Feminists Weigh Their Wins And Losses After Nearly Four Years Of Trump The latest round of women's marches is against the filling of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat. It's also an opportunity for activists to take stock as the stakes of the election loom.
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Feminists Weigh Their Wins And Losses After Nearly Four Years Of Trump

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Feminists Weigh Their Wins And Losses After Nearly Four Years Of Trump

Feminists Weigh Their Wins And Losses After Nearly Four Years Of Trump

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What have four years of President Trump meant for feminists? These years have brought new momentum to the women's movement. Women have been elected in record numbers, they've called out sexual assault, and they've fought racism. Now with a Supreme Court seat and an election on the line, women will be marching again tomorrow. Here's NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: The Trump presidency began with women flooding the streets in what was likely the largest one-day protest in American history.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing) Nasty, nasty girls - we're here to march.

KURTZLEBEN: I first met Lenore Bell at that march. The 65-year-old retiree had come from Arizona with her wife.

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LENORE BELL: My belief is from the suffragettes through the civil rights through Vietnam, the only way we've enacted change is by taking to the streets like this.

KURTZLEBEN: So I called her recently to ask how successful she feels feminists have been.

BELL: I think it's gotten stronger because more women have gone into politics. There are more women in the House of Representatives.

KURTZLEBEN: But then again, she's exhausted.

BELL: It is just so hard to determine because there's just so much out there. You know, one day - every day it looks like there's something different. It's like, look over here; look over there.

KURTZLEBEN: For feminists like Bell, the last four years have been a torrent of headlines, both encouraging and demoralizing; of power lost and power gained. Thirty-thousand women approached the Democratic group EMILY's List looking to run for office ahead of the 2018 midterms compared to fewer than a thousand in 2016. But then there was that weighing of the cost of what sparked this movement. Here's EMILY's List president Stephanie Shriock in 2018.

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STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK: It is not worth (laughter) - it was not worth it. I would have taken our 920 who wanted to run to have a different president. I would have taken that.

KURTZLEBEN: In the end, women went from around 1 in 5 members of Congress to nearly 1 in 4. Those gains were overwhelmingly on the Democratic side.

Trump is also considered a big reason why the #MeToo movement exploded in 2017. Two dozen women have accused him of sexual misconduct by some counts. He denies all of these. Several other powerful male politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, were the target of accusations. In 2018 came Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

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CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two. And they're having fun at my expense.

KURTZLEBEN: Those hearings provided a striking parallel but also a contrast to the 1992 sexual harassment accusations by Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas. Kate Manne is a professor of philosophy at Cornell.

KATE MANNE: Partly for reasons that probably have to do with racism, they were much more prepared to believe her than they had with Anita Hill.

KURTZLEBEN: But, Manne says, she sees injustice in those who didn't believe Blasey Ford or who didn't think the accusations were disqualifying for Kavanaugh.

KURTZLEBEN: So I think in a way, it illustrated the interwoven nature of the regressive and progressive steps of that do-si-do dance.

KURTZLEBEN: Long before Blasey Ford, it was a Black woman, Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo movement, just one example of how Black women laid the groundwork for feminist advancement.

Glynda Carr is president and CEO of Higher Heights for America.

GLYNDA CARR: Black women have been consistently pouring into our democracy from the 1800s to now and, frankly, getting less back than we put into it.

KURTZLEBEN: Women of color gained congressional seats in 2018, and Democrats have nominated Kamala Harris for vice president. Women of color have also gained new prominence in a feminist movement that had long been dominated by white women. Carr hopes that will stick, again, while weighing what she feels has been gained against what she feels has been lost.

CARR: You also saw white women and our allies stepping out and protesting amid the racial uprisings this summer, and so I would hope that this unfortunate, politically toxic, racially divisive times have actually created more intersectional tables and frank discussions.

KURTZLEBEN: Police killings of African Americans galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer. Then the feminist movement was galvanized by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. At a Supreme Court vigil for Ginsburg, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren led mourners in a chant against Republican attempts to replace Ginsburg.

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ELIZABETH WARREN: I will fight.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: I will fight.

WARREN: Again.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: I will fight.

WARREN: And one more time.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: I will fight.

WARREN: It is an honor to be in this fight with you.

(CHEERING)

KURTZLEBEN: Women's marches this weekend are part of that Supreme Court fight. But the women who have been joining those marches for four years are also hoping it's their last mass protest against President Trump.

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF KAKI KING'S "OOBLECK")

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