Is Women’s Equality Day a Reality Check?

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What is reality, ladies? Photo licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

 

And so August 26 is here, officially marking the anniversary of the women’s right to vote in the United States. Yes, it is the date when the 19th amendment was changed, and it is called Women’s Equality Day. While 94 years have passed since then, I have to wonder if dedicating a day to women’s equality is a reality check – I mean, can we really celebrate this day?

What exactly do I mean? I am referring to the fact that women in the US are still unequal to men in so many ways. Speaking specifically about professional fields, women make substantially less than men on average across the US. According to the Catalyst website, “In 2013, the mean weekly earning for full-time working women  was $706, compared to $860 for men.”

I suppose if we were to delve into what positions women held as compared to men, we would likely find that men held more managerial positions than the females in the study. It’s not a random assumption I’m making there as many more men continue to be in the higher levels of companies (and higher levels of politics) than women, across the US. Sadly, the general trends are the same where I live in Canada.

With these thoughts spinning through my mind, I can’t help but wonder what Women’s Equality Day is really celebrating. I mean, yes females have the right to vote now in the US but what about the other ways that we are treated unequally. Does the voting aspect make it all okay and really earn a celebratory day?

What are your thoughts about the title “Women’s Equality Day” to mark August 26? Is it really a reality check that there is UNequality still for women across the United States and many other countries?

 

©2014 Christy Birmingham

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28 thoughts on “Is Women’s Equality Day a Reality Check?

  1. Women have come a long way in the last decade, but in the U.S., things seem to be backsliding. When the government (mostly men) endeavor to make decisions about our healthcare or reproductive care, that’s a step in the wrong direction. We need to stay up to date on what’s going on in our country and vote for candidates who are willing to stand up for our rights rather than those who are trying desperately to send us back to the dark ages.

    • Excellent words, Tricia. Very well put. I am thinking that it really doesn’t make sense for men to ‘presume’ they know what women want for healthcare or other areas… let’s get women more involved in the process instead! I agree there has been some backsliding and hope that reforms will be coming our way. Starting conversations like this one make me more hopeful for what is to come!

  2. Definitely some food for thought here, Christy.

    I think that part of the responsibility for changing the wages and salary landscape rests with every working woman. You are right, it’s not acceptable that men earn more than we do. So for women to earn better pay, we need to speak up. At review time, or for those of us who are self-employed and set our wages, we need to request and expect wages equivalent to those of our male counterparts. So I guess first, we need to do a little research and find out how much others in similar jobs and with similar skills and experience are making. If our earnings don’t match up, then we need to calmly and politely speak up and request — and expect — higher pay.

    • I’m so glad you left this comment here. As you and I are both self-employed, this is excellent advice to take. I agree that the change starts with ourselves. And we have to be willing to be hear ‘no’ in some instances to our wage demands and keep pushing forward for more of the ‘yes’ answers — let’s do this! Thanks for your comment and thank you even more for being an independent, strong woman I look up to.

  3. Women are backsliding, I don’t mean we are doing the backsliding I mean we are being put on the slide and pushed down. We are losing our rights, little by little and we are sitting on the sidelines and waving as they are shaved away.

    It is us. We are are fault for this. We are so worried about what Beyonce is wearing, what Kim Kardasian is wearing or who she is doing, we fail to educate ourselves, we fail to vote, we fail to stand up and demand men stay out of our choices and our healthcare.

    We forget we are whole human beings. We forget we were enfranchised by the 19th Amendment and that women fought and even died for our right to go to the polls and vote. We were to be the light that led the way. Instead we sit on our azzes and bemoan our circumstances.

    Nicely done, Kristy.

    • Aha, Val! Your note about the slide is an intense one. We are pulled down and many women are not even aware that is what is being done (sad, really). I mean, is it ignorance (blissful for them?) or really that the way society is structured makes it so that some women can’t see the trees for the forest? It’s true that we can each do more for change and I also think that if we band together then the future can be even more harmonious. It won’t happen quickly but I refuse to give up hope for it!

  4. Hi Christy,
    A very well penned and interesting post…

    I would say that the mere idea of a “Women’s Equality Day” might hide something… Maybe it is a way to normalize male dominance … (Do we have a “Men ‘s Equality Day”?)

