After Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, women organized. But the movement's work is far from done.

Elena Sheppard
·10 min read

Not Done: Women Remaking America premiered on PBS Tuesday night. Watch it now at PBS.org or above. For more information, visit notdonefilm.com.

Not Done: Women Remaking America, a new documentary from MAKERS, takes viewers through a year-by-year look at the upsurge of women’s organizing that has taken place since 2016. The intersectional fight for women’s equality went quickly mainstream after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, sparking a wake-up call for many. “When I began teaching a decade ago, my young women students were very quick to tell me that they didn’t know why they needed to be feminists. That all of their rights had basically been won and been secured,” Dr. Brittney Cooper, professor and author, says in the opening of the film. After Clinton lost, and President Trump won, a shift in that mentality could almost be immediately felt.

Through a collection of interviews with people from activist Gloria Steinem, to U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood, to investigative reporter Megan Twohey, Not Done traces the milestones in the past four years of the women’s movement. “This country is changing, it’s been changed,” says Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza. “And I think we have an opportunity this time to do it right.”

Below are highlights of the pioneering events the film looks at, and the tireless work women are doing to make the world acknowledge them as equal.

2016

“I was very confident on the election day,” writer Roxane Gay recalls. “I actually was going to go to bed early because I was like, ‘Hillary’s totally got this in the bag.’” Gay’s optimism was not unique and Not Done tracks how the sadness and anger surrounding Clinton’s loss lit a fire in many who had hoped for a different outcome.

“It made clear to a lot of people who had for a long time believed the flattering lies about this country and the progress that it had made,” author and journalist Rebecca Traister notes of Trump’s win and Clinton’s loss. “I think it woke a lot of people up.”

Directly after the election, Teresa Shook — a retired lawyer in Hawaii — created a Facebook event for a march on Washington, D.C. following the inauguration. “Immediately it went viral,” recalls Women’s March on Washington co-chair Linda Sarsour. “Eventually myself, Carmen Perez, and Tamika D. Mallory, all women of color, were invited to join the Women’s March in a leadership position.”

“We were figuring out how to build an intersectional movement that wasn’t just about the diversity of women but actually the diversity of issues that impact us,” Sarsour says.

2017

On January 21, the day after President Trump’s inauguration, 1.2 million people marched in Washington D.C., with satellite marches taking place across the country and around the world. It was the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history. “It was a spiritual experience to finally be able to go to Washington D.C. as women of color, and to be there with young people,” says African American Policy Forum co-founder Kimberlé Crenshaw. “It was just great to see the intergenerational passing of the torch.”

Another major turning point in 2017 came in the form of the takedown of Harvey Weinstein. New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor and her colleague Megan Twohey were initially hesitant about taking on the story. “It was hard for me to conceive of some of these famous Hollywood celebrities as being victims who were in need of help of the New York Times investigative reporting unit,” Twohey says. “But Jodi had made a case to me which was that, listen if these women have also been victims of sexual harassment it suggests that nobody’s immune.”

After they published the article in October, it quickly started trending — and more women began sharing their experiences. “Our phones, our emails, were being flooded with women who were coming forward telling their own stories of abuse and harassment,” Twohey says. “To just feel like the dam broke, for us those were the first indications that there was a real significant societal shift that was starting to happen.”

What came next was the trending of the #MeToo hashtag, which went viral thanks to actress Alyssa Milano, though the movement initially started with Tarana Burke. Subsequently, men in high profile positions, mostly in Hollywood, started to be called out in rapid succession: Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, R. Kelley. “I think Me Too is one of the best and most tangible consequences of feminism becoming a mainstream ideology,” writer Jia Tolentino says in the film. “There were enough feminist women in positions of power that the story just couldn’t be buried anymore. There was this tidal wave of almost forced understanding that this is not a women’s issue, right? It’s like a broad social ill.”

Simultaneously, women in power began to congregate to try to figure out what would happen next. “There was this urgent feeling that if we didn’t do something immediately, that this would be some news cycle that would wash out. So I called Reese [Witherspoon], I called Natalie [Portman], I called Shonda Rhimes who I don’t know but she just seemed like this superpower,” Maha Dakhil, talent agent at CAA and co-founder of Time’s Up says in Not Done, explains.

In October of that year, the first meeting of the then-unnamed Time’s Up movement took place. “It was a group of women from different parts of the business that didn’t know each other well or had not collaborated before but immediately it was a sisterhood,” says Katie McGrath Co-CEO of Bad Robot Productions and co-founder of Times’ Up.

