(CNN)Since the early primaries began for the 2018 midterm elections, it's been a year of firsts and to many, a year of the woman. In the midst of this election, the first significant national vote since the election of Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh's nomination and confirmation battle only amped up the existing pressure on questions of gender, power, women's health and women in elected office.
It's not the 'Year of the Woman.' It's the 'Year of the Women'
CNN Opinion asked thinkers to weigh in on 2018 as a Year of the Woman. The views expressed here are solely theirs.
One can be heard without being listened to. Women voters have long felt the impact of this nuance, and the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing exemplified it. Both sides of the political aisle preached that women, particularly women alleging sexual misconduct, should be heard. Cries for due process, notice of the charges against someone accused and meaningful opportunity to be heard echoed throughout both chambers of Congress and reverberated throughout the nation. The actual mechanisms to facilitate sound were provided: a microphone, a camera, and a platform. The intangible mechanisms of listening, however, were regrettably absent. Women noticed.
Hearing is passive and non-purposeful. Listening is an action. Women voters should and are demanding more than patronizing passivity. As was the case in the year following Anita Hill's testimony more than a quarter century ago, women are keenly aware (perhaps now more than ever) that they cannot afford to wait for receptive ears. Women are prepared and capable of voting for (or being elected by) those whose policies in practice reflect our collective values, strengths, empathy, intellect, and power.
The Venus symbol for women is thought to represent a bronze mirror atop a handle. For at least the past two years, women have held a mirror up to America and recoiled at its reflection. The democratic fairy tale doesn't exist. The only thing coming to save us is a ballot in shining armor. When we raise our voices on Election Day to ask the proverbial "Mirror Mirror on the wall, who's the right candidate to listen to us all?" - - a woman will respond.
Laura Coates is a CNN legal analyst. She is a former assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia and trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. She is the host of "The Laura Coates Show" on SiriusXM. Follow her @thelauracoates.
It's more than a little difficult to get excited about this so-called "Year of the Woman" in politics. While I would love to believe that a larger female share of federal lawmakers will mean a better life for US women, I don't have the evidence to support this, especially considering women's record since the last year of the woman, 1992.
I think this is because a lot of female politicians -- like a lot of male politicians -- mistake legalized abortion or free contraception for the sum of "feminism," while failing to solve the problems women suffer most.
Women are pro-life and pro-choice, while indisputably in serious need of other kinds of laws and policies. Women suffer more poverty than men and need state action prioritizing the poor. Women practice religion more than men, being more likely to pray daily, attend services weekly, and report that God is very important in their lives. Women are more likely than men to report that they would like to have more flexible work arrangements and paid family leave to care for loved ones.
To date, however, both female and male politicians spend most of their time attending to middle-class and wealthier Americans. And I can't point to sustained, bold action on the part of female representatives on religious freedom or paid or flexible leave.
I haven't given up hope that elected women will bring women's needs to the table more forcefully. I am only saying that their sex doesn't guarantee it, and that female citizens will not be absolved of their duty to agitate for what women need most.
Helen Alvaré is a professor of law at George Mason University who has published widely on issues of marriage, family, parenting and First Amendment religion clauses. Her recent book with Cambridge University Press is about putting children's interests first in US family law.