Sunday, August 31, 2014

Womanhood In A Nutshell

It's not being dramatic to say American women are in terrible circumstances.  To those who believe differently, before you scoff please read this through.  All in one sitting, read this through and realize that your mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and wives are affected by everything below.  Half the country abides by what is written below.  No woman is safe, and that fundamental understanding is truly what separates us from the boys.  Men don't have to worry about a lot of the things women do, and while that street goes both ways the purpose of this article is to shed a little light on what the women in your life have to think about.  Every single day.

1. One in six will be the victim of sexual assault.  According to RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) 17.7 million women have been the victims of rape.  Do you really think if 17.7 million men were raped, humiliated, scarred and beaten that this would be allowed?  But when it's women, the reactions fall between "well, that's unfortunate" with little emphasis on fixing the problem, to accusations of how the accuser had a hand in their own attack.  Rape doesn't know an age limit or stick to a certain class.  To pretend it's only slutty young girls who don't wear enough clothes implies that mothers, responsible women, good Christian role models don't find themselves being victimized.  It also implies that acting or dressing a certain way incites rape and therefore bears some responsibility in the attack.  That couldn't be farther from the truth. And while we try to spread the message, untold millions of women suffer that fate as the price of our society's ignorance, plain and simple.

But hey, let's say that it did happen to someone you love.  Let's say it does, and they catch the guy, because that's supposed to make everything all better despite the nightmares, and this  happens:
A British man was sentenced to five years in prison for raping an unconscious woman. According to a report from the Hull Daily Mail, it took the jury just over two hours to unanimously conclude that Lee Setford was guilty of raping a woman who was asleep on his couch. But here’s what the judge told him upon sentencing, “I do not regard you as a classic rapist. I do not think you are a general danger to strangers. You are not the type who goes searching for a woman to rape.
In what world is a man found guilty of a violent felony beyond the shadow of a doubt by unanimous vote "not a general danger" to strangers?  Our world.  According to the judge's own words, the woman who was sleeping must have had a role in her attack because this guy was pretty ordinary.  Somehow, he didn't think it was (entirely) the fault of the guy who jumped on her while she was asleep and used her body against her will.  And somehow, not searching for a woman to rape makes him more upstanding than a fellow who just rips the clothes off a woman who is nearby and vulnerable.  There are plenty of cases in the United States of this exact type of thinking in the courts, but I chose a timely example that encompassed so many problems we see again and again.

Because guys... you see these cases and they slide out of your memory.  We don't. And for one in six of us, it's because we know just what that poor woman felt like because we have experienced it for ourselves. I get it, I don't lie awake at night worrying about whatever it is men worry about.  But before you dismiss this as something that doesn't happen, look at the number.  That's more than all the men in the state of Texas, Rhode Island and Georgia combined.  Any other crime that magnitude and frequency would be the shame of law enforcement everywhere, not a topic for debate on whether a low-cut sweater or falling asleep was asking for it.

2. It's a little more serious than "women just can't catch a break."  I grew up in the 1980s, when women were being encouraged to get out in the field and work, partly in response to the Regan-era layoffs and the resulting decay of workplace protections.  Here, in a nutshell, is a woman's career path:

  • If you make it through school, in light of the favoritism shown against women with mentors in the field, you graduate and get to work.  You're new and young and will have to answer questions like "how do you plan to juggle kids and your job" because your future has already been forecast.
  • If you graduate, you are one of many.  The Wall Street Journal reports more women are graduating than men on a consistent basis.  So yay, women are making progress!  Except we're not.  Because despite our success rate in finishing school, our working lives are not in line with our progress on that front.
  • If we have more women graduates who studies show outperform men in school, then why does USA Today report that 16 out of 500 as the most consecutive women to run Fortune 500 companies?  Where are all these bright, hardworking, outperforming and tenacious future leaders getting stuck? VitaminW gives us this this graphic to illustrate why half the graduates only occupy so few of the top jobs in their field.

  • Also, getting paid seventy-seven cents on the dollar may also have something to do with it.  It's hard to find incentive to work harder when your best efforts may only get you to equal ground (and that's a mighty big maybe).  Those who contradict the statistic point out that it is a bit skewed because women dominate fields like receptionist, waitress, and other low-paying jobs (despite our increased graduates with associates degrees and higher).  The seventy seven cents part is correct, the mistake is people say it's for "doing the same work."  It's not.  Because women don't get promoted to those high-ranking jobs, and are kept in supporting but low-paying roles, it's still valid to say that we earn that much less across the board.  Because if we were given equal opportunity and held to the same standards and rewarded by the same standards, that number would be zero.
  • If you land a decent job and are lucky enough to be able to afford to make a living with just one job, you now have to pay 68% more out of pocket for your health care costs.  As Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out, and to the utter shock of the researchers at PolitiFact, that statistic hasn't significantly  changed since 1994.  That's right.  I'm almost forty years old, and every year since I graduated high school, I have had to pay more for basic care and medicines, and told it was only fair because I might become pregnant and tax the system.  My whole life, there's been zero improvement on something necessary to our lives and happiness, and it's not going to change anytime soon.  And now, depending on the whim of others, my rights to healthcare, medicine and perfectly legal procedures can be taken away or restricted. 
  • And even if you do make it, you're one of the four percent and you've beaten a string of odds so long that nobody can really believe it, some asshole like Matt Lauer will ask you how you juggle kids and your job, and send you right back to that first job interview you had when you graduated college.  
Add to that being measured by how doable you are instead of how accomplished you are, getting ahead only for one boss to stall your career because of how he feels about women in the workplace, worrying about getting raped or attacked by a stranger who comes on to you and is turned down.  Entire articles are written about the things women have to do differently at all times or risk being attacked, while men go through few if any of those hoops to protect themselves.  Yet we're told we are treated as equals (we aren't) and that our voices are heard (not even close) and that we are valued members of the workforce (who get paid less and charged more for benefits) and that we're being bitchy or somehow wrong if we speak up.  

Long list, huh?  Now realize that if every single one of those problems were to go away, after fifty years of work and dedication and wholehearted attempts at reform... we would just then be on even footing.  Not ahead, not advantaged... even.

We struggle and live under this every single day, while patronizing jackasses tell us to be grateful we live in such a progressive country.  One that will at least give us food stamps after using us for cheap labor and pawns to score political points.

Don't you want more for the women in your life?