On Jan. 21, the day after President Trump took office, millions of people around the world took to the streets in a bold demonstration of solidarity to rally for the rights of women and gender equality, above all else. For some, the Women’s March on Washington, and the many “sister marches” throughout the U.S. and abroad, provided a wake-up call to long-silent grievances. For others, the ills of gender inequality have endured as glaring cultural deficiencies for years.
Women have made enormous strides in the past decades. This past election season saw a woman nearly break through the topmost glass ceiling, but more work is still needed. Until all of us begin to view discrimination against women as a “societal” problem rather than as strictly a “female” problem, growth will remain stunted.
In a remarkable resurgence of feminist unity the city streets across the country were flooded with individuals, mostly women, donning pink hats and carrying signs that read, “Women’s rights are human rights,” or “#Grab America Back.” In Portland, nearly 100,000 people streamed into the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The multitude was joined by Douglas County residents who felt called to show their support as well.
“Women are not equal and we want equality. Back in the ‘70s, we were on the way there, and we’re not there yet,” said Francis Eatherington of Roseburg.
The tremendous outpouring of support and the diversity of voices raised begs the question, just how far have women come to gaining equality?
On the National Women’s Law Center website an interactive map shows what women make for every dollar made by men. In Oregon women overall earn an average of 80.8 cents for every dollar men make. But when the numbers are broken down even further by race the wage gap becomes even more dramatic with Asian American women earning 74.8 cents, African American women earning 70.2 cents, Native American women earning 61.6 cents and Latinas earning 51 cents.
The disparity extends even to Hollywood where, according to a 2016 Forbes magazine story, top paid actresses earned less than top paid actors. Jennifer Lawrence, who was named the top-earning female star, earned 71 percent at $46 million of what Dwayne Johnson, the top-earning male star, made at $64.5 million.
Outside the workplace women also face discrimination in education, athletics and as targets of sexual harassment in its many forms. The issues become even messier and more complex when diversity of race and sexuality are factored in. In many places abroad the challenges for women and girls are far greater.
The outpouring of support and the diversity of voices from women of multitudinous backgrounds, races and nationalities is promising for the future of equity between the sexes. Moreover the Women’s March is placing greater emphasis on creating a movement that is inclusive of other marginalized groups of women. More work, however, must be done to include men in the conversation.
The responsibility is everyone’s. Our humanity demands that we raise up those who are most in need of help. To accomplish this our way of approaching the issues and the terminology we use must alter. The Women’s March acknowledged this in their mission and vision statement that reads, “ We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families.” But the message fell short of real action.
A vast majority of the marchers were women, and rightly so. The march was, after all, named in the spirit of, for and by women.
When asked why he joined the van of Douglas County women protesting in Portland as the only man, Mike Martin responded that his wife had asked him. It is our hope that someday the desire to march for women’s rights will come naturally from the husband as well as the wife, the father as well as the daughter, the brother as well as the sister.
Other organizations have begun to recognize this need for greater inclusion of both sexes in the conversation. He for She, for example, is a UN Women solidarity campaign, the goal of which is to engage men and boys as ambassadors of change in the advancement of women. With advocates that include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, as well as a list of well-known artists including Forest Whitaker and Matt Damon the campaign is gaining traction.
Emphasizing the need for greater diversity of women within a feminist movement is of tremendous importance, but the invitation must also be extended to men. As many women discovered recently, progress is made at the pace of a gentle march on the road to equality. Yet, without the support of society as a whole true progress will never be achieved beyond political correctdness. The banner for women’s rights is one that should be carried by all.