For women under the Trump Administration, one thing has been made clear- just because we were given rights doesn’t mean they can’t be taken away. Women have a lot to be angry about-- we have a President who openly admitted to sexually assaulting women, has suspended a federal regulation designed to close the gender-pay gap and has stacked the Supreme Court with anti-abortion judges. Recently, the Supreme Court announced that it will take an abortion access case from Louisiana that could essentially overturn Roe v. Wade (the ruling that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion). As a woman and a supporter of gender equality, it’s incredibly discouraging to see sexist ideals take precedence over women’s empowerment.
Today’s sexism is more difficult to understand than it was in the 20th century. Women are not commonly told that they should “stay in the kitchen” or are openly denied jobs based on their gender. While these problems do arise, they are in general viewed as blatantly sexist and problematic. The sexism that is prominent today is more nuanced, but also indicative of larger underlying cultural issues that are more difficult to combat. With such looming, nuanced issues facing women and a lack of government support, it is clear that women’s empowerment is more vital today than ever before.
Nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence at one time in their life. While the Trump Administration has made it clear that they will not fight to protect sexual assault survivors, the #MeToo movement has made great strides forward in terms of uncovering perpetrators of sexual assault and empowering women to speak out. However, there is more we can do to support survivors. The best way to support someone who has been assaulted is to simply be there for them. Let them share with you as much as they want without judgement and keep checking on them periodically to see how they’re doing. You can also share the number for the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673.
When we think of reproductive healthcare, we automatically think of abortion access. It has been shown time and time again, but it worth repeating-- banning abortion only stops safe abortions. However, there is more to reproductive healthcare than abortion. Reproductive health care encompasses STD prevention, birth control and access to safe pregnancy care and delivery services. The access to these services is especially vital today considering the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1991-- which is shocking even for developing countries. One of the largest providers of reproductive health care is Planned Parenthood, which provides care to 1.6 million women and girls. However, Planned Parenthood has recently lost funding because of a Trump administrations ruling which prohibited those who received Title X funding from providing or referring abortions. Without this funding, patients of planned parenthood are expected to see increased wait times and costs. To help Planned Parenthood empower women, see if you can volunteer at a Planned Parenthood near you or donate to their cause.
In order for women to be empowered in their daily lives, they have to be financially independent. Women are still paid on average 80 cents to every dollar a man makes for the same job (the numbers are even worse for women of color). As we stated earlier, President Trump has undermined women’s empowerment in this area by suspending efforts made under the Obama Administration to close this gap. Women aren’t asking for special treatment; we simply want to be paid what’s owed to us. One key way to fight the gender-pay gap is to encourage open salary policies at your place of work. An open salary policy is when all salaries at a company are made available to all employees. While this may be difficult to implement, it is critical that we be made aware of where salary disparities are so we can fight for equal pay.
In 2018, we saw a tremendous increase in the amount of female representation in Congress, but the numbers are still bleak. Women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population, but only 25 percent of the Senate and 23 percent of the House of Representatives. At the state level, representation is not significantly better- women make up only 29 percent of state legislators. We will be hard pressed to make any lasting changes in women’s lives if we can’t even receive equal representation in Congress. Vote in elections at the local, state and federal level for female candidates who will support women’s issues.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless when you see the huge scope of obstacles to gender equality. And the gravity of this situation cannot be denied-- woman face a long and difficult uphill battle to overcome systematic oppression. But as we’ve seen, there are some simple ways to encourage women’s empowerment, whether that’s through elections, volunteering or just simply by being a good friend.