Oh, You Think Women Are Already Equal? 6 Ways Inequality Still Persists in America

What is truly amazing is the number of people who tell me that feminism is over because women got the right to vote. (If this is what you believe, you are confusing feminism with the suffrage movement. Suffrage was just one part of feminism.) And then you have people who insist to me that feminism is unnecessary because “women are already equal” or better yet, that “society now favors women”.

Which society are you living in? I don’t think it’s this one, because here are six clear examples of how women STILL are not treated correctly by society, six clear reasons why we still need feminism today.

#1: Rape Culture

Since it is sexual assault awareness month, I thought I’d start with this one. The mere fact that we live in a culture that has failed to deter violent sexual crime and in fact has normalized it to the point that people feel it is acceptable to make jokes about it and have become desensitized to its severity is highly problematic. 1 in 5 is just too high a statistic. And anyone who wants to claim that rape culture does NOT exist fails to recognize the harm that rape jokes and the dismissal of rape in our dialogues about it and portrayal of it it media, and the ways that these attitudes add to how widespread this problem is.

#2: Unequal Pay for Equal Work

Since women’s work is still considered to be supplemental to a man’s, women are STILL paid less than men for the same work, about 70 cents to every dollar. On top of that, women are still often pushed into lower-paying “pink collar” careers, which adds to the income problem. While this view makes absolutely no sense, it has managed to persist in America through today, and as long as we have a high number of single parents specifically and working women in general, it will remain a real issue for feminists to tackle.

#3: Attacks on Pro-Choice Policies

Pro-choice policies are necessary for keeping abortion safe. When abortion is outlawed, the practice doesn’t go away: it goes underground, where it is more dangerous and more likely to result in serious complications after the fact. Given that abortion is legal in the United States, attempts by the states themselves to limit access to abortion is a serious issue today when it comes to allowing women to make their own health decisions.

#4: Attacks on Birth Control Something like 6-9 million women in the United States use birth control for a non-contraceptive reason. So when Republican lawmakers try to restrict access to birth control, or say that insurance shouldn’t have to cover it, they’re interfering with the health of women for absolutely no reason. On top of that, if Viagra is still going to be covered by insurance then there is NO REASON why birth control shouldn’t be, aside from a strange societal double-standard concerning what is acceptable for men and what is acceptable for women. Regardless of the reason why a woman is on birth control, it is her health, and her decision-~-and proponents of smaller government should maybe take their own message to heart and stop micromanaging the health decisions of others.

#5: The Devaluation of Motherhood

THIS is the impressive thing.  In a country where motherhood is so sacred that our politicians are willing to step on women’s rights concerning their own bodies in order to force motherhood upon them, we still don’t value motherhood as much as we should.  If you need any further proof of this, compare maternity leave in the United States to maternity leave in places like Italy and Switzerland.  America does NOT consider motherhood to be real work (and our politicians have said as much) and does not respect how difficult it is for working mothers.  Instead, working mothers are often vilified for being less attentive to their children while stay-at-home mothers are portrayed as “not really working”.  This is just another fantastic contradiction that creates a lose-lose situation for women in the United States.

#6: Lack of Women in Leadership Positions

Look, when Rwanda has the best male to female ratio among their political leaders, you KNOW it’s time for the Western world to shape up.  Women currently hold only 17% of the seats in Congress, and only 22% of statewide elected executive seats are held by women.  There are only 6 female governors.  According to the WCF Foundation, 50% less women than men consider running for office, and of those, only about 30% run.   Female politicians raise less money for campaigns than their male counterparts, which puts them at a disadvantage.  And even outside the electoral system, women are faltering in gaining prominence.  More women than men enter the Foreign Service, but substantially fewer women than men ever reach the upper echelons of the State Dept, USAID, or think tanks in Washington, DC, because they are shown that they should choose development and other “soft power” paths instead of national security OR because they see that they are unlikely to be promoted and so alter their career paths.   And until more women DO succeed in gaining leadership positions, the lack of role models will perpetuate the lack of women…if you can’t see the problem with this, you might want to look into glasses.


~ by Randi Saunders on April 27, 2012.

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