Although some Americans like to argue that we live in a "post-feminist" world, on some days, the news headlines seem like a time jump 50 years into the past. This week has been no different. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump released a dismal maternity leave plan that may end up discriminating against women; Trump also promised to crackdown on abortion rights; and several disturbing rape cases have surfaced, gaining international attention. These recent news stories are why we still need feminism in 2016.
Take this, for instance: in a letter addressed to "Pro-Life Leader" this week, Trump reaffirmed his (newfound) anti-abortion stance. Despite his previous pro-choice remarks, Trump stated that he is committed to advancing "the rights of unborn children and their mothers." Well, we'll see about that. According to him, Hillary Clinton's support of abortion and protection of the mother's rights are "extreme." He wrote:
She doesn't even try to hide her extremism. When asked on Meet the Press when unborn children have constitutional rights, Clinton bluntly responded, "The unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights."
Clearly, there is a great deal of progress to be made because Trump isn't the only one who opposes women's reproductive rights or believes Clinton's stance is "extreme."
Trump Lays Out His Plan For Abortion: It's Not a Good One
According to Trump, this means that, as president, he will nominate pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court; sign the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to end late-term abortions; defund Planned Parenthood and reallocate "their funding to community health centers that provide comprehensive health care for women" (which Planned Parenthood already does); and make the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal Medicaid funds from going toward abortions, permanent law. Trump's letter also asked his supporters to join his campaign's Pro-Life Coalition, which is being run by Marjorie Dannenfelser of the anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List.
It should be obvious that none of those policies will help people who are facing an unintended pregnancy, or advance the rights of "unborn children and their mothers." More than half of women who have abortions are already mothers; how do you advance their rights by forcing them to give birth to another child they perhaps cannot afford, making them spend even more money on an abortion procedure, or blocking them from health care centers?
Why Trump's Maternity Leave Policy Also Fails
When Ivanka Trump spoke at the Republican National Convention in July, she promised that her father would implement paid maternity leave for working American women. Currently, by the way, America is one of the only nations in the world without mandated paid leave for families. However, Trump's maternity leave plan, released on Sept. 13, desperately falls short. It may even work to discriminate against working mothers.
Trump's maternity leave plan includes extending six weeks of unemployment benefits to new mothers; tax credits for stay-at-home mothers; and making child care expenses tax deductible for families making under $500,000. "For many families in our country, childcare is now the single largest expense — even more than housing," Trump said in his statement this week. "Our plan will bring relief to working and middle-class families."
But Trump's plan has been criticized for several reasons. First, it leaves out men — and therefore, paternity leave — which forces more of the burden onto working mothers. It also leaves out same-sex couples, particularly gay men who have adopted children.
Trump's tax credit for stay-at-home mothers — and not stay-at-home fathers — also assumes that women should do the child-raising and most of the domestic work. He has been further criticized for reinforcing "traditional" gender roles and incentivizing women to drop out of the workforce and stay home.
But most importantly, making maternity leave fall under unemployment benefits does not really qualify as paid leave. Unemployment benefits would only be a fraction of what a woman makes weekly. Meanwhile, other nations provide either full or considerable paid leave; Sweden, for instance, gives men and women paid leave that's up to 80 percent of their earnings.
Rape Sparks Outrage From UNC To Paris
Sexual violence against women: It's real, it's present, and it exists in every corner of the world.
In Paris, a teenager was allegedly gang-raped near the Eiffel Tower this week. The teenage girl was reportedly found bound and gagged in the park where the famous landmark is located. Authorities believe she was sexually assaulted and beaten by several men, who are now in custody, the Irish Independent reported.
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a student's alleged rape has sparked protests and policy reform. Delaney Robinson, a UNC sophomore, came forward on Sept. 13 to report her alleged sexual assault, which occurred on Feb. 14, 2016. Robinson said she decided to publicly identify herself, because she was inspired by the recent injustice of the Brock Turner case. UNC students have been holding protests all week to stand in solidarity with Robinson.
And as more brave women continue to raise awareness of America's victim-blaming culture, this incredibly dangerous tendency will begin to dissipate. But not without the support of women and men around the nation.