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Back to the Street 

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In the long-fought battle over equality, there are pauses where the world settles in to enjoy the newly established perks the previous generation afforded them. First, flappers took a seat at the bar in lieu of domestic life, after their suffragist mothers earned them the right to vote. Then, women picked up their briefcases to become serious contenders in the workforce following the women's liberation movement of the '60s and '70s. And for a time, all seemed well. Then Xennials began their careers, only to discover the female-friendly world they were sold didn't always function as advertised.

From childhood cartoons to history lessons in adolescents, Xennial girls like myself were told the world was our oyster. On Saturday mornings, we watched as Jem and the Holograms took on seedy male executives, and She-Ra saved the day. Through our teens, we were told stories of the women who fought for our seat at the table. We were told we could vote, we could work, and, in theory, we could have it all. That created a lull for some women, considering the messages of our upbringing. So when women returned to march in the streets, I was far from surprised. If anything, I was more shocked at the depths society had to sink in order to revive our collective ability to revolt.

After all, rumblings of dissatisfaction with continued harassment in the workplace, gender pay gap, new threats against reproductive rights and subpar family medical leave—whether to take care of aging parents or as a means of maternity leave—had been building for years prior to the 2016 presidential election. The TV celebrity rube winning the election was merely the breaking point.

Then and now, despite the legitimacy of female frustrations, opposition is inevitable. Yet, in the face of equality deniers, the women's movement has made significant contributions to the ever-changing landscape of our world since the march in January 2017. The path hasn't been easy, and there certainly have been some setbacks (ahem, Brett Kavanaugh), but overall progress is in the works.

On the political front, last year taught us that when women run for office, they win. An unprecedented number of women seeking office started 2019 off on the right foot, with a record number of women holding congressional seats. On the local front, Utah went from 45th to 36th place for percentage of women in elected positions. Business-wise, Utah women and men received a win when Salt Lake City established six weeks of paid family leave for city employees, encouraging more cities and businesses to follow its lead.

Women returning to the streets to challenge societal disparities of our time also resulted in a boost of support for both new and existing organizations geared toward female empowerment. Whether a woman's interest lies in resurrecting her corporate career or learning the ropes of the political arena, organizations such as Real Women Run or Women's Leadership Institute are available to help them reach their goals.

Given swelling attention surrounding the Women's March, it is unclear what the future for the movement will look like. Their goals of tackling reproductive and disability rights, violence against women and joining forces to ensure LGBTQ, racial, economic and environmental justice are of equal importance in order to create the country their mission statement—"We are all free, equal and safe"—envisions.

My assumption is even if the number of physical marchers dwindles, the momentum to empower under-represented communities will continue to grow. To lose motivation now would risk further resolutions, and behind every win is an issue still waiting to be solved. Reaching a record number of women holding political positions is an accomplishment; however, women still hold less than 25 percent of statewide elective offices across the country. Utah increasing family-leave support is commendable. Unfortunately, the state is still coming to terms with how to monetarily compensate women. After the release of the latest data on gender pay equity, Utah's rank sank further below the national average, landing in the 50th spot, according to the Salt Lake Chamber.

Change is a funny thing and is often met with resistance. Some change takes getting used to, while other evolutions have little backlash once in place. It's part of the human condition. When people are content, they are far less likely to want to cause waves. In the '60s, conservative-leaning women would roll their eyes at the notion of burning bras. Yet, for all the pomp and circumstance of the opposition, no one has heard a peep since bras went from a constricting apparatus design to one with support and comfort in mind. That's progress! Well ... my version of it anyway.

How far we're able to move forward remains to be seen. In the meantime, our daughters and sons are watching this all play out, and the future contributions they make to the world will be based on the reality they see around them. While they'll probably face their own challenges, it strikes me as important to model in real time the view that speaking up against injustice is always better than complacency. Perhaps the current movement will afford our kids more than a couple decades of leisure. If it doesn't, I have no doubt they'll pick up the torch.

Aspen Perry is an SLC-based aspiring author, feminist failure and self-proclaimed "philosophical genius." Send feedback to comments@cityweekly.net

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Aspen Perry

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