Friday Was a Good Day for Those Who Care About Women’s Rights.

by Pitt Griffin on May 27, 2018 · 0 comments

in Women

The arrest of Harvey Weinstein does not signal the end of the women’s civil rights movement. Nor did the Irish voting, overwhelmingly, for abortion freedoms. Differences between the sexes are still stark in pay, parenthood, and senior management.

No woman has ascended to the top political job in America —  which puts us behind Pakistan, India, Senegal, Liberia, Chile — and the other major English speaking democracies, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In all, that glass ceiling has been shattered in 59 countries.

But as Churchill said after the Battle of Alamein, the first significant victory for the British in North Africa during WWII:

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

That being said, it is understandable if American women today feel that the evangelical right has caused backsliding on women’s rights. Abortion is under greater threat than at any time since  Roe vs. Wade. Equal pay bills are fiercely resisted. Family leave has stalled at the federal level. And there is every reason to believe that in workplaces across America, despite the visibility of the ‘MeToo’ movement, women are still suffering the petty and gross abuses endemic in the work world.

Women are still underrepresented in boardrooms and government buildings. But here there is some good news. More women are running for office. Consider that this last Tuesday in two key Democratic runoffs — candidates for Georgia Governor and Texas’ 7th Congressional District — the two finalists were both women.

And while the journey still seems long — and it is — great strides have been made. While in pre-biblical Egypt women had many rights equal to men, from biblical times through the end of the middle-ages the number of property rights a woman had varied from constrained to none. Romantic marriage was generally unknown; a marriage was a contract. Even into the modern era, women were denied many of the rights men took for granted.

The best-known breakthrough is the right to vote. Women first won the national franchise in New Zealand in 1893. In the US in 1920. It took Switzerland until 1971. And Saudi Arabia finally came through in 2015.

Less known is that it took until 1993 for marital rape to be criminalized in all 50 states. And even to today marital rape is treated more leniently than non-marital rape in 11 states.

Until 1968 employers could advertise for applicants of a specific gender.

Until 1974, single women, divorcees, and widows needed a male cosigner for credit cards and loans.

Until 1978 women could be fired for becoming pregnant.

There are many other landmarks. Here’s a useful article on women and money: Women’s rights and their money: a timeline from Cleopatra to Lilly Ledbetter

Treating women as second-class citizens is dumb. It’s like taking half your capital and throwing it away. Women represent a deep pool of talent, even in fields where women were once scoffed at — say math and technology. Women are now allowed in combat. Although there still hasn’t been one on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Women have long been cops, astronauts, and even firefighters — even though the last is still a boy’s club.

Most of this advance has come by empowering women and raising girls to understand they have the right to fair and equal treatment in both the public and private spheres.

Now comes the second part. We need to educate men and raise boys to understand that they have no special privilege due to their sex. Which doesn’t mean they should be raised to be any less competitive than they already are, but only that they should realize their competition is equally likely to be a woman as a man.

They need to be raised to understand that the workplace is not an adult playground. The rules are simple enough. Do not touch or say anything to a woman you wouldn’t say to a man. I realize that many relationships and even marriages are between people who met at work. It’s where I met my wife. But there’s a difference between having a potential romantic interest in a specific person, who has the right to turn you down without risking her career — and just being an indiscriminate pig.

The strongest opposition to women’s rights comes from religious fundamentalists. They argue that their ancient book is relevant to the roles the sexes should play today. And feminism denies them their religious freedom. But that misses the point — or is a willful misstatement of the facts.

Feminism means no more than a woman has the same opportunities as a man. Women can still choose to take the role of housewife and be the parent most responsible for bringing up the children. There is no mandate that she strives to be the CEO of Apple — only that if she chooses to do so she would have the same shot at it as anyone else.

It’s like being pro-choice on abortion. It only means that you support a woman’s right to choose — not that you personally favor abortion.

Strong women are no threat to strong men. And husbands shouldn’t feel bad if their wives earn more than they do. All it means is that they married a successful woman. And she thought enough of the man to marry him in the first place.

Previous post:

Next post: