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Women’s Equality Day: Are We There Yet?

Nearly a century after winning the right to vote, women are enjoying hard-fought strides but the battle for equality soldiers on.

 

Commemorating the day women won the right to vote August 26, 1920, Women’s Equality Day is not only an observance of hard-fought battles in the past, but a current call to arms.

It’s easy to forget the recent designation females held in society—that of second class citizens required by law to be obedient to their spouses and who were left out of decision-making processes entirely.

It wasn’t really so long ago a lack of representation in government, dismal labor conditions and social inequities drove suffragettes to withstand setback after discouraging setback before the realization of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Somehow, like many others, I squeaked through the school system without knowing much about the suffragette movement at all, aside from the fact that they ultimately won and that they had suffered in their pursuit (I’ve since learned suffrage refers to an ancient voting tablet.)

But like any other accomplishments by a minority group, it was an incredibly long and disheartening journey, with numerous jailed activists and failed attempts spanning a tumultuous time in America.

From when the women’s movement was first sparked at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 to when it finally culminated in the right to vote 72 years later, two of the country’s bloodiest wars had already erupted and concluded—the Civil War (1861–1865) and World War I (1914 -1918). 

The first amendment to the constitution granting women the right to vote was introduced in 1848 by California Sen. A.A. Sargeant, 42 long years before it happened.

Interestingly, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NFL and the ill-fated 18th Amendment enacting prohibition were all also established in 1920.

Three out of four of those are still going strong but lost in the mire of the Sexual Revolution and post-feminism, the need to answer why equality's still so important may seem irrelevant compared to all the rights some of us still apathetically fail to exercise.

But nearly a century later disparities remain, including a troubling correlation between the quality of female life and the number of women in public office. States with less female public servants typically have less educated, less healthy and poorer women.

Women now represent less than a third of the California’s legislature (28 percent), compared to 23 percent nationwide and just 17 percent in Virginia—home of the transvaginal ultrasound bill.

In a recent list of the five worst states for women to live in by ivillage.com, Mississippi scores dead last as one of four states that has yet to elect a woman to Congress, has never elected a female governor and which has a state legislature that's only 15 percent female.

Only two women have ever been elected to office in that state.

Mississippi also ranks highest in female poverty at 22 percent, lowest in median wages ($28,879) and has the lowest college graduation rate at 21 percent. Meanwhile, 24 percent of Mississippi women lack health insurance and 32 percent go without life-saving mammograms, according to ivillage.com

Amid turbulent times, on the heels of two wars, a recession and a foreclosure crisis, women are still fighting for their equality—and they’re still losing battles.

An unprecedented wave of legislation, more than 1000 bills, aimed at rolling back reproductive health care rights has justifiably earned the moniker “War on Women”.  

Held on the eve of the Republican National Convention in Florida, Women’s Equality Day events taking place around the country, including one on Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street at 1 p.m. Sunday, will address affronts to women deciding their own fates.

That includes an appalling attempt to redefine rape as a means to curb abortion.

Most people are aware that one in four women are raped, and those are just the ones that get reported. Instead of waging a war on women to save innocents, perhaps a campaign against the perpetrators to safeguard innocence would be more effective.

Rather than criminalizing a procedure and sending women back to the days of back-alley abortions and lack of decision-making power, pro-lifers could advocate for the lives of all by engaging in social services and providing aid, compassion, support and an alternative for mothers seeking abortion.

Whatever side you are on the abortion issue, the best avenue to solving the problem lies not in going after unwilling mothers, but in the root cause of unwanted pregnancies—men.

What if men who are caught with a prostitute are forced to register as sex offenders? As it stands right now, only 10 percent of all prostitution arrests are “Johns” soliciting services from individuals who are likely being victimized as they work in America’s most dangerous profession. 

Considering that the average age of entry into prostitution in this country is 12 to 14, according to the Department of Justice, many of these encounters are particularly atrocious.

Sexual assaults are a huge epidemic in this country but instead of introducing legislation to go after predators, address the reality of sexual violence women face or any other compassionate response, Republicans as a whole voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act.

While hard-right Republicans claim to be focused on economy, they are undermining the ability of women to make good choices. While they say “let’s focus on jobs”, they ignore the lack of equality for women in the workforce.

And just like the original suffragette movement, the “they” standing in the way of womankind include women—often likely of some sort of privilege, those who have never stood in the shoes of sisters marginalized by poverty, race or as victims of brutal violence.

Distracted by all the rights we women do have, it can be easy to underestimate what's at stake. 

It never fails to amaze me when people choose to vote against their own self interest ...maybe that wouldn't happen as much if there were more women in government. 

For all the progress made that’s been made in the last century, immeasurable more remains. To acheive full equality we must first be aware that even in 2012, the fight for it is far from over.

How will you celebrate Women's Equality Day?

not Carl Peterson lll August 26, 2012 at 10:36 PM
The article was good until you had to make republicans the common enemy, as the argument always gets sucked into. To say The violence against woman act was voted against by Republicans doesnt explain that different versions are still being hashed out. One version as I understand it,tramples on states rights, and civil rights. The left has hijacked all civil rights issues and uses them for their own agenda. "You've come a long way baby". We all have. Highschool career day in the seventies had different survey questionnaires for the boys and girls. I was the only one in the whole school that protested. Then, as now,egual rights, not special rights.
Ann August 31, 2012 at 01:38 AM
By "special rights" surely you don't mean asking the government to stay out of our bodies? I consider that a basic right. The laws proposed and passed this year in many states regarding contraception, vaginal probes, and the Republican Party platform that seeks to ban all abortions , no matter what the circumstances, speak for themselves. The Republicans, on the far right, started this "war on women". Bring it on! You are going to be trampled in this election and you will only have yourselves to blame. You are correct that the left stands for civil rights; someone needs to, this is the United States of America. But if we are the only ones standing up for civil rights is that really our fault? Or is it yours? You could stand there with us.
not Carl Peterson lll August 31, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Ann, I am on your side. Whatever your, or my opinion of abortion is, I don't think it is really possible to ban it. If Roe V. Wade was reppealed, it would just give back the states rights to decide on their own. I Read that between 1967 and 1973 1/3 of the states legalized abortion. In all my years, I can never find a resolution in my own mind. The attitude usually expressed on TV is a bit repulsive on both sides. I feel both sides of the issue are valid. "War on woman" is how some want to rile up the troops. The only war is from loud mouths on cable tv I tend to lean to the keep abortion law as is. However partial birth abortion is.. well have you ever really looked it up. On the other hand, I tried to think what it would be like to have some slobering criminal put their DNA in me, and the Gov. force to to be a nursery to grow its offspring...No not gonna do-it Ann, I am a republican little r, with a little libertarian and socially mixed. The ones that want to stop abortions won't succeed. They also are not waring on woman. They are concerned for the babys unborn.Try looking at it from that angle. And I will try not to think of abortions as adults who just dont care about life. Don't let the pundit screamers tug us. You and I are most likely insinc on this. Some on both sides are not.

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