My personal views on what the president should do to address women's rights, as well as the awareness of them.
Dear Mrs. President,
Currently, we’ve seen an uproar in the topic of women’s rights as our current events are plagued with stories of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and flat-out misogyny. Then, through all this bad media, we’ve shaped this society that embraces the downfall of women, that relishes in the patriarchy, and that is unfair and unjust. Women's rights is one of the many topics that we always hear, that we always say we want to change, but that never change. So, within our recent change of power, I think it’s about time that this problem was changed. I think the entire concept of women's rights needs to be brought to presidential attention, and not just as an idea, but as a problem that needs to be fixed. In a country that claims to have a founding ideal of equality, there are 150,000 citizens that are being forced to pay for being a woman, and it can be blamed by the national unawareness most citizens have of their rights.
Women are reminded of this price every time they step foot outside at night. Walking alone, I fear for my own safety, and not because of a childish fear of the dark, but instead because of the very realistic threat of rape. One out of every four women will be raped at some point within their life, yet only 16% are ever reported to the police (1). Within this country, women are told that these horrible incidents are because of how they dress, how they acted, that what someone else did is their own fault, and that’s not right. We should be able to dress how we want, and act however we want, and not have that held against us when someone else hurts us. Because it’s not the woman's fault. A recent study on college-aged men showed that 35% of them would commit rape if they knew they would never be caught, and yet we still turn to blame women’s clothing or attitudes (1). Every woman is forced to live in fear as they walk the streets alone because our society hasn’t allowed our voices of concern to be heard. It's not right that every time I walk out anywhere, especially at a time when visibility is limited, I need to evaluate the way I look and the way I act when approaching strangers.
Women also have these fears appear in places within their daytime activities, especially at work. In a 2008 study done by Association of Women for Action and Research, 54% of women reported being sexually harassed at work (2). Most have also said that they were threatened termination or demotion if they did comply to the harasser. Two thirds of the victims in this study didn’t even know any of their rights at the workplace. But people say that this is something that varies from workplace to workplace, and so we can't just stop it, because it's not a business’ fault. It's a person’s. We'd have to change a person to help. But well, I know we can’t change humans, although we can change awareness. Women should feel safe within their workplace, just like everyone else, and should know what to do if they don’t. For every reported incident of sexual harassment, there are two more that go unreported, that never get changed, that never get better. A workplace should be expected to be safe because it's such a huge part of everyone's life. Although I'm not at an age to be in a real workplace, I can only compare the horror of these situations by imagining if I feared my school and the people within it.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem women face within the workforce. Most women have a very realistic fear that getting pregnant can cost them a promotion or even their job. And it’s not as if there are no rights protecting pregnant employees, as both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) were made to stop the discrimination of pregnant employees. But yet, there is case after case of a valuable employee being fired on the grounds of being pregnant. The PDA and FMLA are there to stop this discrimination, but due to their little enforcement, many women don’t even know about them. Our awareness towards these topics is so low that many of us think there’s nothing we can do. For as long as people don't know the rights they have, that is how long they will be subjected to inequalities within their everyday life, and with every case of unfair termination that is not reported, we continue to lower this awareness, proven through how only 38% of the terminated mothers-to-be actually file a report (3), and those numbers are lowering.
And these problems within the workforce are most certainly not helping the lack of women in respectable jobs. Of the Fortune 500, America’s 500 largest companies, 21 of them are lead by women (4). That’s 21 companies out of 500, amounting to a staggering 4.2%. And it’s just in the CEO position that there is a lack of women. In most white-collar jobs, there is anywhere from 17-38% more men than women, and in blue-collar jobs that number raises to anywhere between 43-58% (5). But yet, America’s population is pretty evenly distributed gender-wise. There is a lack of powerful females not because they’re worse at their jobs, or because they aren’t there, but there is a lack of powerful females because of our country’s deep-rooted sexism, and that’s destroying careers present and future. Most women feel restricted to jobs that are labeled as “female,” such as secretaries or nurses, and don't feel encouraged to become the greatest they can be, no matter what the occupation.
As if it wasn’t enough for women to have to pay for their gender with their careers and safety, women also have to pay for their gender with money. Not only are women averagely getting paid 78.3 cents to the man’s dollar, but they also have to pay the Pink Tax. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs has reported that 42% of products, required for both men and women, are more costly to women (6). This doesn’t include the huge markups on things advertised exclusively to women such as tampons, birth control, and cosmetics, or the ideas of taxing these products. Because of huge markups on products that aren’t worth what they’re being sold for, it’s estimated that women will spend an extra $20,000-30,000 within their lifetime (7). And this is something that’s easy to fix. Manufacturers should have to charge the same price for the same thing, no matter who it’s advertised for. And although we may never be able to stop product markups, we can raise awareness about them so people can know the real worth of what they’re buying.
Plus, women are also subjected to an abundance of ridicule and misogyny within our media. Pop culture is full of demoralizing song lyrics, tweets, newspaper articles, and movies that all work to destroy the power of women. We are surrounded by well-dressed misogyny, and it can be seen in almost every form of media. Women are constantly being looked down on, and we can’t stop it. Because we’re never going to be able to stop people saying misogynistic things, at least not for a very long time. But maybe that's not where we should be headed right now. Because it seems like if we were to try to increase awareness of misogyny and what we're able to do to stop it, maybe every woman could have an opportunity to stand up for what’s right and help America reach its founding ideal of equality.
Yet some people will still disagree. They'll say that women need to stop fighting for rights, because they already have them. They could use the exact same evidence that I used, but construe it a completely different way. But the problem doesn't lie within the amount of things written on a piece of paper, the problem lies within the actions. There is little to no enforcement on some of these writings, and that causes a huge gap in awareness. And it works in a circle, because since most women don’t know their rights, their rights are rarely enforced. Half of the population is affected by this lack of accessible knowledge, which means 150,000,000 people are subject to political and social disadvantages, harassment, and rape. Most women don’t have any resources to find out their rights until it's too late, and it's causing most of the pain that women will feel within their life. And this argument rings true because we can’t use new laws or rights until we’re aware of the old ones.
1 "Statistics." AWARE RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
2 @ACLU. "Federal Law and Pregnant, Post-Partum and Breastfeeding Workers." American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
3 Covert, Bryce. "This Is What Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers Looks Like." ThinkProgress. N.p., 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
4 Zarya, Valentina. "The Percentage of Female CEOs in the Fortune 500 Drops to 4%." Fortune The Percentage of Female CEOs in the Fortune 500 Drops to 4 Comments. N.p., 05 June 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
5 Gabriel, Paul E. "Gender Differences in Occupational Distributions among Workers." Monthly Labor Review 130.6 (2007): 19-24. Web.
6 US News. U.S.News & World Report, n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
7 Kane, Jessica. "Here's How Much A Woman's Period Will Cost Her Over A Lifetime." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.