Gender Inequality in Politics

Although I think that political illiteracy is a bigger problem than most would like to admit, politics remain as a much talked about subject in the United States. As election time rolls around, suddenly everyone is brushed up upon current events; Facebook feeds are flowing with political opinions and slogans. Usually this interest is limited to just presidential candidates, but I think that goes back to the political illiteracy problem.

In spite of all the talk about politics, I see a lack of one thing in particular- women being represented in politics. Let me explain. Women make up about 50.8 percent of the population.

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(Warner, 2014)

Even though women are making up a little over half of the population, they are receiving less representation than their male counterparts. This is not to say that all men in politics do a poor job of representing women, however it is alarming that there is such a lack of women representing other women. Don’t get me wrong. I am not discounting, in any way, the amazing progress that has been made over the past 100 years for women in America. The Washington Post has an encouraging timeline of women in politics over the years:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/notes-from-the-cracked-ceiling/timeline/

For a long time, women couldn’t even run for politics. The women that served were oftentimes the widows of men who were in office first. We really have come a long way. For instance, we now have 101 women in Congress! Woo-hoo!! This is amazing! But, when you look at the numbers and notice that there are 535 congress people total, 101 doesn’t really sound that great. Not only that, it also doesn’t make things equal whatsoever. This means that a little less than 19 percent of congress are sharing perspectives that match half of the population in the US. Worldwide, the United States ranks 78th in female political representation. This place is just behind Rwanda, Costa Rica, Cambodia, and many other developing countries across the world. (Gill, 2012)

Not only is the US in 78th place, It’s now estimated that, at the current rate of change, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in our country.

This is embarrassing.

(Warner, 2014)

Seeing the lack of women in politics is fairly easy. However, is this just because we are not voting women into politics? Maybe. Let’s look at some statistics:

-Women are much less likely than men to think they are qualified to run for office.

– Female potential candidates are less competitive, less confident, and more risk averse than their male counterparts.

– Women are less likely than men to receive the suggestion to run for office – from anyone

(Warner, 2014)

It is important to notice the general disparity, but it is also important to notice what happens when women run for office. In the beginning of their race, many women lack the support they need to even launch a campaign. Not because their ideas are not up-to-par, or because they are overly emotional, but simply because they are women. Some female politicians, such as Secretary Jennifer Brunner, are blatantly told to “wait their turn”, and to not run at all. (Gill, 2012)

I think back to when Sarah Palin ran in the presidential election a few years ago. I know that she may have had some ideas that a lot of people disagreed with, but the way she was constantly treated was appalling. For the majority of her campaign, Palin was treated as inaudible. Sarah Palin was so frequently talked about in the media, yet it was rarely about the details of her campaign. Entertainment media targeted Sarah Palin frequently during her candidacy. In the film Miss Representation, scenes point out many subtle comments directed to Palin. She was constantly told things like “you’re so beautiful” and “you’re so hot”, which are comments that take away from the meat of her run for office, but could also be seen as statements that were aimed to be compliments. So we can try to give some grace there.  However, then there’s people, like Tracy Morgan, who describe Palin as “Masturbation material”. No, seriously. That really happened:

http://www.cinemablend.com/television/TNT-Issues-Apology-Tracy-Morgan-Calls-Sarah-Palin-Masturbation-Material-29685.html)

America is great in the sense that you are allowed to share your thoughts and opinions, but it is so unfortunate that this freedom is often used at the expense of other people.

Obviously, there’s a problem here. Another instance that comes to mind was when a female reporter, a real reporter from a real station, asked Palin to clear up if she had breast implants. You know, because it’s vital to know the size and authenticity of the breasts of a person who could be leading your country for the next four years. The public news repeatedly discounted her political ideas and played her to be a sexual object for disposal.

You don’t really see men getting asked questions like this, do you?

(Miss Representation, 2012)

When I see and hear things that people say about women in politics, I think a lot of things. However, something that I really wrestle with is what this is doing to the minds of children who hear and see these things on television and social media. Check out this video where Jimmy Kimmel interviews 4 kids about women running for president.

We have a long way to go. However, we cannot let this overwhelm us. Equality has to start somewhere, why not start with yourself? Educate yourself on female politicians, even in your states. Write to your governors and talk to them about equal representation. Talk with your kids about gender equality and women running for office. These may be small steps, but all steps lead somewhere.

Resources:

Bennett, S. (2011). Women Need an Establishment of Their Own. Retrieved from   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-bennett/women-need-an-            establishme_b_565167.html

Gil, L. (2012). The Gender Crisis in Politics: U.S. Congress Fails at Equality. Retrieved from   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lili-gil/women-in-congress_b_1374030.html

Miss Representation (Full-Length Video) [Motion picture]. (2012). United States of   America: [Ro*co Films Educational].

