Women’s Equality Day was declared on August 26, 1971, to honor the ratification of the 19th amendment ― the amendment that legalized a woman’s right to vote.
Remarkable strides in women’s rights have been made in the years since: Access to contraception in the late 1960s meant more and more women rejecting predetermined and increasingly outdated gender roles, and entering the workforce and getting their education. The Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade in 1973, thus granting women constitutionally-protected control over their own bodies.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the terms “sexual harassment” and “acquaintance rape” or “date rape” entered the national lexicon, thus providing women with legal protection for issues that had kept them silent or victimized as they entered more male-dominated industries.
In the aughts (and continuing through the 2000s), the internet has been both good and bad for women ― trolls aside, increasing awareness of feminist issues and women’s equality through social media has helped to bring blatant sexism and inequality into the mainstream. Twitter hashtag movements like #YesAllWomen and #MasculinitySoFragile have exposed much of the sexism that women have put up with forever ― only now we have platforms, like Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr, to share our experiences.
And though the advancement of women’s rights and equality since 1971 is absolutely worth celebrating, it’s just as important to recognize the ways in which women are still unequal to men.
1. The gender wage gap is very, very real.
A 2014 study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) confirmed that the wage gap is, in fact, real all across the U.S. ― women earn an average of 79 cents to men’s dollar. Women of color are affected even more: Latina women earn 54 cents and black women earn 63 cents for every white man’s dollar, respectively.
2. There are more CEOs named “John” than there are women CEOs.
As if being paid less weren’t enough, a 2015 CNN analysis confirmed that only 14.2 percent of the top five leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies are held by women. There are actually more male CEOs named “John” than there are women CEOs.
3. There are more women living below the poverty line than men.
Women are much more likely to live in poverty. According to research by the National Women’s Law Center, “Poverty is a women’s issue. Nearly six in 10 poor adults are women, and nearly six in 10 poor children live in families headed by women.” Older women, single mothers, and women of color are particularly vulnerable to things that can lead to poverty ― like the aforementioned wage gap and lack of structural state support for single mothers and the elderly.
4. Women face regular threats to health care access.
This is more than just a debate about abortion access ― with the demonization of abortion providers comes the shuttering of clinics that provide other essential services like breast and cervical cancer screenings, pap smears and STI tests.
This year has been a particularly eventful for reproductive rights, with the passing of draconian TRAP laws across the U.S., and many women’s health centers having to close their doors ― including one in Grand Chute, Wisconsin that announced its closure on Monday. And even though the Supreme Court ruled in favor of women’s health care access earlier this year with Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Texas clinics that were shut down before the decision will likely not be opening anytime soon. And this reduction of funds and access to women’s health care is thought to contribute to the rise of maternal death in Texas in particular.
5. Women are more likely to be sexually assaulted.
The statistics for sexual assault are haunting: The CDC reports that 1 in 5 women in the U.S. will be raped in her lifetime, where for men, the likelihood is much smaller at 1 in 71.
Sexual assault has tremendously damning consequences for women ― unplanned pregnancies, STIs, trauma-related mental health issues and physical injuries are just some of them.
And the U.S. justice system is not particularly kind to women who have suffered from sexual assault ― how can we truly reach equality when violently assaulting a woman gets you minimal jail time or only probation?
6. Women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence.
Like sexual assault, when it comes to domestic violence women are much, much more likely to be victims ― 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women, and women are also stalked at a huge rate compared to men: every year, an estimated 1,006,970 women in the U.S. are stalked, compared to 370,990 men. Studies also show that 81 percent of women who are stalked are also physically abused by the male partner who stalks them.
7. Sexualized online harassment plagues women much more than men.
Men and women alike face online trolling and harassment, but women face a particularly brutal and disturbing kind of harassment ― just ask Leslie Jones, who, for months now, has been on the receiving end of racist and sexist harassment on top of having her website hacked. Earlier this summer, prominent feminist writer Jessica Valenti left social media after rape threats were made to her 5-year-old daughter.
Online stalking and rape or other sexually violent threats are a way to get women (and their opinions) offline ― and therefore out of the public discourse completely.
8. Women are still a minority in U.S. Congress.
Many of the above issues are decided upon by a Congress made up of 80 percent men, according to The Washington Post. But a 2015 analysis proved that it’s actually women in the Senate who get shit done ― and when there’s so much at stake for women in this country, it’s not really a surprise, is it?
This article has been adapted from a 2015 piece on Women’s Equality Day.
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