Are you a woman in your twenties or thirties? Do you realize your rights are being eroded? Almost daily?
Here are some facts and statistics that you may not be aware of.
- 31 states allow rapists to sue their victims for visitation and custody rights if the woman becomes pregnant as a result of the rape.
- In some states, pharmacists are legally allowed to refuse to fill prescribed contraception medications based on their personal religious views.
- 2011 saw the emergence of a record number of abortion restrictions. The number is in the thousands and the list continues to grow.
- Republican legislators in states all over the country are working very hard to erode the rights women have now. An example: In Indiana, proposed legislation would force women seeking an abortion to have TWO unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound probes. The idea is to shame women and make them feel guilty because they are exercising their right to choose. Abortion is legal but the goal is to make it unavailable or more unpleasant than it already is. The goal is being realized.
- Oklahoma lawmakers are claiming the birth control pill is poison as an excuse to make it unavailable.
In many states Planned Parenthood clinics are losing funding and facing extinction.
These are only a few examples of how women’s rights and choices are being diminished.
How does this affect you?
As a young woman, it’s natural to be immersed in the things that fill up your daily schedule: Work, school, friends, socializing, family and it doesn’t leave much room for keeping up with politics. Of course there are young people who are aware of what’s going on, but in my efforts as an activist for women’s rights, it’s been my experience that women, no matter their age, aren’t aware of all that is happening and it’s scary. I’m scared because I fear it will take an absolute erosion of our rights to get youth to act.
Imagine what your life would be like if you no longer had the ability to choose abortion or if birth control was no longer available. I know it seems like that will never happen but the sad fact is it already is happening. In Mississippi, the only clinic that provides abortions in the entire state is at risk of being shut down, so even though abortion is still legal, it simply will not be there for any women in that state who wants one.
PBS aired a show that every American should watch. It’s called Makers: Women Who Make America and the link takes you to the online show. The three-hour program chronicles how women came together and advanced women’s liberation. In the late 60s and early 70s, young women all over the country were motivated to take action. They organized, protested and made sure their voices were heard.
The Feminine Mystique, written by Betty Friedan in 1963, spoke to an entire generation of women who felt their designated role as mother and homemaker was unfulfilling but never voiced their feelings of dissatisfaction for fear they were they only ones who felt that way. These women felt there must have been something wrong with them, so they said nothing. The book showed them they were not alone at all, that in fact, many other women were experiencing the same depression and dissatisfaction.
Women in the 60s and 70s attended college but when they earned their degrees, they had no avenue to pursue their talents because employers were primarily interested in hiring men. If women were fortunate enough to be hired, most were paid significantly less than men and didn’t have the same opportunities for advancement or salary increases. The women’s liberation movement took off. Women took to the streets and gathered in the thousands. They were organized and the sheer numbers made it possible to change the American landscape so that women can enjoy more equality. Their efforts afford you the opportunities you currently have. Those opportunities are now at risk of being taken away.
Young women of today do not feel they are as limited. They go to college, earn degrees and have the ability to work in almost any profession they choose and even though women are still only earning 77 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts, they are able to advance and even thrive. There’s no outrage and no feeling that protests are necessary.
My question to you is would you prefer to allow your rights to be taken away before you are moved to action, or would you prefer to be proactive in making sure the rights you still have are preserved and forge ahead with even more equality? Are you okay with the fact that rapists have more rights than their victims or that even though abortion is legal, it isn’t available for many women? Do you care that Republicans have blocked the Equal Pay bill or that they did everything the could to avoid reinstating the Violence Against Women Act?
In February of 2013 Congress finally sent the Violence Against Women Act to Obama – this is great news but understand, it’s been a huge battle. The GOP didn’t want to pass the act because they didn’t want to include gays and Native Americans. This bill not only includes those two groups, but also transgenders and immigrants. Women all around the country put pressure on Congress. UniteWomen.org worked very hard to get the VAWA passed. Their efforts have paid off and set a beautiful example of why it’s important to be informed, involved and active in government. You pay their salaries and they work for YOU!
Unions and the lack of them is a perfect way to illustrate what non-action costs us. With the loss of many unions in America, jobs have been outsourced to other countries, thereby removing opportunities here in the states. As a college graduate, you’re probably noticing that jobs are hard to come by. Walmart is an example of how this hurts you. They import cheap goods from China to sell. They don’t offer their employees a living wage and they don’t offer all employees full time status so they don’t have to provide medical benefits. These employees are often uneducated and have limited skills and not a lot of choices when it comes to job opportunities. CEOs pocket the majority of the profits leaving the employees to depend on government assistance such as food stamps to make up the difference. This is a vicious cycle that affects and costs taxpayers. The fact that there is no union to protect workers against the poor working conditions allows corporations to bleed the economy, while they collect billions. As a country we have allowed this to happen, and now it’s become more difficult for everyone to find good paying jobs because corporations are hoarding profits and are receiving government funding to outsource labor to countries like China.
I leave you with this: The Equal Rights Amendment was never fully ratified in 1972. Thirty-eight states were needed and we only got thirty-five. In short, if the ERA is ratified into the Constitution it would provide blanket protection for women. If a state law that currently protects women’s rights is overturned or changed, the ERA would overrule and serve to protect women against all kinds of discrimination. You can read more about how it would protect you HERE.
If your choice is to be proactive, here is a list of organizations and Facebook pages that will keep you up to date on local and national legislation pertaining to your rights. I hope you will make the effort and that you will also share this blog post and/or the links provided below with five of your friends. Social media is the most powerful tool we have to spread awareness.
|Kimberley A. Johnson (BIO) is the author of The Virgin Diaries and an activist for women’s rights. Like her on Facebook, Twitter or follow her on FB HERE.|