by Vanessa Copeland
Next August will mark the Centennial of women in America receiving the right to vote. It’s been 71 years since a law made women a permanent part of the US military services. It’s been 48 years since women were officially allowed to run in the Boston Marathon. These are just a few of the advancements made toward gender equality on the last century; and yet, in 2019, women’s rights are still not explicitly recognized in the United States Constitution. Women still make up 63% of minimum wage earners and only 5% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. Women of color and transgender individuals are among the highest to experience extreme poverty, unemployment and other economic hardships. The harsh reality is that, while steps have been taken, we are a marathon of steps away from where we need to be. Another harsh reality is that, while an overwhelmingly large number of Americans believe there is some level of gender inequality, there is a stark disagreement regarding the pervasiveness of the issue and what, if anything, should be done about it.
This may surprise you, but apparently men don’t consider the problems of gender inequality to be as severe as women do. I know, shocking! Right?! Even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics has published findings indicating that Caucasian women only make 81% of what their male counterparts make for the same job and the numbers are even more disparate for women of color, yet only 62% of men believe that there is a gender wage gap. Published statistics also show that women spend 67% more time doing unpaid work, e.g. managing a household, caring for children, etc. However, the male respondents to a Time magazine poll indicated they believe women only do around 20% – 40% more of these tasks than men. I could keep throwing statistics at you, but the people who need to see them will not be reading this article and if they do, they will be unlikely to believe them or will dismiss them as overly exaggerated.
This biggest enemy of feminism is not actually the patriarchy (although it’s definitely in the top 3). The biggest enemy of feminism is the belief that it’s unnecessary, that gender equality has already been achieved. This belief feeds into the notion that feminists are angry, men-hating witches, who are clearly just overreacting. So where do we go from here? How do we convince the non-believers and skeptics that gender inequality is still very real and prevalent in today’s society.
The answer is simple, yet difficult. Keep having the conversation. Break it down globally if you must. For anyone who has searched their pocket internet, it is very easy to find a plethora of evidence supporting the existence of gender inequality. According to the UN, at least 1 in 3 women is beaten, coerced into sex acts or otherwise abused by an intimate partner at least once during the course of her lifetime. As of April of this year, it was estimated that the world’s population reached 7.7 billion people. Of those 7.7 billion, 49.6% are female. That means, 1.3 BILLION women will be assaulted by someone they know intimately in their lifetime. There is an innumerable amount of statistics showing that these types of travesties disproportionately affect women.
Another facet of feminism to keep discussing is that fact that it doesn’t just encompass women. To be feminist is to simply adhere to the belief that everyone has an equal right to opportunities regardless of sex. Today’s feminists advocate not just for cis-het women, but for all transgender, gender-fluid, and LGBTQ+ people, and yes, even cis-het men. People who do not want the truth will never get the truth. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying to show them. Keep having the conversation even when you feel like they’re not listening. Keep writing the articles even when you believe they’re not reading them. Keep advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves even when you feel like you’re not making any progress.
“I want every girl to know that her voice can change the world.” – Malala Yousafzai
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