According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of women in Minnesota who have been raped, assaulted or stalked could fill Target Field 17 times. This is 684,000 women in our statewide community. Nationally, the #MeToo movement is a reflection of women’s collective story, a vivid display of how commonplace sexual violence is in the United States, with rates estimated to be as high as 70 percent of all women who have experienced sexual violence or assault.
It is no coincidence that a tidal wave of women running for elected office is happening at the same time. November 7 saw barrier-breaking women win. This is women’s frustration channeled into political action.
Recently, the careers of powerful men in Hollywood have suddenly come to a halt as the chorus of women affected by sexual assault demand accountability. This is culture shift. Now, we need to match it with a power shift.
Minnesota Rep. Erin Maye Quade was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2016 and entered as one of only three Black women in the legislature. Last week, she courageously stepped forward with her own experience of harassment at the Capitol. Her story mirrors what we are hearing in state houses across the country. In Colorado, California and Georgia, women are sharing their stories and validating what we have always known: our government institutions are not safe for women.
Our response? Women are running for elected office and winning. We are making a difference in elections as voters. And we are speaking out against our male allies ― often in our own party ― and taking political and personal risks by naming names.
We aren’t doing this for ourselves. We are doing this for democracy. We are doing this for the next generation. Thirty years of research is right: the effect of more women in government is overwhelmingly positive. But we can’t do it alone.
This past weekend, 200 women from 33 states gathered in Minneapolis at the VoteRunLead #RunAsYouAre National Training, ready to step up, run for office and win. Ten thousand more have signed up to do the same.
The time for men in leadership to make room for more women in leadership is overdue. Men should be on our side. Those who are not should consider stepping aside. Explore early retirement. Better yet, support a female successor for your seat. If you are going to continue to lead, then it is your moral and democratic obligation to call out sexual harassment when you see it, come clean when you’ve done wrong, and seek training for both actions.
There must be accountability and justice inside of our government and political institutions.
It’s not enough that U.S. Senatorial candidate Roy Moore is continuing to run. He should resign and never run again.
It’s not enough that only a couple of elected officials, including Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, are calling for re-training on sexual harassment in the federal government. Both the DNC and GOP should launch investigations into allegations of assault and harassment.
It’s not enough that companies are purchasing insurance to shield themselves from sexual harassment lawsuits. They should institute no-tolerance policies and mandatory trainings.
What we’re clearly missing overall is policy that reinforces a system of justice for women.
Government is toxic. Government is still a “good old boys club”― and it’s time it comes to an end. The only solution is equity.
Equity asks us to do more than support and elect higher numbers of women. Equity requires an environment where women are safe and able to thrive. It means change in systems and policies, change in behaviors and attitudes, and change in culture.
With more and more women stepping up and running for elected office, it’s time for men already in leadership to step up and become active allies. If not, step aside – or we’ll have no choice but to beat you at the ballot box.