    Gender egalitarianism might imply on the contrary that men and women should receive equal treatment, and should not be discriminated against based on gender,

    Unfortunately most times women are objectified, or just dismissed…Thus gender representation must be considered both quantitatively and qualitatively, keeping in mind that general stereotypes tend to perpetuate gender roles within a male-dominated system.

    Political laws (specifically the right to vote, which is exerted from time to time) doesn’t mean too much if they are not followed or complemented by equality in law and in social situations, such as securing equal pay for equal work.

    Civil and politic rights are not precisely the same ones that social and labor ones, I think…
    And even if the laws are good or “equal” their performative ground might not be the best.

    I think women have achieved lots of things in the last two centuries but still they are flaws in what has to be with the practice of the acquired rights.
    Overall, It is in the practical scope where those rights lack of consistency.

    Thanks for a great reading and clever post, Best wishes, Aquileana 😀

    • Aquileana,
      Thank you for such an intelligent comment and it means a lot to me that you took time to thoroughly read through my writing here. What a wonderful point you make that voting rights don’t mean a lot if women are not treated as equals in social or other real-life situations. The written law and the practice of it go hand in hand, as you suggest. I hope that there are positive steps to come and that our dialogues will help us get there! Thanks again and wishing you a wonderful Wednesday! 🙂

  5. I think this day is a day for women to keep fighting for equality. I did not make this up. Go Topless Day is held every year on the Sunday closest to August 26. So this year it was held on August 24. In New York there is a law that says that anywhere that a man can go topless, a woman can go topless. After this law was made a woman was arrested for going topless in NY since the officer did not know about this law. She sued and was paid $26,000. There are many places in the world where they practice FGM.

    I wrote an article about a woman going around topless in NY to make people aware of this law. It also touches on other issues with women.

    • Thanks Chuck for explaining more about the topless day – I hadn’t heard of it before! Wow, that woman made a lot of money to spend on a new shirt … !! I personally think females can be proud of our gender without having to go nude though.

      • They just want to have the same right as men. Before 1936 men were not allowed to go topless. Do you now see every man topless in hot weather? No. Also it used to be illegal for women to show their elbows or knees so that was considered being nude. So they want to get rid of this idea that a man topless is OK but a woman topless is nude. It is like the idea that a man that has sex with many different people is like James Bond but a woman doing it is a whore.

        Moira Johnson in N.Y. started doing is since in yoga classes some men would take off their shirt to be more comfortable, but when she did she did this, she was told to put on her shirt. Here is another example. I am not suggesting that everyone pick their nose in public, but what if it were not illegal for men to do this but it was illegal for women to do this? It would be a sexist law. Women should have the same rights as men. There should be no sexist laws.

        Also if women were allowed to go topless then there would not be an issue of whether a mother can breastfeed her baby in public or not.

      • There certainly are some double standards in the laws and in practice in society – no doubts about that and you pointed out some of those ones in your comment here. I think sexism will be around for a while but we can individually do our best to not encourage it (and to speak out against what we see to be unjust).

  6. These days there are national, and international, days for all sorts of things… and I think that for most of them (including the one you mention here) although there is an element of celebration there is also in many of them an overriding element that is a reminder of injustices and struggles, both in the past and ongoing.

    So, in this case, womens’ equality to vote can be celebrated… but if this date is publicly highlighted then it is also a reminder of the equality that is still rampant, for which some people will hopefully take note. International Women’s Day is on March 8th, it is a celebration of what women have achieved in all aspects of life, but it is also a reminder of their struggles… both in the past and also ongoing.

    I think even things like Mother’s, and Father’s, Day are a mixture – they are a celebration of ones love for our parents, but also a reminder of how much they do, and have done, for their offspring… and perhaps they should be a reminder of the respect that should be shown for them.

    March 21st is Anti-Racism Day and November 20th is Transgender Day of Rememberance… but the only celebrations around these days is the pride that should be felt around the diversity that is in the world…. because the overriding reminder on these days is that racism/transphobia are still huge issues… just like women’s equality is.

    • Andrea, your words are truly enlightening. Thank you. I am of the mind that when we have reached a truly equal platform between genders that there will be no need for an ‘equality day’ as it only serves to single out women from men. As for Mother’s and Father’s Days I have always thought ‘why aren’t we celebrating them every day?’ and so, on that note, I celebrate us as women who strive to be genuine, respectful and confident. I think with time there is hope for true equality but that there is still a long ways to go in the journey.

