The Relevance of Women’s Rights
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The onset of the 1920s prompted newfound liberation for American women. The passage of the 19 amendment on August 18, 1920 signified the success of the most tangible goal of the first wave of feminism: U.S. citizens could no longer be denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. Women now had an unprecedented voice in politics which percolated into their attitudes toward traditional, gender based rules of conduct. The stereotypical 1920s “flapper” remains an iconic image of women’s empowerment; her cropped hair, short dresses, and usage of cigarettes and illegal alcohol defied any preconceived notions of a woman’s place in society. While idyllic, the flappers unfortunately represented a minuscule sector of the populous; women were still expected to aspire to marriage, seldom attended college, and rarely worked jobs outside the home. However, integral strides were made during this decade toward the numerous freedoms today’s women take for granted.
Although the vote is now regarded as an indisputable right for all US citizens, it is easy to forget that the 19 amendment was passed less than a century ago. While women’s rights have made miraculous strides in the years that have followed, the situation of women in the United States remains a prominent topic in today’s political, economic and social discourse. As the new wave of feminism gains insurmountable momentum, its discernable objectives have become increasingly divisive and unclear. While the objectives of early feminists have long been completed, the modern women’s movement focuses on the less concrete yet equally sizeable obstacles women have yet to overcome.
Despite the fragmentation of the modern women’s movement, its power and influence is more pervasive now than ever. On January 21, 2017, what began as a women’s march on Washington escalated into a worldwide protest that spanned all seven continents and drew an estimated 5 million people, making it the largest single day demonstration in history. The Women’s March exemplifies the eclectic nature of modern feminist issues; the marches addressed topics such as immigration reform, environmentalism, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, religious freedom, and worker’s rights in conjunction with the primary concern of women’s rights. The marches displayed one of the most prevalent components of today’s feminism: its emphasis on intersectionality, which highlights how racial and socioeconomic identities intertwine with sexism and oppression.
While modern feminism is mainly focused on cultural perceptions such as stereotypes and media portrayals rather than tangible governmental objectives, the Women’s Marches were inherently political, with the majority of its messaging targeting president Donald Trump. Trump’s derogatory and sexist comments and his administration’s opposition to government funding of Planned Parenthood were most notably addressed. However, despite the increasing partisanship of today’s social and political culture, there are inarguable barriers that American women have yet to overcome. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are paid, on average, 78 cents to their male coworker’s dollar, with the disparity even higher for minorities. According to RAINN.org, one out of every six American women is a victim of attempted or completed rape. Less than 20-percent of our government is comprised of women, and the largest glass ceiling in the country has yet to be broken. While the progress made over the last century is commendable, women’s rights are far from an antiquated topic; their relevance will remain as long as gender-based inequality exists both in the United States and around the world.