7 Feminist Issues Less Famous Than The Wage Gap That Still Deserve Your Attention
Today is the twentieth annual observance of Equal Pay Day, a holiday dedicated to highlighting the ongoing wage disparity between male and female workers. As of today, women compromise around 46 percent of the total United States labor force, yet they consistently make less than men while performing the same jobs; the standard statistic, that women earn 79 cents to a man's dollar, doesn't even take into account things like race, which result in even further wage discrimination. But while it's obviously important to learn about and fight the wage gap, it's also important to focus on other feminist issues that are less famous, but still effect women's day-to-day life.
While it is important to stare at these wage gap statistics until the mere rage burns a hole in our collective brains, it's also vital that we realize that all gender inequalities are intrinsically linked — and that many of them that don't seem economically focused on the surface (like slut-shaming) can still impact women in ways that keep them out of higher paid positions, too.
The cycle of gender discrimination often feels like it has no end; but we can take steps to make the world better by becoming more aware of less popular but equally important feminist movements that have yet to garnish the attention they so rightfully deserve. So, with that in mind, here are seven feminist movements that aren't as popular as the wage gap, but are definitely just as vital to the progress we desperately need to make.
1. Online Harassment
A recent study conducted by the digital security firm Norton found that 76 percent of women under thirty experienced online harassment. It also found that one in seven experienced threats of physical violence, and that women endure twice as many death threats and threats of sexual violence as men. And still, somehow, devastating online harassment is often described as just a part of the internet that women should learn to “live with”; something that, if a woman doesn't appreciate, she should simply limit her time online.
The ongoing idea that women bring about their own abuse — rather than pinning blame on abusers themselves — is the reason why rape culture is allowed to manifest itself in a number of horrific and painful ways. Instead of putting the onus on women to police their abuser by limiting their voice or the amount of space we take up, society needs to advocate for harsher punishments for online — or any other kind — of harassment women experience on a daily basis. Groups like the Women's Media Center Speech Project offer both resources for women who are being harassed, as well as information for anyone who wants to learn more about the issue and what we can do to fight it.
While feminism has clearly taken center stage in an ongoing (and sometimes volatile) cultural conversation regarding gender equality, it often seems to be a specific “brand” of feminism that gets most of the attention — White Feminism. White Feminism assumes that white, cis and straight women are the default, and fails to include transgender women, women of color, women with other sexualities, or women who don’t fit into a certain predetermined social standard of beauty or attractiveness. It undermines the voices of marginalized women, who have very valid concerns about issues like race-related discrimination that are notoriously overlooked because they don’t directly impact the White Feminists who are predominantly celebrated.
Make no mistake — I am not saying that women who fall under the umbrella of White Feminism haven't suffered at the hands of gender inequality. But those very same women (who are white, cis-gendered and straight) are privileged in a way that many other feminists, simply, are not. Acknowledging and owning that privilege will help to create a more inclusive feminist moment, instead of continuing to neglect the voices of the “other.”
3. Ending The Tampon Tax
Believe it or not, tampons and other necessary feminine hygiene products are taxed. In fact, there are only a handful of states in this country that classify pads and tampons as tax-exempt products. Unless you live in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Alaska or Oregon, you’re being taxed for buying tampons, or similar products. In other words, you’re being taxed for having a period. Most women have no choice but to buy these products once a month (more or less), and this tax hurts low socioeconomic status women the most.
And while efforts to end “tampon taxes” and similar policies have gained in momentum and popularity — in fact, Canada just lifted the tax on all feminine hygiene products — more needs to be done in order to end sanctioned discrimination. Women cannot ignore their periods, and we shouldn’t be ignoring this sexist tax, either.
4. Paid Maternity/Family Leave
While the ongoing fight for mandatory paid maternity and/or family leave has garnered its fair share of headlines, it’s another example of how even the most newsworthy cause doesn’t always seem capable of creating positive and necessary change. The United States is, sadly, still the only economically advanced country in the world that doesn’t mandate paid family leave. The United State’s refusal to protect working families results in unhealthy postpartum practices that hurt mothers, fathers and their children. Man women are returning to work far too early, causing physical, emotional and psychological damage, and workers are forced to use sick days just so they can bond with or care for their new family member — despite the fact that bonding with a new child has numerous proven benefits for both parent and baby.
The absence of mandatory paid family leave — which, at first glance, seems to only punish working mothers for either A) deciding to procreate or B) deciding to work after procreating — also hurts men, who are typically not given the option to take time off to be with their new child, and thus forced to adhere to the gender stereotype that insists raising children is a “woman’s job,” and not a “parent’s job.”
5. Fighting Slut-Shaming
The term "slut-shaming" has gained increasing visibility, with events like The Amber Rose Slut Walk and movements provoked by UnSlut: A Documentary. For those who don’t know, slut-shaming is the ongoing criticism of women for real or perceived sexual activity. It is also a byproduct of our prevalent rape culture, as it is usually used to victim-blame those who have endured rape or sexual assault.
Still, despite all this increased awareness, slut-shaming remains a major issue: one major example is high schools which continue to pass dress codes that highlight and reinforce rape culture. Just recently, a high school in California forced its students to sign “prom contracts”, that attempted to police the kind of prom dresses their female students were likely to wear. A high school principle in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recently penned a pro-dress code ditorial, claiming his school’s policies “protect girls’ modesty.” So while the issue has increased visibility, the problem of slut-shaming is far from solved. In fact, like many movements, it has been subject to increased public hostility as it has become more popular.
6. The Lack Of Female Business Leaders
Only 14.2 percent of the top five leadership positions in S&P 500 companies are filled by women. To put it in even more devastating perspective, out of those 500 companies, only 24 have female CEOs. And while there are many theories as to why women are less likely to become CEOs than men — like the prevailing social and personal pressures that are exclusive to women, such as beliefs that women should occupy specific roles within their families — sexism in the work place is, without a doubt, one of the reasons.
The subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle sexism women face in the workplace — which can include everything from sexual harassment to having their ideas passed over simply because they are women — have made it difficult for women to advance in the professional world. There were 11,717 workplace sexual harassment charges brought in 2010, 83 percent of them filed by women. There are many reasons that four in ten businesses don't have women in senior management positions — but workplace sexism certainly accounts for most of them.
7. Body Positivity
Again, body positivity is another example of a movement that has experienced increased hostility as it has gained in popularity. While there are multiple interpretations of the body positive movement, at the core of body-positivity is the idea that all bodies are good bodies, worthy of self-love, self-care, acceptance and respect.
Yet, the body-positive movement is consistently being attacked by individuals who claim self-acceptance is enabling unhealthy behaviors (recall last year's hateful fat-shaming viral video by Nicole Arbour for just one high profile example). Rarely are these naysayers actually concerned with a relative stranger’s health — nor can any one person determine another person’s health based on appearance alone — yet the idea that body-positivity somehow equals self-destructive habits has remained, and continues to be a hurdle for a movement that simply promotes self-acceptance.
We can be proud of the progress we've made, while still accepting that there is a lot of work to be done; and we can be happy about the attention that certain issues have received while still understanding that other issues deserve the same kind of spotlight. So this Equal Pay Day, remember these other issues — just because they don't have a holiday or a trending hashtag, doesn't mean they don't deserve the same amount of attention.
Images: Caroline Wurtzel/ Bustle; Giphy