When Tina Smith was sworn in as the junior US Senator for Minnesota on Tuesday, she was making history in more ways than one.
She capped one of the first significant political outcomes for the #MeToo movement by replacing former Sen. Al Franken, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. Smith, who was previously Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, was appointed by the state’s Governor Mark Dayton to replace Franken.
Her ascension to office shows that there are consequences for sexual misconduct, even for those ensconced in power, according to high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred who spoke with CNN.
"Women speaking out had an impact on institutional change and in the court of public opinion and it has created a climate in which sexual harassment is unacceptable,” Allred said. “And it has caused change.”
Smith’s new status also brings the total number of women in the US Senate to 22, the highest number ever achieved.
“What I intend to do is be just a really fierce advocate for Minnesotans here in Washington, D.C.,” Smith told the Minnesota Star Tribune.
Thank you to the people of MN. In my new job as Senator I promise to advocate fiercely for you, your families, and the issues you care about. I can't wait to get to work. https://t.co/X6otomuMFJpic.twitter.com/VOTxqrS0HM— Tina Smith (@SenTinaSmith) January 3, 2018
There’s still a vast gender imbalance in the US Senate, the rest of US politics at large, and throughout the world, but Smith’s swearing-in shows that progress is being made.
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Read More: 11 Triumphs for Women and Girls in 2017
There are currently 17 Democratic and 5 Republican women serving in the US senate. Up until the 1993, only two or fewer women ever served in the US senate, according to CNN.
In fact, some advocates attribute the surge of female representatives since then to movements similar to #MeToo. In 1992, outrage over the handling of Anita Hill’s testimony accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual misconduct contributed to what is sometimes referred to as the Year of the Woman, when four women were elected to the Senate simultaneously.
Smith’s senate seat builds on that legacy, and it stretches much farther back — to when women gained first the right to vote and when the first female candidates for office were ever elected.
Her nomination doesn’t in and of itself mean that policies across the US will get better for women, but when there are diverse voices shaping laws, the outcomes tend to be more representative.
And much as the Year of the Woman was politically transformative, 2018 is shaping up to be a monumental year for women.
There are currently 368 women planning to run for US Congress in 2018, Axios reports, and women will run for governor in 31 states and for Senate seats in 24 states.
In fact, Global Citizen recently wrote about how 2018 could be another Year of the Woman.
Smith’s inauguration is a good first step.