Google employee Cathay Bi speaks at a rally at Harry Bridges Plaza to protest the tech company's treatment of women and handling of sexual harassment scandals on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Badasses’ and basketball players have brought good news in tumultuous year for women

This has been a tumultuous year for women. The Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the #MeToo movement highlighted the pervasiveness of sexual assault and workplace harassment. There have been continued attacks on women’s access to health care and reproductive rights.

But there have also been inspiring stories and reasons for hope. A record-breaking 102 women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in the midterm elections. Eleven new women senators will join the ten already there. Nine women won governor’s races. These numbers may change slightly since a few races have still not been called at the time of this writing.

The women elected to Congress include a number of veterans or other service members. During the campaign, these women befriended one another, raised money together, and ultimately dubbed themselves “The Badasses.” They created a group text where they could go for advice, to compare strategies, and vent.

The group text was not the place to go for sympathy, however. Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA analyst who won in Michigan, told USA Today that if you began to express doubts in the heat of the final weeks of the campaign, the reaction of the group was more along the lines of “Get your s—- together, stand up straight and move out.”

The Badasses plan to continue to work together once they get to Washington, D.C.,  perhaps even setting up some sort of group physical workouts in the morning. And speaking of workouts, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who fell in her office last week and broke three ribs, plans to resume her twice-weekly workouts next week. Bryant Johnson, Ginsburg’s trainer, says he’ll ease her back into her routine, but adds, “She’s tough as nails.”

Then there’s Donna Strickland, the Canadian woman who won the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. Strickland, only the third women to ever win the physics prize,  and the first since 1963, was cited for her role in developing a technique to generate short, intense laser pulses. The extremely precise cuts possible using this technique have broad industrial and medical applications. If you’ve ever had laser eye surgery, thank Strickland.

Another highlight has been the millions of women (and men) who participated in – and felt empowered by – the Women’s March each of the last two years. In addition to voting, the marches have been an effective way to let politicians know we don’t like what they’re doing. The next one, #WomensWave, is scheduled for January 19, 2019.

In a remarkable essay on The Player’s Tribune website this past summer, the GoldenState Warriors Stephen Curry wrote about his personal commitment to gender equality and pay equity. He described hosting a basketball camp for high -school girls, perhaps the first ever by an NBA star. “It was a lot of fun,” he wrote, “just to share a court with 200 girls who love to hoop, and watch them do their thing.” But Curry also had women, successful in business and sports, come to talk with – and inspire – the campers.

In the essay, Curry noted he has always been surrounded by “incredible and fiercely principled” women, from his mother Sonya, who opened her own school, to his wife Ayesha, a successful business owner and chef. And now his two daughters Riley and Ryan.

“I want our girls to grow up knowing that there are no boundaries that can be placed on their futures, period. I want them to grow up in a world where their gender does not feel like a rulebook for what they should think, or be, or do. And I want them to grow up believing that they can dream big, and strive for careers where they’ll be treated fairly.”

Curry ends his essay with the observation, “… to be a true supporter of women’s equality – it’s not enough anymore to be learning about it. You have to be doing it. It’s 2018 – school’s out. It’s time to go to work.”

It’s been a tumultuous year for women. But, if the politicians, scientists, jurists, marchers – and basketball players – all get their s—- together, stand up straight, move out, and go to work, maybe next year will be better.

Sally Stephens is an animal, park and neighborhood activist who lives in the West of Twin Peaks area.

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