The Next Generation

We were told we could be president, yet we never were seriously considered as contenders. We make up over half the population, yet we are still heavily underrepresented in politics, in boardrooms, in media and have little influence in public life.

Women’s lack of influence has left deafening silence in our country. And the silencing of women, all women, whether it be in a bar room conversation, a board meeting or in national politics, has created an underserved democracy.

During the 2016 Presidential Election some of us felt a glimmer of hope. Some of us felt a slap in the face that our option was limited to just one. After 44 elections, the first female was nominated as a presidential candidate for a major party. Regardless, a man  — who said he sexually assaults women — was elected. The women I grew up with, white women without college degrees, helped put him there. I got closer to an answer for how much progress women had really made.

By the time Donald Trump was in office, I set out on a cross country journey with a team of reporters to understand why our country had become so divided. Along the way, I kept meeting young women who were living the issues that shaped the election and appeared to divide a nation — the significance of faith, the complexity of coal country’s grievances, racial tension, and immigration. 

I saw an opportunity to use the photographs to challenge decades of inequality. I learned that womanhood is not easily defined. It is not a box that can be easily checked but is instead a nuanced existence where gender identity, sexuality, race, and class all play a crucial role. Our country is not “red or blue” but rather a patchwork of political persuasions and experiences. This election may have turned out differently had our country figured that out sooner.

I know women’s rights/women’s position in the United States  are at a turning point. However, I’m unsure if I’ll see bona fide equality in my lifetime. I see hope from the women who brought down sexual predators in Hollywood and government, and the surge in interest from women who want to run for  office following the election. But, I see darkness when women are pitted against one another. By exploring the lives of up and coming creators, thinkers, and leaders, we are getting a free preview of our country’s future.

Maybe we can learn from it.