Warner, J. (2014). Fact Sheet: The Women’s Leadership Gap. Retrieved from             https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/report/2014/03/07/85457/fact-sheet-the-womens-leadership-gap/

 

 

 

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Feminism and the Media

So I’d like to start this post off by sharing an image. This is a poll from yougov that shows the percentage of people who would call themselves feminists before and after learning the true definition of the term.

feminist_afterbefore (Has Feminist Become a Dirty Word, 2013).

As you can see, the before side is significantly smaller than the after side. When people hear the word feminism or feminist, typical ideas tend to pop into their heads. First, there tends to be a mental image of what a feminist looks like. A typical description may include words like hairy, thick-rimmed glasses, lesbian, yells a lot, etc. Then there are a few ideas on the definition of feminism. A lot of these definitions infer that feminists think that women are better than men, and that women should have the upper hand simply because of their sex. But let’s take a look at the real definition of feminism:

feminism-definition

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Although some may disagree that women and men should be treated equally, the majority of people would agree with that. For example, I have yet to meet someone who has truly believed “women should make less money than men”. Knowing the true definition changes things for people. In terms of feminism, it seems as though we are lost in translation. Why is this? Many reasons! However, a giant culprit the portrayal of feminism by the media.

This seems like a bold accusation, but let me explain.

We all know the media likes to blow things out of proportion. Remember last year’s Ebola crisis? Yes, it was a big deal, but thanks to the constant media coverage, people over here were absolutely freaking out, believing that we were on the brink of some sort of apocalypse. Then, when the media switched over to another topic, the fear completely dissipated, despite Ebola still being around and still being a problem. The fact of the matter is that media coverage, however accurate it is, is important. So when the media covers a topic like feminism and portrays it in a negative light, that is where the issue arises.

Sure, there are some “normal” feminists who receive media coverage –the prime example being Emma Watson when she made her speech (Watson 2014)– but the media has a tendency to put feminism in a negative light.

fm12

Whenever someone claims to be an extremist or acts in such a way, the media is quick to report. In 2015 in the United States, it is not popular to be radical. It makes us feel uncomfortable, and we like to poke fun at it- for example, the meme above. It’s easy for the media to focus on extremists in general because of how crazy their views seem. There may be people who claim to be feminist and hate men, but that does not mean that all feminists believe it.

So with all that said, we have to ask: does the media do more harm than good for feminism?

It does focus too much on the negatives, so much so that some very famous women don’t even want to be associated with the term.

“This aversion to the word “feminism” is not uncommon: The well-publicized portrayal of feminists as angry, man-hating women has preserved the notion that feminism is destructive, dangerous, and to be avoided at all costs. As a result, many celebrities like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Madonna have all rejected the term, claiming that ‘I don’t really think of it as guys versus girls,’ ‘I love men,’ and ‘I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist,’ respectively” (Tan 2014).

People are afraid of seeming like radicals and would rather distance themselves from the cause than educate themselves about them. This is where the good side of the media comes in.

Despite the negatives, the media has also done some good for feminism. As mentioned before, Emma Watson’s speech about feminism promoted equality for men and women alike.

“If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are—we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom. I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves” (Watson 2014).

More recently, Jennifer Lawrence has written an essay about the sexism in Hollywood (Boboltz).

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And Beyonce’ is a feminist. So that’s pretty cool.

With the internet as big as it is today, it’s easier than ever for people to educate themselves about topics. Whether or not they choose to do so is up for debate, however, they are more likely to if people they like are backing the cause. With beloved stars like Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence, and Beyonce’ Knowles showing the world that feminism is not a negative thing, maybe we can start to redefine the term so that people aren’t afraid to call themselves feminists.

References

14 Of The Most Offensive (To Women) Memes. (2012, June 3). Retrieved October 27, 2015, from http://www.gurl.com/2012/06/03/girl-meme-anti-feminism/
 Boboltz, S. (2015, October 13). Jennifer Lawrence On What Hollywood Sexism Taught Her About Being ‘Likable’ Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jennifer-lawrence-lenny-letter-hollywood-sexism_561d01e2e4b050c6c4a2b72d

Has “Feminist” Become A Dirty Word? (2013, May 1). Retrieved October 27, 2015.

