Wars are not won in a single show of bravado, despite what movies might have you believe. Real victories are achieved when enough small defeats break down the enemy's resolve. Women fought against a mountain of issues the past year, but 2017 was about winning battles. The war is far from over.
Many women who never fancied themselves political entered the arena in 2017. A year after Hillary Clinton's 2016 loss left her supporters jaded, female candidates swept 2017 ballots across the nation. Democrats regained control of the Virginia House of Delegates thanks to female candidates flipping seats. Similarly, pro-choice Democrat Manka Dhingra helped win back control of the Washington state Senate, Vi Lyles became Charlotte, North Carolina's first Black female mayor, and Jenny Durkan became Seattle's first female mayor in more than 90 years.
When it came to reproductive rights, conservative efforts to ban abortion and limit access to birth control picked up speed over the past 12 months. Congress reversed an Obama-era measure that prohibited states from withholding federal family planning funds from health clinics that provide abortions. The Trump administration nixed a requirement that employer health insurance plans cover birth control. And more than 400 laws seeking to limit access to abortion were introduced across all 50 states in just the first three months of 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
While those developments may seem disheartening, there were also some major reproductive rights victories that prove women aren't losing the war. Federal judges blocked some of the most extreme abortion restrictions in Texas, Arkansas, and Alabama. Congress also failed to pass a 20-week abortion ban introduced in the House, and voters' opposition to Trumpcare helped squash any hope that it would replace Obamacare in 2017. The failure of Trumpcare was huge, as the proposed legislation would have been a total disaster for women by defunding Planned Parenthood, making pregnancy a pre-existing condition, and raising health care premiums.
And then, there was the #MeToo movement that started a much-needed national reckoning around sexual harassment and assault. Film tycoon Harvey Weinstein, journalists Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, and Congressmen John Conyers (D-Mich.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) top the list of powerful men who lost their jobs due to allegations of sexual harassment. Alabama also successfully kept an accused child molester out of office.
Of course, a man accused of sexual harassment by more than a dozen women is still president of the United States (Donald Trump has denied all allegations). Those who believe his accusers can't fathom #MeToo will be a total success until he's out of office, though his election was a catalyst for more women to speak out about harassment. "I have real doubts about whether we'd be going through this if Hillary Clinton had won, because I think that President Trump's election in many ways was a setback for women," NBC anchor Megyn Kelly told Time magazine when it named "The Silence Breakers" 2017's Person of the Year.
The public downfalls of accused men signified women winning individual battles, but Donald Trump's presidency and the fact that nearly half of American adults still can't recognize sexual harassment prove there's still a long way to go. In fact, we've only begun to scratch the surface. The same is true for women running for office (women still make up just 20 percent of Congress), and attacks on women's health care certainly haven't slowed.
Don't get me wrong, the victories should be celebrated. Progress happens one step at a time and there's absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of each step. But the systemic sexism plaguing American women will never be eliminated if we dupe ourselves into believing the war is over. After all, dismantling a centuries-old patriarchy takes time, but more women will draw their swords in 2018.