The America We Are and the America We Want to Be

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It’s Wednesday morning, November 9th at around 11:30 am, and I’m sitting on my couch still in my pajamas, with puffy, red, tear-filled eyes. I’m exhausted and sad and deflated and confused. My eyes are at a level of red and puffy you get after hearing the faint sound of the flute start to play in “My Heart Will Go On” at the end of Titanic.

I’m clutching a pillow tightly as I watch the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party take the stage to concede the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. A woman I was so sure would be my next president. Sitting in a pool of tears—disillusioned and angry—I listened as Hillary Clinton demanded we fight on.

And as she spoke, it honestly felt like she was speaking directly to me when she said, “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is worth it. And so we need—we need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives…”

So as I sat there lamenting on what could have been—day-dreaming about the inauguration of America’s first female president and a promised presidential cabinet with an equal number of men and women—I began pondering what I, a twenty-two-year-old graduate student, should be fighting and advocating for. Of course, there are countless civil and social issues that need passionate advocates, but as a woman, I thought of the many issues that were at the forefront of gender inequality in the United States.

As the days wore on and acceptance set in, I braved the hollows of social media and was encouraged to see groups of women joining together to work through the question, “What now?” This has led me to wonder, could this be a catalyst for a new feminist movement in the United States?

So gals, if this is the beginning of a new women’s movement, then what exactly do we need to be fighting for? Let’s take a quick look at where America is now in terms of issues that are at the forefront of gender inequality:  

  • Epidemic of Sexual Assault on College Campuses

“Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males’ experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” [1]

  • Rate of Intimate Partner Violence  

“On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men…1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime…1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” [2]

  • Gender Pay Gap Between Men and Women

“According to the White House, full-time working women earn 77% of what their male counterparts earn. This means that women have to work approximately 60 extra days, or about three months, to earn what men did by the end of the previous year. However, our own estimate, which is based on hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers, finds women earn 84 percent of what men earn. Based on our estimate, it would take approximately 40 days, or until the end of February, for women to earn what men had by the end of last year.” [3]

  • No National Paid Maternity Leave

“The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studied paid maternity leave for about 34 OECD countries — advanced nations — and seven additional European Union countries. On average across OECD countries, mothers are entitled to 17 weeks of paid maternity leave. The United States is the only country with no national law to provide that benefit. According to the International Labor Organization, an agency of the United Nations, the United States and New Guinea are the two countries out of 170 that provide no cash benefits of any kind to women during maternity leave. Of the 41 other developed countries highlighted by the report, the United States also mandates the shortest period of time off — 12 weeks.” [4]

  • Lack of Women in Leadership Positions in Both Private and Public Sector  

“Although they hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership positions: They are only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. They hold just 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board seats…Women today hold only 18.5 percent of congressional seats, and they are just 20 percent of U.S. senators. They hold only 24.2 percent of state legislature seats. They are only 10 percent of governors. Only 12 percent of the mayors of the 100 largest American cities are women.” [5]

  • Objectification of Women in Media

“Women have often been cast, unfairly, in submissive roles in society. They have always been judged on a certain standard of beauty, which can vary from culture to culture. Women seem to be more valued for their looks and body image, while men are valued for their intelligence and ability to achieve wealth and power…Statistics show that 53% of 13-year-old American females are self-conscious about their bodies; the number grows to 78% by the age of 17. It stands to reason that being bombarded with media images that represent an unattainable standard with respect to appearance would engender feelings of insecurity.” [6]

These statistics are just a select few of the numerous issues plaguing gender equality in the United States today. This is the America we are, but it’s not the America we want to be. In fact, it’s not even the America we need to be.

We must stop looking at our beloved country through red, white, and blue colored glasses and open our eyes to its imperfections. Let’s celebrate our successes and freedoms, while acknowledging our many flaws.

Work together to decrease the unacceptable rate of sexual assault on college campuses. Speak out against intimate partner violence. Actively fight for equal pay for men and women. Demand our elected representatives acknowledge our lack of national paid maternity leave. Empower the capable women around us to pursue positions in leadership.

And finally, let us ensure that each and every woman in our life knows that she matters, both her voice and her spirit. Remind her she is so much more than her outward appearance.

This is my America and it is your America.

Let us advocate together, women and men to make our country a better place. Let us stand together to actively fight against injustice and inequality. Allow this election to be a catalyst for a new women’s movement.

Let’s fight gals, because it’s worth it.

*Note: Please see resources at the end*

 

Ways to get involved in the fight for gender equality:

  • Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2016:

On November 15, 2016, the US House of Representatives passed HR 5332, which builds on the National Action Plan on Women that was proposed by Hillary Clinton when she served as Secretary of State.

If you want to call you senator to request their support for this bill: 202-224-3121 (Capitol switchboard)

Find out more:

HR 5332: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5332

Details of HR 5332: https://www.inclusivesecurity.org/us-house-passes-bipartisan-women-peace-security-act/

 

  • The American Association of University Women (AAUW)

Grassroots organization that works to empower women through a variety of programs.

http://www.aauw.org/issues/

 

  • Inclusive Security

Organization that seeks to “change the international security paradigm”

https://www.inclusivesecurity.org/about-us/what-we-do/

—by MPL

 

References:

[1] Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence

[2] National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

http://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics

[3] Gender Pay Gap (2015)

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/14/on-equal-pay-day-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

[4] Greeberg, Jon. (2016) Yes, the United States is the only industrialized nation without paid family leave.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jul/25/kirsten-gillibrand/yes-us-only-industrialized-nation-without-paid-fam/

[5] Fact Sheet: The Women’s Leadership Gap (2014) Center for American Progress

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2014/03/07/85457/fact-sheet-the-womens-leadership-gap/

[6] Objectifying Women – We Don’t Have to Accept It (2015). Nobullying.com

https://nobullying.com/objectifying-women/#

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