  7. Thoughtful post! 🙂

    I think that the need for marking a special day in the calendar shows that there is INDEED unequality with regards to women :(.

    There’s still much work to be done, no doubt, but even supposing there’s not much to celebrate, it serves its purpose as a “reminder”.

    • Great point that it’s unequal to even have that sort of day in the first place! If there truly was balance then it wouldn’t occur to have the day. You are a positive thinker in the last part of your post and it ‘reminds’ me to keep my head head high as I am proud to be a woman. Thanks for your comment!

  8. Great post. I also think there are inner turmoils in some professions such as older women not retiring when they should, so that younger and other middle-aged ones have a chance. There seems to be also some inner turmoil in some professions between women themselves as to who will be able to “put up” with so much competition, hence the disparity seen with women, as opposed to men who are already used to this competition and continue to thrive and outnumber the women.

    • Your comment Maria just reminded me of how some women compete with one another, trying to one-up others rather than working with them to create a more substantial and powerful solution. Thanks for getting my mind rolling on this Wednesday morning!

  9. Hey Christy!
    Love your post! You make good sense. It’s always good to have a “reality check”!
    What would be really great is a pay check!
    IDEA, every “Women’s Equality Day” the government should calculate the total amount of money women made that year and subtract it from what men made (in an equitable way). The difference could be divided in some fair way amongst all women.
    Dreaming further, then the rich women would donate their checks to causes that benefit society.
    Of course, that wouldn’t last. If the government had to dig into their pockets to balance the situation, they would ensure pay equity, and happily collect the extra taxes!
    I know I’m cheeky.

    Cheers and sincere best wishes to all my American sisters, and to all sisters worldwide on this “Women’s Equality Day”

    • Resa,
      What a creative solution! I think it’s a great idea in theory and as you say the ‘taxes’ would get in the way – but we could still give it a try!! I like the idea of increasing number of charitable donations as that’s never a bad thing 🙂 HUGS to you for your kind words and thoughtful take on the situation!

  10. At one time blacks and women could not vote in the U.S. Black men got the right to vote before women got the right to vote. In Canada was there ever time a when women or blacks could not vote? They should make it a law in the U.S. that dead people cannot vote. We constantly see dead people voting in elections according to ballots, not eye witnesses.

    • Hi Chuck,
      Wow, you see dead peoples’ names on election ballots in the US? No, we don’t have that issue here. Yes, there was certainly a time when women could not vote and the last post at this website (a guest post by Resa) actually talks about the history. You can read it for an overview and you will see that there are many injustices in the past and, sadly, in the present time. Thanks for your comment!

  11. And wouldn’t you know Idaho ranks toward the bottom for women’s equality? But then again, Idaho is about in the bottom for everything except maybe mountain scenery 😉 But not to make too light of a very serious subject. Countless times, students would ask me why there was a Black History Month and not a special day for white people. I tried to explain how we are submerged in a white male dominated culture. We don’t see the impact of the majority because we exist within it as “the norm.” It’s only when we step aside that norm and start to ask how its impacting other groups that we see how unfair some practices are. The recent round of anti-feminist memes making the rounds on social media really made me ill. We’ve made progress, but there’s still such a long way to go.

    • Jeri,
      Thanks for sharing such a well-penned comment here. I try my best to take a wider view of Western society than those students who asked you about the ‘special day for white people’ but sometimes even I forget the unjust practices… I hope that in time the present day will be full of equalities and that people will feel more accepted for their souls than for anything else. Take care, my friend.

  12. The reality is that women have not achieved equality.

    I found the following statistics from Ontario where I live.

    The underemployment of women → women make up the majority of part-time workers
    Lack of access to affordable childcare for women who want full-time work
    The segregation of women into lower paid job classes. In general, the higher the concentration of women, the lower the pay.
    Women’s dominance in minimum wage jobs
    Women’s lack of access to collective bargaining

    Based on the increased gender pay gap of 31.5%, Ontario women will have to work an additional 14 years, one year more than last year, in order to earn the same pay which a man earns by age 65, at the current rate of progress.

    • Hi Susan,
      Thank you for adding those statistics from your own province. I believe unfortunately that the Ontario trends are repeating themselves in other provinces and other countries. I only hope that women say “I believe I am worth more” and start to demand higher wages. That is a way to make an impact and also demand more for ourselves!

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