Enya S. Michigan

Sexism in America

Sexism has affected the women of our nation for too long. The next person who becomes president needs to address and take steps to change this.

Dear Future President,

One of the primary concerns I think you need to address in our nation is gender discrimination. Gender prejudice is important for you to confront, as our next nation’s leader, because sexism has always been prevalent in American society, and it has had a tremendous effect on a large percentage of the women in our country. Gender-based discrimination impacts women’s advancements in the workplace, their safety, and their mental health, all of which are problems that cannot be improved by ignoring the bigger issue in the lack of respect our culture has for women. To counter this, as the succeeding leader of our country, you must address and take steps to decrease the amount of sexist beliefs in the world in order to bring a better balanced equity between the two genders.

Firstly, gender based prejudice has constrained women's progress in the workplace as women are held to different expectations than men. I know this because ever since I was a kid, I’ve watched my mom come to and from her work as an engineer in many different stages. I’ve seen her spend hours on her hair and makeup, and I’ve seen her judging herself for her weight and looks. She used to say she needed to be pretty for her job, that if she did not spend so much time on her appearance she wouldn’t get any promotions. Yet, that same fact did not apply to my dad. My father has always been judged, in the same job and position, for his work ethic and interpersonal skills, and while my mother has been judged for those things as well, she has always been judged for much more. She’s been denied more promotions due to the fact that they could take time away from family, while my dad is always offered new promotions based on the idea of working more. She's valued her appearance as something needed for a successful career, while my father has not. My mom has to evade many different stereotypes in the workplace, and as a high-level employee she’s constantly stressed over making sure that she is not seen as the frigid boss, with a different word usually being preferred, while still maintaining a level of respect. These difficulties provide more stress to women as we have to avoid stereotypes and judgments in a way men do not have to.

Women are also held back due to being less seriously regarded in the workplace, which is shown through how women are less likely to work in higher positions at a company. Research shows that only 23 out of all the CEOs running the fortune 500 companies are women, despite the average approximation from respondents that that number would be around 1154. This shows how women are given less important jobs, and how largely we overestimate the opportunities women are given. In addition to being less considered for higher rank jobs, women are commonly pushed into lower-paying service jobs, such as cashiering, baby-sitting, cleaning, or working as a secretary. In fact, in years leading up to 2006, 96.7% of secretaries were female2. The primarily female jobs show how women are less respected in America because it portrays how women have been, and still significantly are, expected to serve, yet not lead in jobs of science or business.This prevents women from getting as high a pay as men, although that is not the only reason a woman may get less pay. Another way that uncovers how women are less seriously regarded in the workplace manifests through the lower hourly pay that women get, or the wage gap, as it is commonly referred to. The wage gap causes women to earn less money while putting in the same amount of hours, effort, and work as her male counterpart, which reveals a belief that a woman’s time is less valuable than a man’s, and causes girls to lose ambition due to a lack of uniform rewards presented for both sexes in the working field.

Additionally, sexism can affect the safety of women because not believing in the rights women deserve can lead to sexual assault, harassment, or violence. Studies have shown that 1/5 females will be sexually assaulted while in college, with only 5% of the cases being reported. This means that 95% of those situations will go without any confrontation, discipline, or punishment at all, which portrays the unsafe power a man has over a woman in these kinds of conditions3. This improper acknowledgment of sexual assault is also revealed through men's idea of rape. Only 77% of men believe that no means no, which is a very scary statistic1. The fact that someone could be placed in a traumatizing situation because of a basic understanding someone couldn't properly grasp is not right. The lack of comprehension surrounding rape places women at a higher risk of unwanted sexual assault, which can be very detrimental to their safety even after the event occurs. After a women experiences sexual assault, the results of that, such as trauma and pregnancy, both have chances of hurting a female as well. Trauma affects the safety of a woman because it places her at a larger risk of suicide, with rape survivors being 13 times more likely to commit suicide than others3. Pregnancy is also a likely repercussion of rape, with 32,000 pregnancies resulting from it every year, and can harm a woman too weak or young to carry a child. Both the baby and mother have chances of passing with an unplanned, unfortunate childbirth.Women should not be dying due to something we can prevent. Rape and sexual assault is often blamed on the victims due to the different and unequal standards held for men and women.This makes women more reluctant to speak out, which could allow women to be stuck in a case of long-term sexual abuse and harm due to the fear of judgement from their peers, co-workers, acquaintances, or friends. We need to understand that when we judge women and favor men, women are placed in harm’s way, which is why you, the next president, need to take the actions to change this.

