When most people hear the word feminism the first thing that comes to their mind is sexuality and how they may look. According to IWDA, a proudly feminist organization, “feminism is about all genders having equal rights and opportunities.” Feminism is also about respecting diversity in women’s experiences, identity, their knowledge, and them striving to empower all women to realize their strengths. It’s also about leveling the playing field between males and females to ensure that diverse women have the same opportunities in life available to men. (What Is Feminism? (IWDA, 2020).
Women have struggled for long years and even decades to achieve equality among legal, civil, and gender roles. Their struggles go all the way back to the 18th century where they began demanding voting equality. The fight women put up in the 1800s up until the start of the 1920s for the woman in today's century to have equality still stands unbelievable and remembered. From granting women, the right to vote in 1920 to be able to grant women the legal rights to safe abortion in 1973. Although the woman’s right to vote was the first out of many steps to equality there is still some controversy that remains in today’s world.
After many years of not having many of the same rights due to gender, one of the first things that brought awareness to this issue was gaining the right to vote. The reform movement started in France allowed women to exercise their voting rights and contend for public officers. It also helps many women understand the right to take part in political issues as equal citizens. Women demanded unconsented equality by utilizing political campaigns and becoming members of different trade unions. Ratified on August 18, 1920, the first step to women's equality was gaining the right to vote. One of the many things that women were banned from doing was being able to voice their opinions on politics. For many years whoever men voted for was the go-to as far as who led our country. In 1848 is when the fight for women's right to vote took on a global impact due to what was known as the Women's rights movement but called the Seneca Falls Convention. “Organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, two abolitionists who met at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London” ('Seneca Falls Convention begins', 2010), the purpose was to help bring awareness to the inequality in the political spectrum of the century at the time and hopefully get women the grant to vote.
While enabling women the right to vote did open many doors, women still face many challenges dealing with discrimination based on both their sex and even sometimes their race. In 1963 the equal pay act was passed in order to prohibit any type of sexual discrimination when it comes to paying in the work industry, “No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages….”(The Equal Pay Act of 1963). Although that act was passed in order to stop the discrimination against women in the work industry, it remains a problem today.
As of 2016 women now cover almost half of the workforce as well as more likely to have a bachelor’s degree by age 29 than men. Not only are women more likely to have a higher education, but they are also considered the most sole or upmost breadwinners in over half of the American families that have children in their household. There are currently 74.6 billion women in the civilian labor force ('Angela Young, 2017). While over half of the women in America are working the same length shifts as men, they are still making a quarter less on their paycheck compared to the same men who work in their same office doing the same exact thing. “In 2018, female full-time, year-round workers made only 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 18 percent. This commonly cited statistic may be understating the extent of pay inequality; an IWPR analysis of women’s and men’s earnings over 15 years found that women made just half (49 percent) of what men earned.”(Hegewisch, Hess, & Lacarte, 2019). While the majority of men and women may have the same occupations, the gender pay gap continues to increase at an odd rate despite the type of education level women have. If the percentage continues to increase at the same rate over time, IWPR says that “it will take 40 years or until 2059for women to finally reach pay parity. For women of color, the rate of change is even slower, Hispanic women will have to wait until 2224 and Black women will wait until 2130 for equal pay”(Hegewisch, Hess, & Lacarte, 2019).
The categories of discrimination against women don’t just go by sex but race as well. The average black woman must work double the shifts into the next year to make the amount of money a white male would have made in a normal salary. Every single year the amount of time increases for the extra shifts a black woman must pick up in order for it to equal the amount of money a white man may make, “In 2017, for example, Black women earned 61 cents for every dollar earned by white men, amounting to $23,653 less in earnings over an entire year. In the span of a 40-year career, this translates into an average lifetime earnings gap of $946,120 between Black women and white men” (Frye, 2019). While a black women may have the same occupation as not just men in general but white men, the pay gap between the two remains as not just discrimination towards the woman but the black woman at that.
