BY SAM RAPPAPORT
On April 17, the Queens Tribune will honor women of power, vision and courage during its annual Glass Ceiling Awards ceremony. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will be the event’s keynote speaker.
Hochul said she believes that the United States is in the midst of a transformative moment. The #MeToo movement, she said, has thrust issues of gender parity to the forefront of our national discourse and forced much-needed reckonings within a variety of major industries.
Although, according to Hochul—the highest-ranking female politician in the state—the insular world of politics still has a long way to go.
“We are still wildly underrepresented in the corridors of power,” Hochul said of women in politics. “I would like to see more representation, especially in the legislature. We need the voices of men and women in formulating policies.”
Women currently fill 27 percent of the legislative positions in New York State. If looking broadly at legislative bodies nationwide, that number drops to 25 percent.
Hochul believes that New York’s history of activism, dating back to 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention, accords the state particular importance in today’s moment.
“That New York State is the birthplace of the women’s rights movement is something that we are proud of, but it also confers a certain responsibility—we have to do more,” Hochul said.
One of Hochul’s concerns is that the momentum of the #MeToo movement, which has emboldened women to come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and led to the professional downfall of prominent men, will remain beyond the reach of working-class communities.
“The very public exposure of high- profile men, and the fact that there are finally consequences for behavior that has long been unacceptable, but has long been kept in the shadows—that has empowered women to come forward,” Hochul said. “But I want to make sure that it’s not just women who have landed on the front page of the newspapers, but also those waitresses, hotel workers and shopkeepers—people exposed out there all the time.”
Hochul sees the #MeToo movement as evocative of an era of wide-ranging activism.
“I feel that there is a sense of activism, which is pervasive,” she said. “Perhaps, it’s more of a rebellion against the leadership of Washington—that so many disaffected groups are standing together.”
On March 24, Hochul joined thousands of New Yorkers marching through Manhattan to advocate for stricter gun regulations. The “March for Our Lives” was the result of another nascent movement permeating America in the wake of this year’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.
There is a photograph of Hochul at March for Our Lives in which she is flanked by activists. On her left, there is a group of marchers cloaked in Black Lives Matter attire. On the other side of Hochul, a young woman holds up a sign that reads “Enough Is Enough,” which is a phrase that has been widely used to express exasperation with the prevalence of mass shootings in the country, but fortuitously is also the name of a statewide initiative Hochul spearheaded to combat sexual assault on college campuses.
For Hochul, the convergence of Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and the gun-control movement spawned by Parkland is reminiscent of the late 1960s.
“I see a cross-pollination of causes,” Hochul said. “MeToo, Black Lives Matter, March for Our Lives—all of those are now coming together in a way that I have not seen since the 1960s, and I think that’s powerful, I think that’s overdue and I think it will be transformative.”
Hochul doesn’t doubt that the energy of these movements will carry a wave of women and progressive politicians into legislative positions in this year’s midterm elections.
“I feel it coming this November,” she asserted.