International Women’s Day

Some of you may know that today is International Women’s Day and, alas, some of you may not. In fact, what struck me the most about today was the lack of acknowledgement of this important occasion. “Why is it important?” you hypothetically ask. Firstly, great question and secondly, because gender inequality is still prevalent in the status quo—to borrow the overused metaphor, we still live in the world of cascading glass ceilings. Days like International Women’s Day serve as a powerful reminder that we ought not be deluded into thinking that we have achieved gender equality, that we ought not believe that the first two waves of feminism were enough.

For some ridiculous reason, America refuses to see International Women’s Day as a real holiday, or even a holiday for which we can feign half-hearted care. (As a society we totally celebrated International Women’s Day through a few snapchat filters!!) Almost every other European country and, hell, lots of other countries around the world make a big deal out of it, but we we could care less about women, for some reason. So, Happy Birthday, women – on this, the anniversary of the day you were created by men, relish how much we allow you to do!

The supposed equality of women in the contemporary is sometimes so bittersweet as to recall Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own, written almost a century ago. Supposedly, the United States is a nation where regardless of sex, each person is afforded the same chances in life. We hope to live up to the Rawlsian ideal of the true veil of ignorance, to espouse a meritocratic articulation of the social contract. But it’s not that simple. As noted in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, although women and men are hired into entry level positions at nearly the same rate, women have fewer and fewer opportunities for advancement as they move up the ladder of success. The Times also found that women spend almost 6 more hours per week than men do on domestic work. Thus, even in the U.S., women face structural and systemic barriers to true success. Even when women do reach positions of power, studies show that women who hide their femininity with things like short haircuts are far more likely to succeed.

We live in a world in which women are still fighting to participate equally and fully in the political process in countries like Saudi Arabia. We live in a world where only 20% of U.S. lawmakers are women. We live in a world where women disproportionately bear the burden of poverty and income inequality. But, we live in a world where these inequities can be eliminated if we are willing to act.

Increasingly across the world and this country, we struggle with seemingly clear-cut issues of equality of opportunity and pay equity. On the World Economic Forum’s international ranking of gender equality, the United States has even dropped from 20th place to 28th. But, these aren’t “unfortunate but inevitable” facts of life. They’re facts, that, if we gave enough of a shit, we could change through effective legislation or activism. We could support policies like paid family leave or universal childcare. At the very least, we should ensure that women’s issues are priorities when it comes to policymaking. Because, we all have a vested interest in women’s issues. We ought to care about gender equality because the negative effects imposed by gender inequalities in the status quo impact us as a society. By denying women equality of opportunity, we substantially restrict our economy and our communities’ potential. Gender equality is something we value as a society; it is time for us to start acting like it does.

 

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