In all the hoopla about James O’Keefe and Rand Paul‘s filibuster (still support him on that), I completely forgot aout International Women’s Day (IWD), which was yesterday. I was impressed to read the list of countries who now recognize the day. IWD has been observed since the early 1990s. It received a boost when women marched through New York city in 1908, demanding better working conditions (better pay and shorter hours) and voting rights. According to the official page:
“IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.”
Women’s rights globally have improved but according to that same site (and what we see around us):
“The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.”
As inspirational as it may be to read about advancements women have made globally — women have been elected president and prime minister in multiple countries, head up Fortune 500 companies and are in nearly every profession (a woman is slated to try out for the National Football League this year) — we are an inward looking country. I am not any better. When I am overseas as I am just as obsessed with what’s happening in the US as when I am here.
Why should women (and men) care about IWD in the United States, don’t we have equality here? No. Hillary may have put thousands of cracks in the glass ceiling but it is still there.
From a 2010 Washington Post piece:
“The distressing statistics don’t stop with violence: Women hold 17 percent of the seats in Congress; abortion is legal, but more than 85 percent of counties in the United States have no provider; women work outside the home, but they make about 76 cents to a man’s dollar and make up the majority of Americans living in poverty.”
Violence against women is a serious problem. As many as one in four women in the US are raped. In terms of domestic violence, female murder victims are most often killed by a partner. Additionally, murder is one of the leading causes of death among pregnant women.
According to the National Organization for Women (NOW):
“In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner.”
In cases of domestic violence, the victims are most often women. The problem of intimate partner violence has even been studied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They define it as:
“Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. The term “intimate partner violence” describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.”
“Data about nonfatal IPV victimizations and resulting health care service use were collected through the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS), funded by the National Institute of Justice and CDC. Based on NVAWS data, an estimated 5.3 million IPV victimizations occur among U.S. women ages 18 and older each year. This violence results in nearly 2.0 million injuries, more than 550,000 of which require medical attention. In addition, IPV victims also lose a total of nearly 8.0 million days of paid work—the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs—and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity as a result of the violence.”
This is why passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was so important and the law is still needed.
It is easy to look around and think that we have reached a point where we have full equality (unless you’re gay and then you know too well how different we treat straight couples than gay ones, though same sex marriage will be legal in my lifetime. Thank you Bill Clinton for your late decision the DOMA you signed into law should be overturned — read his op-ed here.) but we don’t. Women make less money, are not represented equally in government or in board rooms across the nation. Moreover, we are subject to more violence — domestic and not. VAWA did more than allocate resources, it made combatting it a priority. A friend asked me “Why did we need a federal law, couldn’t the states handle it?” He recounted stories about how, in Texas, law enforcement did not prosecute women who had killed their husbands (most were victims of domestic abuse, or that was the assumption). He added they started in the 1980s when more resources were made available to these women. Personally, I don’t want to leave my safety up to the whims of local sheriffs and prosecutors who may or may not believe domestic violence is an issue. That’s why we need this law.
Women have had the right to vote for less than 100 years (since 1920). In that time, a lot has changed. Progress has been made but we still have a long way to go.