Feminism in today’s America

By Sonda Eunus





     

No doubt13456069_ml exists about the fact that women have come a long way from the early strides of feminism, which earned us rights that we may now take for granted. However, the notion that feminism is outdated or that women have already reached equality and have nothing left to fight for, is what is holding us back from further growth and empowerment. This notion is exactly what today’s feminists—the emerging fourth wave of feminism—are fighting against. It is true that a lot of the legwork has been done for us by older generations, and we live in a time when we have access to similar educational and career opportunities as men (although pay discrepancies are still very present), we do not think twice about our right to vote, and we even have a woman running for president. These achievements of our foremothers are the reason that many men and women today feel that there is no longer a need for feminism, and may ridicule those who still associate themselves with the movement. A popular belief is that our quest is finished, we have achieved what we set out to achieve, and it is time to move on to other, more pressing issues. And yet, we want more; Susan B. Anthony, a giant in the women’s rights movement who dedicated her life to woman suffrage, taught us that “our job is not to make young women grateful, but to make them ungrateful.” Yes, today, we as women have many rights that we feel entitled to that first and second-wave feminists fought so hard to earn. But let’s not stop there. Let’s keep pushing boundaries, boldly and loudly, and see just how much we can still achieve to create a better, fairer, and safer world for future generations.

Although the word entitlement may come with negative connotations, in the context of third-wave feminism, which began in the mid-90s and is now slowly morphing into what some call the fourth wave, I feel that it is appropriate; I use it here with no hesitation because we ARE entitled to equal rights, privileges, opportunities, and salaries as men. Gloria Steinem, who made great strides in desegregating schools and workplaces, as well as getting more women involved in politics, noted: “The good news is third-wave feminists have higher expectations and get even more angry and active when they do encounter barriers (Farmer, 2008).” Third-wave feminists, however, shy away from feminism as a collective gender movement, and even renounce the term feminism itself stating that they no longer need it (Rampton, 2015). Instead, they see it as a personal battle against anything that may infringe their freedom, rights, and empowerment. Third-wave feminists embrace their flaws, which may have been shamed or ridiculed by previous generations, and celebrate their individuality. Nation and worldwide campaigns have emerged shattering preconceived notions of beauty, such as retail giant Lane Bryant’s “Plus is Equal,” which features women who do not fit the traditional Hollywood stick-figure standard of beauty, and boldly states “Everyone deserves to be celebrated. No one’s ignoring us anymore.” Megastores such as David’s Bridal and Victoria’s Secret, among many others, have also now adopted plus-size campaigns. Women of different races are now also being featured in mainstream magazines and commercials. Additionally, we have recently seen a surge of popular new TV shows that feature female leads, such as Scandal starring a determined and successful Kerry Washington, and How to Get Away with Murder starring a ruthless Viola Davis, shattering the aged belief that shows with female leads would not be as successful as ones with male leads.

Celebrities, such as Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Emma Watson to name a few, have recently been very vocal about their feminism and have gotten many others on board as well. In 2012, singer Rihanna named her seventh album Unapologetic, which I believe should be the mood for all women of our generation. Prominent second-wave feminist Germaine Greer, who wrote groundbreaking books such as The Female Eunuch and The Whole Woman, wrote “women live lives of continual apology. They are born and raised to take the blame for other people’s behavior. If they are treated without respect, they tell themselves that they have failed to earn respect. If their husbands do not fancy them, it is because they are unattractive”. We need to stop apologizing; each person is responsible for his or her own actions. If someone disrespects us, it is not because we earned it, it’s because they chose to be disrespectful. What we do next is what defines us, and what warrants whether or not that person will disrespect us again.

Feminism, by becoming relevant and prominent in pop culture, is being revived as a movement and is rapidly gaining momentum once again. This wave is the fourth wave—it is everything that we as women have achieved thus far: our rights, our education and work experience, our individuality, our pride, our love for ourselves and others, our energy, courage, and desire to shatter pre-existing gender roles and concepts, all coming together in understanding and revolting against the inequalities that still exist within our nation, as well as the world. The Internet is a fantastic platform for women to connect with others worldwide to promote the movement for gender equality. So what is it that women have yet to overcome? To narrow the search, here are some current statistics that shed light on the discrimination that women in America still face today.



  • According to a 2014 report, women in the US are paid 78% what men are paid, and the pay gap increases for women of color. The following table, found in The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (2015), illustrates the pay gap between women and men within their own race, as well as between women of different races as compared to white men.
WOMEN’S EARNINGS AS A PERCENTAGE OF MEN’S EARNINGS WITHIN RACE/ ETHNICITY WOMEN’S EARNINGS AS A PERCENTAGE OF WHITE MEN’S EARNINGS
HISPANIC OR LATINA 89% 54%
AMERICAN INDIAN AND ALASKA NATIVE 85% 59%
NATIVE HAWAIIAN AND OTHER PACIFIC ISLANDER 88% 62%
AFRICAN AMERICAN 90% 63%
WHITE (NON-HISPANIC) 78% 78%
ASIAN AMERICAN 79% 90%

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  • Whereas some of the pay gaps do stem from the different professions and majors that women choose to pursue as compared to men, women are still paid lower than their male counterparts in the same professions as well, as shown in the following table also from The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (2015):
PROFESSION WOMEN’S EARNINGS AS PERCENTAGE OF MEN’S EARNINGS
COUNSELORS 99%
EDITORS 80%
SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS 90%
FINANCIAL MANAGERS 70%
MEDICAL SCIENTISTS 80%
REGISTERED NURSES 88%
COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS 81%
LAWYERS 79%
PHARMACISTS 86%
  • As of August 2014, 74 US colleges had pending investigations of sexual violence against women, and it is reported that 1 in 5 women on US college campuses have experienced sexual assaults (Makers, 2015).
  • About 1 in 3 women in the US experiences domestic violence in her lifetime. Women who are subject to violence and abuse find it much harder to pursue educational or career goals (Status of Women in the States, 2016), or may not be able to hold on to a job due to frequent absenteeism, lack of focus, and poor performance stemming from the abuse.
  • Whereas the number of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher has increased from 22.8% in 2002 to 29.7% in 2013, the percentage of women living above poverty declined from 87.9% in 2002 to 85.4% in 2013 (Status of Women in the States, 2016).
  • Many bills were introduced and passed in recent years restricting women’s access to abortion, and targeting abortion providers (Status of Women in the States, 2016). Many women do not have the same job availability as men because as mothers, they are the primary caregivers for their children and have less time to dedicate to work.
  • Working mothers on average get paid 70% what working fathers get paid, and would have to work an extra 155 days to make up the pay difference (AAUW, 2015).

Whereas these statistics do not address all the issues that women still face today, they do give a general overview and shed glaring light on the fact that the feminist movement is far from over, and that there is still plenty of work to be done both in the United States and worldwide. Luckily, we as women have come so far and are so much more adamant about being treated equally, that we are fully capable of achieving everything that we set out to achieve.




References:

  1. 21 facts you never knew about international gender inequality. (2015). Makers. Retrieved from: http://www.makers.com/blog/21-facts-you-never-knew-about-international-gender-inequality
  2. Farmer, A. (2008). The personal is still political. Perspectives, 17-1.
  3. Hill, C. (2015). The simple truth about the gender pay gap. American Association of University Women. Retrieved from: http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/
  4. Rampton, M. (2015). Four waves of feminism. Pacific University Oregon. Retrieved from: http://www.pacificu.edu/about-us/news-events/four-waves-feminism
  5. 5. Status of women in the states. (2016). Retrieved from: http://statusofwomendata.org/

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