In addition to the pay gap between men and women in the workforce, it also goes into men are more likely to hold the higher positions in businesses. Women tend to hold fewer executive positions than men because of the stereotype that men hold more authority and power and woman are more self-absorbed. According to Rachel Gillet as of October of 2016 “For every 100 women promoted to the manager level, the study found 130 men are promoted” (Gillett, 2016). Meaning although a woman may put in equal to or sometimes more of the workmen may put in to get promoted, the likely hood of a woman getting a higher position is about 40 percent to none. Women have tried in many ways to negotiate themselves a raise and a higher position at a company but that has never been the problem. Rachel Gillet did a study that shows “According to the study, women who negotiate are 30% more likely than men who negotiate to receive feedback that they are 'intimidating,' 'too aggressive,' or 'bossy' and they are 67% more likely than women who don't negotiate at all to receive the same negative feedback” (Gillett, 2016).
The amount of discrimination that is held against all races of women today is a tremendous issue that more the half of the women in America must continue to face in their everyday work life when they step foot in their workplace. Although discrimination against gender is not something that can be completely stopped, there are a few ways in which women have come together as a whole to try and bring more awareness to it.
In 2017, women from all over came together to put together a women’s march after President Trump's inauguration. This march occurred on January 21st and became the largest march in US history. While the 2017 women’s march was just set to be in Washington D.C, people from all over the world ended up gathering and marching for their rights. “The marches all started with a 60-year-old woman, Rebecca Shook, living in Hawaii. The night after Trump was elected, she used a Facebook post to express her frustration. She pondered: could women march on Washington on Inauguration Day? They are sure as hell would” (Levinson, 2017). From there a Facebook event page was created to showcase the different types of issues that women would be marching for on that day.
Although the cause of the march was due to the insensitive as well as feminist and sexist things Trump said during his speech, the march ended up bringing out more than women but men too. This march not only helped bring acknowledgment to the feminist issues still being dealt with today, but it helped bring women from all over the world to realize that equality is not everywhere.
Alongside the different women’s marches that have occurred during the process of gaining equality, there have also been different groups and organizations made. A nonprofit organization known as The Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), founded in 1982 has been around for over thirty-five years as an organization that participates in feminist movements and trying to achieve gender equality and gains respect and rights for all women nationwide, “ We aim to advance feminist agendas through our work with policymakers, funders and activists in regional and global spaces. We also work to influence feminist and women’s rights movements to center historically oppressed movements as part of efforts to strengthen our collective power and influence” (2019). This organization gets together every week to exchange ideas and create agendas on how equality in our world has shifted whether it be positive or negative.
AWID creates movements and builds partnerships with other groups and organizations around the world to try and help broaden the word on feminism equality. In 2014 AWID partnered up with women human rights defenders (WHRDs) to bring attention to women who go through different types of violence every day but aren’t getting the right help. In 2016 they help the 13th international AWID event in Bahia, Brazil “a space for strategizing and alliance building with feminists and other justice movements, which was attended by over 1800 participants from 120 countries and territories across the globe” (2019). For this event, many women came together to discuss the main issues of feminism and discuss collective ideas for future meetings and events.
In addition to the AWID organization, a group called “Radical Woman” is built to cover some of the same issues. Radical woman not only covers feminist issues that go on but the racial inequality acts that some women may still go through as well. “Immersed in the daily fight against racism, sexism, homophobia, and labor exploitation, Radical Women believes in multi-issue organizing around the needs of the most oppressed” ('Radical Women - socialist feminism in action!'). This group participates in monthly meetings globally and sometimes internationally to put together a directory as well as collaborate with other female organizations to hear their thoughts and ideas on how to further regulate feminism and equality.
Although women may not ever get the same rights as men, we have different groups, nonprofit organizations as well as different marches and events that are put together each year to help bring more awareness to these issues. In order to help solve these issues, join an organization or a group somewhere around you that discusses these matters and state your opinion. If enough woman gets together every year, although feminism may not stop completely the progress we make will continue to increase at a decent rate.