“The meetings got bigger and they were on the east coast and they were on the west coast and what had been ignited in women was a conversation that was about so much more than sexual harassment,” says actress, director, and producer America Ferrera. “Yes we shared those stories but we also shared the stories about the inability to get paid more, the inability to be taken seriously as a producer or a director, or all the way down to how people treat you when you speak.”

In November of 2017, the 700,000 strong female farmworkers alliance signed a letter published in Time Magazine saying they stood in solidarity with the Hollywood actors against sexual assault. “Farmworker women had been organizing around the issue of sexual harassment for about three decades. So when the stories broke about Harvey Weinstein we knew that just as brave as these women were to speak out, there were going to be powerful people who were going to try to silence them,” says Mónica Ramírez, founder and president of Justice for Migrant Women. “We wanted them to understand that there were people who were going to stand with them.” The two groups of women began working together.

“Mónica said, ‘they tell us farmworkers that no one cares about you you’re in the shadows shut up,’” actress and activist Natalie Portman says in Not Done. “‘And then they tell you no one cares about you you’re like so fortunate in the spotlight shut up.’ And she said, ‘but they’re telling all of us to shut up and that’s what we can’t do.’”

2018

At the beginning of 2018, Time’s Up was formally launched, establishing a legal defense fund for low-income women. At the Golden Globes later that same month, activists and actresses wore black as a statement to speak out about sexual harassment as well as gender and racial inequality. “It was awesome, we walked arm and arm down the red carpet and looked into camera after camera and we sent the message that we were standing together and people basically needed to buckle up and get ready,” Ramírez says. “Because things were about to change.”

Women in industries across the country followed suit, wearing black or holding protests to shed light on harassment in their industries: lawmakers, fast food workers, janitors. “As organizers and women of color in low paid positions, we have been speaking out and taking action to change the laws for a long time,” Ramírez says. “And now since the Me Too breakthrough moment, we’ve created conditions so that people can no longer ignore the problem.”

The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court put a different Me Too story into the national spotlight when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward and said Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school. “That was a little bit like Friday the 13th,” Crenshaw says on camera, evoking the parallel to Anita Hill. “It keeps coming back.”

Just as Clarence Thomas was confirmed even in light of Anita Hill’s testimony, Judge Kavanaugh was as well. “There were so many people who came to see Dr. Ford as the hero of the Me Too movement,” Twohey recounts. “She was flooded with tens of thousands of letters from victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. But she also became a vehicle for the backlash, a symbol of the Me Too Movement gone too far.”

“Everything’s changed and nothing’s changed,” Kantor adds. “In the year or so of Me Too so many companies and organizations were figuring out better ways to deal with these very difficult kinds of allegations and it felt like the Senate hadn’t made that much progress. In fact, some of the senators who Christine Blasey Ford faced were the exact same people who Anita Hill faced.”

That lack of change in government was directly confronted in the 2018 midterm elections when a record-breaking number of women were elected. “For the first time in our country it’s women from the Speaker on down who are the loudest, boldest, most powerful voices coming out of Capitol Hill,” says Congresswoman Lauren Underwood who was elected in 2018. “And that has just turned the power dynamics here on Capitol Hill on its head.”

2020

The protests that erupted in the spring of 2020 after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were a visual representation of the shifts that have been going on for years. Tens of thousands of people in the U.S. and around the world took to the streets, including notably at the rally for Black Trans Lives in Brooklyn, NY, in June. “I felt a duty to raise my voice because as a Black trans woman there’s still so much risk in even just leaving our doors each morning,” says Raquel Willis writer and activist. Speaking to the number of people who came to the rally she says, “Oftentimes Black trans folks we’re on our own in our mourning and in our resilience and this was just so different.”

As we move toward the presidential election, for the very first time in history a Black woman is the candidate for vice president. It is, hopefully, a harbinger of things to come.

“There are those who are gonna say that the project of equality is over with,” says Crenshaw in the film. “As far as I’m concerned as long as we have to worry about whether we can be assaulted because of who we are, as long as we have to worry about whether we’re going to get paid the same thing for the work that we do, as long as we can pretty much predict who’s going to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and who’s going to clean the office, then we are not done.”

But, the film underscores, more people than ever before are ready to do that work. “I have never seen this much activism in my life,” Gloria Steinem says in Not Done. “When I look at 15-year-olds and 22-year-olds I always say, I just had to wait for some of my friends to be born. I’m so glad to see you.”