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Gender Equality is a Goal, not a Reality

So maybe think again before you dismiss feminism as pointless whining.

It's awesome to talk about the ways the United States has progressed over the years. Women can vote (a right we've had for less than 100 years). Women can sue their husbands if they're raped (spousal rape wasn't considered a crime until the 70s). Women can even open their own credit card accounts (thanks to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974). And that's awesome! But we're not done yet. Here's five things that we still need to work on if we're really invested in equality. (Of course this isn't an exhaustive list!)

1. Equal pay. Still not a thing.

Maybe people still think women are inherently bad at math? Yup. Despite anti-discrimination laws, women are still making less than men at the exact same jobs. This issue intersects with racism- as you can see in the chart above black and hispanic women make less than white women. It has nothing to do with which fields people are choosing: The pay gap exists in comparable positions and among employees with comparable experience. While there are some fields where women's pay is comparable to their male counterparts, this isn't the case in high paying fields (via NYT). The gap also increases with age and parenthood (via the PEW Research Center). Which brings us to...

2. Maternity (and paternity!) leave.

Some people blame the gender pay gap on maternity leave- because it's assumed that women are going to be taking all the time off and men aren't. That assumption not only excludes same-sex coupled parents, it seems like it's founded on the idea that men don't want or need to take time off when starting a family. The truth is that many new mothers have to work: 64% of mothers with children younger than 6 are in the labor force, and among working mothers, 72% work full time (via). And the Human Rights Watch found that "the lack of paid family leave contributed to delayed immunizations for babies, postpartum depression and other health problems, and caused mothers to give up breastfeeding early."

Family leave is better for babies!

Yes, women are more likely to "experience a significant career disruption" so that they can take care of their family's needs (via). It's not because women are any more 'nurturing' than men, or even because they're physically exhausted from childbirth. It's because we as a society still think women should choose caring for their family over their career and work part-time, and that men should not (via). And while that's a completely valid choice, it should not be the ONLY choice. We should be supporting parents, ALL parents. Which means giving them the resources to care for their children if they choose to have them. Which brings us to...

3. Reproductive freedom.

A lot of people take their right to bodily autonomy for granted. And that's okay! It's a right that you SHOULD be able to take for granted. You can't be compelled to donate blood or bone marrow because you have a right to determine what happens to your body. Unless you're pregnant. Yup. Despite the fact that the right to an abortion was decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, there have been multiple attacks on this right already this year. Anti-choice activists have been supporting laws that restrict clinic's ability to stay open (with misleading and factually incorrect requirements), which means that while abortions may be technically legal, in many parts of the country they are becoming completely unaccessible. All under the guise of 'protecting women'. If these so-called pro-lifers really cared about the lives of pregnant people, maybe they'd be more concerned about...

4. Rape and domestic violence.

According to the CDC nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men reported that they were raped at some point in their lives. They also reported that 42.2% of female victims were raped while they were minors. Domestic violence is even more frequent. 51.9% of women and 66.4% of men reported that they were physically assaulted as a child of adult (via). Additionally, women are more likely to be injured during an assault than men, and women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men are (men are more likely to be killed as a result of attempting to kill their own partners- i.e. by police, by murder-suicide, or by self-defense). The right to life and the right to our bodies should be sacrosanct. Emphasis on the word SHOULD.

5. Racism. It's a feminist issue.

So are homophobia, ableism, transphobia, classism- any form of discrimination, abuse, or oppression is a feminist issue. The reason I chose to discuss the wage gap at the beginning of this card was to make it clear that while there has been some progress for some groups of people, that progress is not universal. Women of color experience sexual violence at a higher rate than white women (via). Access to paid sick leave varies by race and sexual orientation (via). Transgender people face discrimination in employment (via). Gender equality will not happen until EVERYONE is equal. Discrimination against women won't end until discrimination against ALL WOMEN ends.

We've come a long way, but our work is not yet done. Where do YOU think we're falling short when it comes to equality?

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