US President Donald Trump’s administration has both limited women’s rights over their bodies and galvanised an almost intersectional political movement, one that has motivated women to run for office and vote.
In the two years since Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States, people have gotten angrier. Anger and controversy hang over public discourse and this has manifested itself in different ways; from the women’s marches where millions participated to raucous protests and incensed social media debates that tear families and friendships apart.
Women, in particular, have taken to organising, protesting and running for office in an act of (almost) intersectional resistance.
“I've never seen a momentum as loud, as unified and as wide scale as it is today,” Berkeley Professor Kellie McElhaney told TRT World.
If the midterms are an early indication, the “Trump effect” might be visible in both the results and the turnout. Early exit polls suggest at least 52 percent of the 18,778 respondents were women and 59 percent of those were Democrats.
And now a record number of women have been elected to the House, nearly two years after women spilt out into the streets of Washington DC and in cities across the country in defiance of Trump’s inauguration. As of early Wednesday morning, voters were on track to send at least 99 women to the House, surpassing the previous record of 84.
"This is going to be a long process to get us to a point of proportionate representation, but tonight is a giant step forward for what leadership can and will eventually look like in this country," Kimberly Peeler-Allen, co-founder of Higher Heights for America, a national organisation focused on galvanising black women voters and electing black women as candidates, said.
Among the new faces in the 435-member House of Representatives are several women making history.
Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the first two Muslim women, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the youngest woman, and Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico, the first Native American women.
Movements in colour
Massachusetts and Connecticut will also send black women to Congress as firsts for their states, while Arizona and Tennessee are getting their first female senators.
The first two Muslim women sharing the historic distinction of being elected to the US Congress are a onetime Somali refugee and the daughter of Palestinian immigrants.
Both women — Omar, 37, and Tlaib, 42 — are Democrats from the Midwest and outspoken advocates of minority communities that have found themselves in the sights of US President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant policies.
Davids, of the Ho-Chunk Nation tribe, is also the first openly LGBTQ Congresswoman from Kansas.
More women, less gender gap
The 2016 election of Trump despite multiple sexual assault allegations against him and the #MeToo movement triggered by Harvey Weinstein have energised Democratic women in particular to seek office and vote.
"I feel very good about where women are going to be," said Christina Reynolds, Vice President of Communications for political action committee Emily's List. "I think regardless of what happens [in the midterms], women have shown that they are no longer happy with other people representing them and speaking for them."
More women than ever before won major party primaries for Congress and governor this year, giving women the chance to significantly increase their numbers in office. They're donating more money to political campaigns, too, and they've become a well-established force in the 2018 elections.
One of the groups that has been moving to boost this is Emily’s List, which is dedicated to supporting Democratic women in politics.
More than 42,000 women interested in running for office have contacted Emily's List since Trump was elected in 2016. In the two years prior, 920 women contacted the group, said a spokeswoman.
What are women fighting for
One of the first moves Trump made when he entered office was to reinstate the global gag rule that bans US-funded groups around the world from even discussing abortion. This rule affects US non-governmental organisations working to provide women with health care services and even health-related education in other countries and is one that incoming presidents have used to signal their positions on abortion rights.
But his position on abortion does not stop at the gag rule, which began its tradition in 1983 under Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Trump has since expanded on his abortion stance, proposing a cut in funding to federal grant programme for family planning Title X, a move that would effectively stop giving government funds to Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions and subsidise birth control for those who cannot afford it.
His administration has also attempted to repeal the Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, a move that would limit access to birth control and contraception.
Then there is the pledge he made during the 2016 presidential debate in which he vowed to enact Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v Wade, a 1973 legal decision that guarantees women the right to abortion provided they meet certain requirements. This is a wish that now has potential with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, another man who has taken up office after facing sexual assault and misconduct allegations.
Louder voices empower others
The Trump administration has angered more women to speak up against sexual harassment and assault.
With the #MeToo movement gaining momentum across the world and American women organising massive protests against Trump, women voters and candidates have played critical roles in the midterms. The first major election since Trump took power is also being seen as a referendum on his presidency.
The global echo of accusations, chorus of support for the victims and subsequent action taken against the accused is something feminists hope will signal one of the most significant shifts toward gender equality and justice in decades.
“Women are just tired and angry and women have been given licence to feel angry,“ McElhaney told TRT World.
“Women are speaking out, women are feeling less fear. There is less retribution for women speaking out,” McElhaney added.
Anger is a source of power
Trump’s presidency, through anger, has sharpened a movement of young Democratic voters — most of them women — into pushing back against his administration’s policies.
This year's election is drawing comparisons to the 1992 elections dubbed the "Year of the Woman", when a record number of women won seats in Congress, bringing total representation to around 10 percent. That election came the year after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his US Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
But this anger is also partisan.
When asked to rate their anger towards Trump on a scale of one to 10 — 10 being extreme anger — Democrats gave a 7.6, with Democratic women more angry than men, Reuters/Ipsos polling showed.
Democrats were also much angrier about the Senate's handling of Kavanaugh's confirmation than Republicans or independents.