Over a month ago, millions of women marched around the world, as part of or in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017. Cities such as New York, Boston, Atlanta, Denver, and Los Angeles had massive turnouts of marchers, and the final tally from around the world had a low estimate of 3.3 million people involved, according to Fortune.com. More than 500 marches took place as part of the overall protest, so there was clearly a desire felt for women seeking full equality — and their allies across the gender spectrum — to be heard by the new Trump presidential Administration. Some may try to argue that the march was pointless, because we are living in a post-feminist or post-gender equality society. But the long list of women's issues that still haven't changed prove that those people are wrong.
In the latest presidential election, after almost 100 years of women having the right to vote across the country, a woman finally ran as a candidate in one of the two major political parties. She ran against a candidate who was once quoted as saying, "And when you’re a star they let you do it...grab them by the p*ssy...you can do anything,” in regards to women. (President Trump has defended the language as "locker room talk.") It is clear that, as far as we've come, we still have a long way to go when it comes to women's concerns and rights in this country and around the world.
The Affordable Care Act and Health Care — Women As A "Pre-Existing Condition"
Before the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, became a law, Paste Magazine reported that being a woman was seen as a preexisting condition. Before 2010, insurance companies could charge women more for coverage, literally just for being women. The reasoning behind this was that women used the healthcare system more, so they should be charged more. These companies were literally discriminating based on gender. With the passage of the ACA, that practice was ended.
But the Affordable Care Act is in trouble. Despite President Donald Trump admitting that healthcare is, "an unbelievably complex subject," and claiming that, "nobody knew health care could be so complicated," Republicans on Capitol Hill are actively trying to work toward developing a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. The replacement may not require insurance companies to refrain from charging women more based on gender. If the entire law were repealed, as reported by the National Women's Law Center reported in 2012:
Without changes in the law and the implementation and enforcement of the Affordable Care Act, women will continue to face unfair and discriminatory practices in the health insurance system.
Obamacare covers other aspects of health care that directly affect women's health, all of which might not be covered if the law is repealed and replaced. Under a healthcare.gov page about preventative care benefits for women, a whole list of preventative services for women that "all Marketplace health plans and many other plans must cover...without charging a copayment or coinsurance," includes:
- Breastfeeding comprehensive support and counseling from trained providers
- Contraception: Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling
- Gestational diabetes screening for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes
- Breast cancer genetic test counseling (BRCA) for women at higher risk
- Cervical cancer screening for sexually active women
- HIV screening and counseling for sexually active women
- Well-woman visits to get recommended services for women under 65
And many, many more.
When women's basic health care needs are being debated by politicians in Washington, it's hard to argue that women's heath care is not still an issue.
Several groups have come together to try to protect the Affordable Care Act. The group, the Protect Our Care Coalition, is made up of groups like the Service Employees International Union, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, and and Families USA. This press release from Families USA will direct you to contacts with information on how to fight for the cause.
Abortion & Reproductive Freedom
According to the ACLU, when it comes to insurance coverage for abortion-related health care, 10 states have passed bans on abortion coverage and 25 banned coverage in their exchanges.
Additionally, the Hyde Amendment has blocked federal Medicaid funding for abortion services since 1976. According to Planned Parenthood, that means Medicaid cannot cover abortion even in the event of a woman’s health being at risk and a situation in which her doctor recommends she get an abortion. Getting safe, affordable abortion care and having full reproductive freedom is a women's issue that hasn't changed, despite the strides that the ACA has made for more comprehensive women's health care coverage.
NARAL Pro-Choice America works to expand and protect reproductive freedom. They lobby Congress, and organize people to contact their lawmakers on their own as well. Find ways to get involved here.
The "Pink Tax"
While it might seem silly in comparison to something as monumental as gaining full reproductive freedom and demanding women's basic health care be covered, the pink tax is another women's issue that still needs to change.
According to the Huffington Post, in 2010, Consumer Reports found that products in a drugstore, like deodorant or shampoo, cost more if they are marketed to women. And California, the first state to ban gendered pricing more than 10 years ago in 1996, found that women spent an extra $1,351 per year on average in extra costs and fees for products and services that are equivalent to the ones men get and use.
Consumer Reports noted that the Institute for Women's Policy Research reported on the pink tax, and the numbers led Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, to introduce the Pink Tax Repeal Act in her state. The Institute for Women's Policy Research is probably a great source to get involved with this issue, or at least a source of information to use to lobby politicians to take the issue on.
Representation In Government
According to a New York Magazine article, women only hold about 20 percent of all national-level seats in government. The United States has an abysmal showing of women in government, an issue that is only slowly getting better. Organizations like EMILY’s List offer women a candidate training program, which assists in helping them to run for public office. And since Election Day, EMILY’s List has reported that they've had more than 4,000 people reach out to say they’re interested in running — 1,660 in particular since Inauguration Day.
According to New York Magazine, a similar organization, VoteRunLead, reports that, in the past two months, more than 2,300 women have signed up to take its online course as well. Thanks to groups like these, we will hopefully see better numbers of women being represented in government in the future. But we still have a long way to go to reach gender equity in government.
VoteRunLead and Emily's List are both organizations to get involved with to tackle the issue of a lack of women in government. Check out their websites for more information.
Bad Representation In Government
The people who are currently in power in politics are not always interested in advancing women's concerns either. For example, Trump’s top adviser, Steve Bannon, was the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a website for the "alt-right," before he took on a role with the current administration. Breitbart has published what many have called sexist and misogynistic content in the past. Just as a taste, a couple of headlines the outlet has featured include, "Trannies 49 Xs Higher HIV Rate,” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”
Disregarding the track record the current president has with women's concerns, let's take a lot at another politician at the top: Vice President Mike Pence. In 2015, Pence, an anti-abortion extremist, attempted to get a law passed that would force women to have funerals or cremations for aborted or miscarried fetuses. Though the law was blocked by a federal judge, his stance on the reproductive rights of women is clear. According to Forbes, he also once co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape to “forcible rape," to restrict abortion access even more.