 Emma Watson: Gender Equality is Your Issue Too. (2014, September 20). Retrieved from http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/emma-watson-gender-equality-is-your-issue-too
Tan, K. (2014, September 20). Who Needs Feminism Anyway? Retrieved October 27, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kimberly-tan/who-needs-feminism-anyway_b_5605041.html

Gender Inequality in the Workplace

As we begin to discuss the ways in which there are gender inequalities here in America, it makes sense to start where many Americans find themselves daily- the workplace. There are, obviously, a variety of options when it comes to jobs. There are literally millions of places where people are employed and that is a good thing. However, because the human condition likes to hold tight to tradition and organization, many jobs are gendered. For example, women in CEO positions and men working as nurses tend to make us question why they chose a field that tends to be dominated by the opposite sex. If that question isn’t so blatant in our minds, we still are able to see the paradox.

(Roach, 2000)

You know, I get it. If a job is typically dominated by men, women who are pursuing this career may get some backlash. However, one must ask why this is even an issue. If I wanted to be an auto repairman, why wouldn’t I be taken seriously? Because I am a female. This inequality goes beyond snide remarks and attitudes- it can lead to physical and emotional harm. In fact, if I got a job anywhere, I am statistically more likely to be sexually assaulted than my male counterparts. A study from 2008 reported that about 58% of people experienced some form of sexual harassment at work. Out of the 58%, 79% of the victims were women. The industries with some of the highest reports of sexual harassment were the following:

  • Business and trade
  • Sales and marketing
  • Hospitality
  • Civil service
  • Education and teaching

(Statistics, 2008)

Wow, what a well rounded list! So basically, sexual harassment happens in all work environments. This is tragic. It is tragic for the men who experience sexual harassment in the work place; however, it is imperative to notice that this is happening primarily to women.

The other side of workplace gender discrimination is displayed through the one thing we are all working to get-money! There are plenty of rewarding jobs that don’t bring in the most cash flow, but let’s face it- money does make the world go round. Did you know that women statistically make less money than men do? This, my friends, is a little thing that’s referred to as the wage gap. Let’s look at some statistics:

Statistically, men make more money than women do. This varies from state to state.

(Wallace, 2014)

On average, women earn 77 cents to every dollar that males earn for an equal amount of work.

(FACT, 2012)

The pay gap is worse for women of color.

(The Simple Truth, 2015)

There have been many times where I have talked about this issue and people have brought up the point that maybe women are doing jobs that require less skill than the jobs that men are doing. This point would make the wage gap something that it is not. Instead of demanding equal pay for equal work, it would be more like

tumblr_msxy70KKdm1si5x45o1_

Hey, we’ve all been there right?

All jokes aside, we must remember that the wage gap is a real thing. Women are receiving less pay than men who are doing an equal amount of work. Kerri Sleeman, a supporter of the Paycheck Fairness Act, was directly effected by the wage gap. She worked in a company that specialized in laser welding assembly systems. When she was hired on as a supervisor, she was told that pay was unnegotiable. However, because they offered her immediate benefits, she took the job and worked with them for years. The company filed for bankruptcy when the economy took a hit in the early 2000’s, and she signed up for a mailing list so she could see the company’s list of bankruptcy claims. When she looked at the list of people on the payroll, she noticed something peculiar. Men than she has supervised were claiming to have made more money than her during a bi-weekly period. She was the boss and she was making less money than people who were working for her…. What? Here is the end of her story:

 

 Soon after, Sleeman talked to her former supervisor and asked him about the pay disparity. He said that she probably wasn’t misled — salaries likely weren’t negotiable when she was hired. But he said that the people she supervised — lots of young men — were the sole breadwinners for their wives and children, and that was probably taken into account when their salaries were figured. Sleeman was married at the time but had no children — and, of course, was a woman. The supervisor was not apologetic, Sleeman said.

Yet Sleeman said this was the same supervisor who had told her again and again, “If I could duplicate you, I’d be able to get rid of the rest of the staff.” Sleeman thought back to times where she had taken over projects for some of these men because they weren’t performing. But she feels the value of her work apparently didn’t matter as much because she was not a male breadwinner.” (Bankruptcy, 2013)

The inequity in this story is crystal clear and this is something that is happening every day. Gender equality needs to happen, but it doesn’t have to happen at the expense of men. I think that there is a fear, especially with income equality, that if we say “yes, women need to be getting paid equally for the work that they are doing”, then we are ultimately saying to the men, “now boys, let the girls have a turn. It’s only fair.” Equality for women in the work place isn’t just going to positively benefit women, but men as well. Think of these women as your daughters, your sisters, your friends- would you want them to have less, simply because they are female? Equality is a hard thing, but until we face it and talk about it man-to-man (hahaha), we aren’t going to get anywhere.*

References:

*Note: this idea comes from the seminar we had in class about being a “post-racial” society. These things are hard to talk about, but until we start talking about things we will never get anywhere. You have to recognize the problem before you can address and understand it.

