Look Back and Push Forward – International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law


Look Back, and Push Forward

(San Francisco, USA) by IANGEL Founder and President, Nancy J. Newman

A year ago, I felt your anxiety. You watched the polls with trepidation, wondering what the future would hold. I urged you to work hard, and to leave nothing to fickle winds that blow across our political landscape. Some did so. Others, not so much. And here we are, a year later, the election behind us, and still anxious about what the future holds for our collective struggle for gender equality, justice, and human rights for all. Yet when I reflect on how far we have come, and on the passion and commitment I see all around me, I have hope. We must reflect on the past, and project forward, for the insight and inspiration to sustain us for the struggle ahead.

It would be hard to overstate the gravity of the assault we are witnessing on so many cherished values of equality and justice. In Charlottesville, we saw bigots and fascists emerge from the shadows, and murder a protester. We see a new tide of racism and xenophobia, emboldened by equivocal rhetoric from the President, where dog whistle is now well-nigh a bull horn. We see an administration roll back regulations to ensure equal pay, and abandon efforts to address campus sexual assault. We see a systematic dismantling of regulations that protect our environment, health, and safety, reckless brinksmanship, and apparent contempt for science itself.

Yes, it’s bad. But we have seen dark days before, and emerged stronger. In the 1950’s, progressive thinkers were fired from their jobs, blacklisted, called up before federal and state committees on “un-American activities,” and sometimes jailed for their beliefs. Millions of Americans were deprived of civil rights, and our government did not protect them. And people rose up. They organized, and they brought about the changes we have enjoyed for so many years now. Laws to protect civil rights and voting rights, to promote gender equity, and to protect the air and the water, were the product of new thinking and activism that sprang from those darker days.

Indeed, because we have made so much progress in the last 50 years, the pain of observing concerted efforts to pull us backward is all the more acute. But look around. We have amazing strength, and resilience. Look at the awesome power of the Women’s Marches, around this country, and all around the world. Look at the power of grassroots organizing, and the mobilization of so many into a new resistance, determined to protect the rights that have been so hard won. Applaud our legal system, and so many champions of justice standing up for immigrants, for civil rights, for science, and for the constitutional values we hold so dear. I am inspired by the activism all around, by the tireless efforts of our robust free press, by a new generation of millennials who grew up celebrating our diverse society.

So let’s look to the future, when today’s narrow-minded antics will be a blip on the screen of history. We will look back then, perhaps with a woman of color as president, and remember these times. We will be uplifted by the magnificence of the movement that rose up to defeat the regressive forces that temporarily engulfed our government. Wrap your mind around that notion, and then focus on the work we must do to make it happen. Look back, and push forward.