Finally, I can say the lack of respect for women in America influences their mental health because almost every woman I know has been emotionally impacted in some shape or form by sexism. Women are mentally affected by gender prejudice because it places women in a lower class that encourages our culture to create the idealization of the perfect women, and shame females who have traits that do not conform to this specific image. Some qualities considered undesirable of women would be being too skinny or too curvy, being too sexually active or too prudish, too intelligent or too ditzy, which makes it extremely difficult to find the perfect equilibrium between all of these traits. This leaves a large impact on females in America. These stresses are most vividly shown through media. Many girls, more specifically 80% of girls, responded to a survey through People magazine and expressed that the bodies represented in television and advertising made them feel insecure about their own weight5 , which accurately displays how media can make a woman feel. Women are constantly surrounded by the perfect image of a girl we cannot be, which can cause anxiety and severe forms of self-consciousness that can be expressed through disorders like body dysmorphia, anorexia, and bulimia.

Sexual harassment, such as catcalling, can also cause mental stress. It causes anxiety because such blatant disrespect can make one feel unsafe, and it can cause greater fear when that catcalling escalates to things like stalking or yelling. Catcalling is not a rare event either, with over 87% of women between the ages of 18-64 experiencing it in their life. In this group of women, over 50% of them also experienced severe forms of street harassment such as groping, grabbing, or following6. I personally understand that catcalling can escalate to these things because my friend and I were once trailed almost all the way home by two obstinate boys. At first, it just seemed like they were being odd in asking us for our personal information while walking 50 feet behind us, but when they continued to bother us, telling us to stop being so cold and calling us colloquial terms while we were walking on the street my friend and I lived on, it started feeling threatening, despite their lack of vicinity. While their actions harmed neither of us physically, it was a cause of great stress at the time to see them watching us as we were less than half a block away from my home. I didn’t want them to know where I lived, I didn’t want to be followed at all. I felt like I couldn’t change anything, like in this situation there was nothing I could do, so to avoid giving out my address, my friend and I had to walk past my house, in the hope that they would stop shadowing us. And while we got lucky, as after we went down a hill and out of their vision they stopped following us, I know for many women, especially ones who are walking alone or later at night, the situation can worsen. They can be attacked or raped because they chose to go outside at the wrong time, which is why it is a cause of anxiety for many women when they are strongly approached or followed by a strange man, not because all men are bad, but because many have felt defenseless against males who believed that it was all right to treat them as if they had no power

Women should not face sexism any longer because it negatively influences our careers, safety, and mental health. Whoever becomes the president next, whether you are male or female, should acknowledge this and thus begin creating more objectives and actions to reach gender equality, both in the career and social world, in order to place women on an equal scale to men.

1 By Doing So, This Event Will Be Independent of the Recurring Set of Events. "Facts and Statistics on Gender Inequality." UK Feminista. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

2 "Sexism and Gender Discrimination Statistics." City Vision University. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2016. <http://www.cityvision.edu/wiki/sexism-and-gender-discrimination-statistics>.

3 "11 Facts About Sexual Assault." DoSomething.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2016. <https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-sexual-assault>.

4 Peck, Emily. "Do You Realize How Few Women CEOs Exist? These Executives Don't." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/13/weber-shandwick-female-ceo_n_7771608.html>.4

5 "Self Image Media Influences - Just Say Yes." Just Say YES. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2016. <https://www.justsayyes.org/topics/self-image-media-influences/>.5

6 @stopstharassmnt. "Statistics - The Prevalence of Street Harassment."Stop Street Harassment. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2016. <http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/resources/statistics/statistics-academic-studies/>.6

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