Bankruptcy Court Revealed. (2013). Retrieved September 27, 2015, from http://www.aauw.org/2013/05/09/heartbreaking-pay-inequity/

FACT SHEET: Fighting for Equal Pay and the Paycheck Fairness Act. (2012). Retrieved September 27, 2015.

Freidman, A. (2015). Do We Really Want Equal Pay? Retrieved September 27, 2015.

Hines, D. (2014). Why Women Are Paid Less Money Than Men in 2014. Retrieved September 27, 2015.

Patten, E. (2015, April 14). On Equal Pay Day, key facts about the gender pay gap. Retrieved September 27, 2015.

Roach, J. (Director). (2000). Meet the Parents [Motion picture on DVD].

State Data – Women in the States. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2015.

Statistics. (2008). Retrieved September 27, 2015, from http://www.aware.org.sg/ati/wsh-site/14-statistics/

The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Fall 2015). (2015). Retrieved September 27, 2015.

Wallace, R. (2014). By the Numbers: A Look at the Gender Pay Gap. Retrieved September 27, 2015, from http://www.aauw.org/2014/09/18/gender-pay-gap/

An introduction to gender inequality

Over the course of history, the human race has made great strides towards equality for all. Compared to the way people were treated just a mere 100 years ago, we’ve certainly progressed a great deal. Women, for example, can vote, live on their own without the aid of a man, and even hold down steady jobs. So with all these rights, why is gender inequality still such a heated topic?

I think we can answer this question by looking at the ever-present stereotypes. Back in the day, women were considered to be weak and dainty. The purpose of a woman was to find a husband and start bearing children for him, while also taking care of the house and preparing the meals. For the most part, this changed as women began to join the workforce; however, they were still expected to quit working and basically become housewives after having children. Today, women aren’t expected to quit working after having children, but mothers who do work full-time are often seen as neglectful, often being called “part-time mothers” as an insult.

The wage gap is an issue that affects more than just women, it affects people of different races as well. I don’t want to delve too deeply into this topic right now, as we have a future blog on it planned out already, but I do want to point out that the statistics show that men do make at least 22% more per dollar than women do (“Pay Equity & Discrimination”). This amount definitely is not as bad as it has been in the past, but it is still shockingly high considering that men and women are supposed to be “equal.”

So what’s the big deal here? If there are statistics that are saying that women are getting paid significantly less for doing the same work as their male counterparts, why isn’t there being something done to fix it? Why isn’t this being seeing as an issue? It seems as though when things are presented as being a problem, or as a social inequality rather, the people who point out the problem receive backlash. I think back to the video we watched in class about income inequality and how President Obama was scrutinized and accused of trying to start a “wage war”. This is often a similar case for the wage gap. It seems as though when people try to highlight this as a real issue, it gets shot down because the only people who care about the wage gap are feminists- you know, the ones that don’t shave their legs. And why would we want to listen to a group of empowered women, anyway? They never get anything done. Well, except for that whole right to vote thing. And bearing children. And the women’s suffrage movement. You get the point.

'We can take you on, but we'll have to let you go if a man 'needs your job'.'

So again we ask, why is this such a heated topic right now? Because, despite how far the women’s movement has come in the past 100 years, it was never really finished. We got the ability to vote, and we gained a lot of freedom that we didn’t have before, but issues such as the wage gap were ignored and brushed under the rug to be dealt at some later time.

Picture it this way; gender inequality is a race track, perfect equality between men and women being the finish line. The racers all take their starting positions and rush forward as the starting gun is shot. One racer, symbolizing here the women’s movement, starts out slow, then speeds up and starts to pass the other racers as thousands of women cheer him on in the stands. The finish line is in sight, and it looks like the racer is going to win; finally, equality for all! Yet within a few feet of the finish line, our heroic racer stops. “Well, this is probably close enough,” he says, to the audience’s horror. The thousands of the women in the stands start to yell in protest. “You’re so close!” they scream, “Keep going!” But the racer simply stands there, hands on hips, surveying the finish line and mumbling about how he did a pretty decent job considering, while the other racers start to close in behind him.

Equality is only a few feet away people; let’s make that final push and win this race.

Next time on the Gender Inequality Blog: We discuss the wage gap in more depth. And later, we talk about gender inequality in politics! Stay tuned!

References

Anon. n.d. “Pay Equity &Amp; Discrimination.” Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Retrieved 2015         (http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/pay-equity-and-discrimination).

West, Johnathan. https://www.cartoonstock.com/cartoonview.asp?catref=jwe0257