“It’s a man’s world”. Apparently, this has been proven NOT to be an old cliché. Although a democracy, elements of a patriarchal society are still visible in every sector of this country. A quote from the Declaration of Independence states that “All men are created equal”; the key word here being “men”.
The economic and political structures of the US have enforced systematic discrimination and inequality on the female gender for decades; women encounter multiple societal barricades ranging from sexism, prejudice, and inequity. Even in 2020, women continue to be disadvantaged and unable to attain neither equal capacity nor getting the same opportunities to succeed (e.g. Being paid the same as men in a similar job) as their male counterparts. These challenges and circumstances affect the wellbeing of women. Before the year 1920 [when the 19th Amendment was passed], women were not allowed to vote or work in certain sections of the US economy. Even owning land was deemed unlawful in most states.
Let’s fast forward to today. The attacks launched on women are both verbal and physical. From the case of president Donald Trump referring to an independent and outspoken woman as a “nasty woman”, to the sexual predatory behavior of now jailed Harvey Weinstein, women are still struggling to have real social equality. The Trump administration has contributed negatively to women’s key issues like wage and pay equality, paid maternity leave, sexual health and reproductive rights, and gender violence. Donald Trump is known to respond to female critics with demeaning language which naturally sets up an atmosphere in which all women are targeted; not just the specific person caught in his crosshairs. This public behavior, from our current commander in chief, does nothing to boost the self-esteem and self-worth of women. However, gross bias has always been meted out on women. Numerous surveys have shown women struggle in their workplace with gory experiences of sexual harassment and misogynistic behavior from coworkers. Such events are encouraged by the absence of an established and heavily enforced policy regarding gender based issues in the workplace. Continuation of these unaddressed injustices can result in the compromised health and well-being of women
A major injustice plaguing women in the American workforce is “wage disparity” [The gap in earnings between women and men, known as the gender wage gap, is fueled by multiple factors.]. White women earn $.81 for every dollar earned by a white man. For women of color, (black Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native women) earn $.75 for every dollar earned by a white man. This uncontrolled pay gap causes economic insecurity for many women, making them more vulnerable to economic hardship and violence.
Even gender based violence and killings in the US have been getting unbalanced political and media attention. Male victims seem to propel more public outrage and garner more press (e.g. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery), whereas we don’t see similar media trends over female victims and especially those who are women of color (e.g. Rekia Boyd, Tanisha Anderson, Breonna Taylor, and Oluwatoyin Salau). Women are not only frequent victims of rape, physical assault, and murder, but they also suffer from the effects of police brutality. Yet they rarely receive the much needed attention from social movements and media reportage. Black women are faced with unparalleled misogyny and racism; the way in which the world views women, particularly Black women has to change.
Activism for women rights in the US is a tad bit skewed on the basis of racial demographics. Gender bias is a problem, but there is also a racial pay gap that has led to continual pay disparities between workers of color and white workers which further promotes racism and occupational segregation. Similar to the gender wage gap, this racial wage gap is driven by basic factors such as access to education as well as inexplicable factors that could stem from preconceived bias and prejudice. An improved social and economic environment guided by fairness and equity, would bring to an end the deplorable culture of inequality, discrimination, and prejudice currently embedded in the US and the hard felt impact this all has on women.
Author: Sarah Mitchell Ekwueme