crowley in the June primaries. The veteran had held office since 1998.
A former Somalian refugee from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, is the first Somali-American elected to Congress and the first member to wear a hijab. Palestinian and Michigan born Rashida Tlaib, in addition to Omar, is the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.
In Georgia, the gubernatorial race could elect Stacey Abrams as its first African-American governor. As of Wednesday, Abrams is refusing to concede to her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, who is up over 63,000 votes at 50 percent. Under Georgia law, a candidate must win more than 50 percent of the votes or voters will have the chance to vote again December 4.
And here in Arizona, the U.S. Senate race featured two women candidates: Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Rep. Martha McSally. The state will have its first female senator in history.
The race is too close to call but McSally is in the lead with 49.3 percent, 1 percent over Sinema.
Since a record number of women will join the next Congress, it still doesn’t shield Trump’s many radical and misogynistic comments on women. Before the 2016 presidential election, Trump shared a now deleted tweet took a jab at Hillary Clinton with a Monica Lewinsky reference that read, “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
When U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claimed to have Cherokee blood, the President attacked her heritage by calling her “Pocahontas” as a slur. Warren proved her Native American ancestry with a DNA test and Trump called her a “phony”. In light of these comments, ex-MMA fighter Sharice Davids became the first Native American and openly gay woman elected into Congress Tuesday night.
Trump entered his presidency with a slew of scandals including one surrounding adult film star Stormy Daniels. Daniels said she signed a non-disclosure agreement about her affair with Trump right before his election. Daniels sued Trump for defamation claiming he insulted her about the alleged affair. When the judge dismissed lawsuit, President Donald Trump celebrated on Twitter by calling Daniels “horseface”.
Last month, the world watched as white male Senators publicly questioned Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, who claimed that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party almost 35 years ago. Trump mocked Ford at a Mississippi campaign rally, doubting her testimony. “How many years ago was it? I don’t know, I don’t know,” Trump said.
Recently in an MSNBC interview, a mother said that groping a woman “doesn’t take away from his [Kavanaugh] character” and that it wasn’t a big deal.
During a political event before the election, hosted by Katie Hobbs, the seemingly defeated Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, predicted voting will be the game-changer for women. “We’re seeing historic numbers of women running everywhere because of the Trump election,” Hobbs said. “When people see someone that looks like them holding office, they believe they can do it too.”
Hobbs said in a tweet Wednesday morning that she will not back out of the race against Steve Gaynor who is up 2 percent, “I’m in this to win it and it’s still too close to call. Arizona voters deserve to know their votes are still being counted.”
In the political world, women have continuously ridden through rough roads despite some victories. To win elections, women must be beyond qualified, cautious, and basically perfect. But what does it mean to be a woman?
Sheila Tobias, feminist writer, author, and activist, said that defining women limits their abilities. “If we define the parameters of women’s culture, then it will be possible for men to argue that a woman can’t do this or this or this.” Tobias said.
In the late 60s and early 70s, Tobias contributed to the feminist movement by helping create the first women studies program at Cornell University in 1971 alongside feminist author Kate Millett. The program was one of the first in the U.S.
According to the National Center of State Legislatures and Center for American Women and Politics, about 1,875 women serve in the 50 state legislatures of all the 7,383 seats this year. Women make up nearly 25 percent of all state legislatures in the nation.
Arizona isn’t new to supporting women leadership. According to the CAWP, Arizona has ranked top 5 in the nation for female representation 27 times since 1975.
For the past two years, Arizona has ranked No. 1 in the nation for women representation with exactly 40 percent in the legislature according to the NCSL. The midterms showed a record number of 96 women being elected into the House, 9 new governors, and 22 senators according to CAWP.
The rise of the MeToo movement and the SlutWalk have raised awareness to issues of sexual assault, rape, and double standards but some have said it’s not enough. “It could backfire,” Tobias said.
State Sen. Steve Farley said that one of the greatest accomplishments women made was the freedom of choice. “Giving women control over their own body and destiny,” Farley said. “That’s huge.”
Tuesday’s election was a huge win but some wonder if it will change anything. “I don’t think think this will in any way inhibit Trump unfortunately,” said Tobias. “He will continue on his national destructive path.”
Keely Davis, FORCE Co-director at the University of Arizona, said it’s a great time to be a woman in the Trump Era. “It’s made a lot of women come together,” Davis said. “All these people are so outraged that they’re more encouraged to take these positions.”
After Tuesday’s election, Davis could not contain her excitement and said, “I think that this is huge for women and huge for representation.”
Nickella Pierre is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org