Last year, revelations of rampant sexual discrimination, harassment and abuse in Hollywood shocked the nation.
Soon afterward, I along with 147 women who work in California politics wrote a letter sharing our truth: We too have experienced these same inappropriate behaviors. As other women followed suit, it became evident that these issues cut across every facet of our society. In the workplace, it seemed no industry was insulated. Women, regardless of level of experience, achievement or power, were saying #MeToo.
A year later, #MeToo is firmly entrenched as part of our cultural dialogue. Millions of victims and survivors have come forward in 2018. Many have been believed and supported. But resolution and restitution remain inconsistent, and even elusive. Far too many incidents of abuse are still being vetted in the court of public opinion, because the law and organizations have failed to provide appropriate ways to report misconduct and seek recourse.
In response to the public airing of incidents, some perpetrators have openly expressed remorse. But for others, the shame of bad deeds is short-lived - if it exists at all. Even more galling, the nation has watched alongside victims as their alleged abusers are elevated to even higher platforms, leaving victims and survivors across the country to mourn their own unresolved traumas.
After our #MeToo politics letter, many women reached out to share the stories of harassment and assault that drove them out of their industry. They had been diminished, demeaned, belittled and bullied. Many decided to take their time, talents and skills elsewhere, instead of benefiting California with their valuable contributions.
Today, we are less than four weeks away from the midterm elections. Six men and three women sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. In Congress, 80 percent of lawmakers are men. All are overwhelmingly white and roughly 20 years older than the average American they represent.
In contrast, the record numbers of women now running for office are empowering. This tide is due, in part, to the growing power and longevity of the #MeToo movement started so many years ago by Tarana Burke.
However, it is not enough that women and minorities run for office. Voters must show up to the polls and choose them, in every election and at every level.
Voting is not a one-time act, or a protest every four years. Its effects are cumulative. The people we vote for in local elections this year may one day run for state or federal office, or even president. People in San Francisco voted 22 years ago for a young Gavin Newsom for Board of Supervisors; he is now favored to be California’s next governor. Sen. Dianne Feinstein was also a San Francisco supervisor; elected in 1969, she served as the board’s first female president.
Since 1958, voters in Iowa have elected Sen. Chuck Grassley, who presided over the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings as the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s unlikely that in 1996, when Illinois voters first voted for a young lawyer named Barack Obama for state Senate, they had any idea he would one day be our 44th president.
But that is the power of voting. Our elected officials don’t come out of nowhere. We the people get to choose them. If you don’t vote, someone somewhere else will, over and over again.
Our right as Americans to vote is radical and profound. Voting has the ability to change the trajectory of history, culture and even our local communities. Age brings wisdom, but youth brings fresh and important perspectives - and we need both to ensure a representative government.
People often ask: How do we keep the #MeToo movement going? What is the best way to fight for positive change? How do we hold elected officials accountable?
On Nov. 6 we can all do those things, together, by voting. In California you can still register to vote until Oct. 22. Vote. And while you’re at it, bring a friend.
Adama Iwu is a co-founder and president of We Said Enough, vice president of state government relations and community outreach at Visa and a participant in The Sacramento Bee/McClatchy Influencers series.