Having that sort of representation in the highest levels of government is a women's issue. One that women have to take on leadership at the White House — by running for office or by calling out current leaders — to change. Groups like Emily's List are great if you want to run yourself, but organizations like the ACLU also work to keep those in government in check, and they could use your support.
Rape & Sexual Abuse
Rape and sexual abuse perpetrated mostly against women is still an issue. The National Sexual Violence Resource center reported that 1 in 5 women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. According to their information, 46.4 percent of lesbians, 74.9 percent of bisexual women, and 43.3 percent of heterosexual women reported sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes, and in 8 out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who assaulted them.
In particular, the NSVRC reported that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college, and 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 years old. This is an issue across age groups in the United States — but there is hope.
The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network reported that, "the rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63% since 1993, from a rate of 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993, to 1.6 per 1000 in 2015." So while the rates of sexual assault are falling, it's still an issue for women.
RAINN needs volunteers and donations, so if this is an issue you feel strongly about, find out how you can get involved with the organization here.
At work, women still face challenges. Equal pay for equal work is still not a reality in this country, and as it turns out, the rest of the world is still a little behind on the concept as well. A recent video clip of a Polish lawmaker —speaking on the floor of the European Parliament — saying that women don’t deserve equal pay because they are "weaker" and "less intelligent" than men, has gone viral. Yikes.
Here in the United States, a lack of pay equity becomes an even bigger problem when you look at the issue from an intersectional standpoint, and compare pay between different racial demographics. According to the American Association of University Women, Black women were paid 63 percent of what non-Hispanic white men were paid by comparison in 2015. Hispanic women make 54 percent as compared to the average wages of white men, and American Indian women 58 percent. This disparity needs to be remedied. And the pay gap persists across similar industries and even industries that many have argued there is not gap, including tech and web development.
If you agree, you can get involved with the AAUW here.
Discrimination in the Workplace
Although the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) — an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which protects against discrimination, "on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions," is a thing, women still deal with pregnancy discrimination on the job. And it's a concern that lawmakers are not always willing to even deal with, leaving it instead to women to just quit if it's something they face from an employer.
According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, between the 2011 and 2015 fiscal years, nearly 31,000 pregnancy discrimination complaints were filed with the EEOC and state labor practice agencies. That group also reported back in 2014 that more than a quarter million pregnant workers were denied accommodation requests.
And it's not just pregnant women who deal with discrimination in the workplace. Sex and gender discrimination at work is a women's issue that's still in play, and one that many organizations are fighting to diminish every day. But it's a bit of an uphill battle. An article in the Wall Street Journal from 2009 reported, "studies shows that employees who sue over discrimination lose at a higher rate in federal court than other types of plaintiffs." And partly because the odds against winning discrimination cases are so high, "job-discrimination case filings declined by 40% from 1999 to 2007, federal court records show."
Workplacefairness.org links to the National Partnership for Women and Families for information on sex/gender discrimination, and what you can do to help.
Parental & Family Leave
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, "only 14 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave through employer-provided short-term disability insurance." Those are shockingly low numbers, and according to data complied by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and reported by the Pew Research Center, in a study of 41 countries, only the United States does not mandate any paid leave for new parents. The U.S. is actually the only developed country that doesn't offer comprehensive federal paid leave.
MomsRising is an advocacy group of more than a million women who, "take on the most critical issues facing women, mothers, and families by educating the public and mobilizing massive grassroots actions," and one of the issues they fight for is family leave. Check out their "Take Action" page to see how you can get involved.
Breastfeeding in public is still considered somewhat taboo, and there are entire websites and articles devoted to advice for breastfeeding mothers and the laws they should know about if they choose to chestfeed in public. Every day, it seems like there's another news story out about someone being asked to breastfeed in private, or to not do so in a business or other public place entirely.
Breastfeeding is a perfectly natural act, and the goal should always be for a baby to be happy, healthy, and fed, no matter what means a parent uses to achieve that goal and where and when they feed their child. As long as public breastfeeding raises controversy, it's still an issue for women.
The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) is a nonprofit coalition of professional, educational, and governmental organizations with a mission to, "drive collaborative efforts for policy and practices that create a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States." Learn more about the group and how to support them and the cause here.
Excluding Trans Women
As long as some people try to exclude trans individuals from the narrative, the problem of excluding women in our own feminist goals, ideals, and circles will remain an issue. Despite the efforts of many, trans-exclusionary ideologies are still prevalent in some feminist circles. That should change.
Intersectional feminism should be the goal, every day that we fight for women's rights. As long as trans people are still fighting for the right to use the bathroom of their choice, and the current administration is pushing back against that right, transgender people who may identify as women are being discriminated against and excluded. We need to fight for and with them too.
As long as we exclude trans and gender non-binary people from our narratives, we are also hurting the next generation who will have to continue the fight. It's detrimental to the mental health and wellbeing of transgender children to have to grow up not being accepted for who they are. According to Science News, "nearly half (46.5 percent) of young transgender adults have attempted suicide at some point in their lives, a recent survey of over 2,000 people found."
To get in contact with the National Center for Transgender Equality, described as, "the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people," check out their website here.
The truth is, this list could go on and on. There are numerous women's issues that still need to change, and it will take a lot of work, and a whole lot more Women's History months, before many of them are dealt with. It will take all of us, working together, to solve these issues. Are you in?