Between constant moves by conservative politicians to restrict access to abortion and the recent fight to defund Planned Parenthood, women's rights to make decisions about their own hoo-has — or lives, generally — are becoming more and more limited. Aside from women's health issues, there are a number of social issues that feminists should pay attention to in the news right now. Because to run the world, feminists first need to be informed about the issues that could hurt or help the cause for gender equality.
When you're browsing the news in the morning, it's important to keep in mind that women's health isn't the only real feminist issue out there. Reproductive rights are just a small part of social necessities that women are often denied. (We are more than just our ovaries, thanks!) Issues that you wouldn't immediately think of as feminist issues can impact gender equality, and when you're informed about them you can voice your opinion or attend a rally or sign a petition that's circulating the internet. From the case of Sandra Bland's alleged mistreatment by police in Texas to the move to raise the federal minimum wage, there are a number of news events that you should pay attention to this week, because they are critical feminist issues.
The Push To Defund Planned Parenthood
Anti-abortion activists from the Center for Medical Progress posed as employees of various medical research companies and secretly recorded their meetings with Planned Parenthood officials, where they questioned them about potentially selling fetal tissue, which is illegal in the U.S. CMP released the videos, which have been heavily edited, in an attempted "sting" operation against the organization. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has repeatedly said that organization doesn't sell fetal tissue, and the amounts quoted in the video are what Planned Parenthood uses for shipping donated tissue — a stipulation that the Planned Parenthood executive in the film even specifies herself.
Unfortunately, conservative politicians are ignoring the inherent bias in the videos and the fact that they don't portray or prove that Planned Parenthood has done anything illegal. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, told CBS that he plans to push for legislation that would cut Planned Parenthood off from receiving federal funding. He said "the things they are doing are unacceptable to a vast majority of people — pro-life or pro-choice," according to CNN. Oh, yeah, like giving breast cancer screenings to women across the country, or helping them get birth control, or testing for urinary tract infections, or performing procedures that prevent cervical cancer — these are all obviously "unacceptable" things that no one agrees with. In reality, women around the country rely on Planned Parenthood for low-cost healthcare, and the move to strip that away would specifically hurt teens and low-income women across the country.
Sandra Bland & Police Brutality
Bland's case is a feminist issue because she was a woman of color who was allegedly mistreated by a police officer and held in jail for three days before she committed suicide. Eesha Pandit, a columnist for Salon, pointed out that feminists "sprang to action" after the Planned Parenthood controversy by starting the hashtag #StandWithPP to show that they saw through anti-abortion attacks. Pandit claims that few white feminists spoke of Bland's death as a feminist issue.
In reality, Bland's case does raise questions about police brutality, but those questions can't be separated from who she is: a black woman. Black women are historically and systemically mistreated by police officers, which is why Bland's treatment during her arrest and in the moments until her death should be scrutinized by the feminist community.
National Conversations About Race Relations
There's a lot of overlap in the structures that allow gender inequality to persist and the structures that fuel racial inequality. The feminist movement isn't just about elevating white women — a critique it has received since the rise of second-wave feminism in the early '60s. In the end, power structures like police brutality or the wage gap might not affect white women as often as they affect black women, but they still affect the movement for equality because they are often about maintaining the status quo: male power.
So, read about what's going on in the country regarding race relations. A great place to start is Bustle's article on the problem behind only humanizing white mass shooters.
Fights To Raise The Minimum Wage
On Wednesday, a wage panel convened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommended that the minimum wage for fast-food workers be raised to $15 an hour, according to The New York Times. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle have all raised their minimum wages to $15 to help accommodate for the rising cost of living.
This is a feminist issue you should be watching because, contrary to many myths, many fast-food workers are single parents who are trying to raise a family, according to The Washington Post. Further, women in the fast-food industry are often more affected by the wage gap than women who make a higher income, according to the Daily Beast:
People of color make up 32 percent of the total American workforce but a disproportionate 42 percent of minimum-wage earners. And in the restaurant and fast-food industries, the majority of those workers are women of color — who, studies show, are paid 60 percent less than their male counterparts. Over 13 percent of food-industry workers rely on food stamps to feed their own families, almost double the rate of workers in other industries.
Fights to raise the minimum wage are fights to help low-income women make the money they need to support themselves and their families in the same way that men can.
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