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#WhatWomenNeed, Valentine’s Day and Beyond

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February 19, 2014

I loved All Above All’s Valentine’s Day twitter campaign. The simple #WhatWomenNeed was a great way to raise awareness about abortion coverage. It got me thinking about the big picture. What women need, for Valentine’s Day and beyond. Narrowing the list down to 5 was difficult. This is certainly not comprehensive. But I think it’s a good place to start.

1. Sexual assault needs to be taken seriously: Sexual assault is an epidemic. Ms. magazine reports that “1 in 5 women will experience a rape or an attempted rape at some point during college.” Activists, students, women and their allies have been campaigning for decades in the hopes of getting the public and our government to take sexual assault seriously. There have been many articles and books and blog posts written about the devastating effects of rape culture. After years and years of hard work, I’m glad to see that all the work has not been in vain. I was pleased to read that California is tackling the college rape epidemic with Senate Bill 967. The President is also taking action. It is my hope that all of this action is only the beginning of a long lists of actions that will tackle sexual assault and topple rape culture once and for all.

2. Equal pay for equal work: On average women in the workforce are paid 77 cents to a man’s dollar. The gender wage gap is even more distressing when you take into account factors like race, disability and sexual orientation. The National Women’s Law Center breaks it down like this:

  • African-American women working full time, year round typically make only 64 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts. For Hispanic women this figure is only 54  cents.
  • Women in same-sex couples have a median personal income of $38,000, compared to $47,000 for  men in same-sex couples and $48,000 for men in different-sex couples.
  • Lesbian women are far more likely than gay men to support children – 49 percent of lesbian  and bisexual women report having a child compared to 19 percent of gay and bisexual men.
  • Women with disabilities working full time, year round are typically paid just 82.5 percent of what their  male counterparts with disabilities are paid.

Older women also experience a wage gap in retirement income, due in large part to the wage gap they experienced during their working years.

It is bullshit that the wage gap persists. The National Women’s Law Center offers the following solutions to eliminating the wage gap.Support raising the minimum wage. Join the fight for 15, and you can also send a message to the president to end retaliatory pay secrecy policies among federal contractors. Together we can end this discriminatory policy once and for all.

3. An end to the attacks on reproductive rights: We know that the abortion rate is declining (for some women) and yet, the attacks on reproductive rights has been on the increase. All over the country state governments are busy chopping away at a woman’s right to a legal procedure. Abortion clinics have been closing in my home state of Ohio. We are witnessing the horrific impacts of the further abortion restrictions that Governor Kasich added to the state’s budget last summer. Right now, a Cincinnati clinic is at risk of closing. The Columbus Dispatch reports that “any new closures will result in Ohio having fewer than 10 abortion clinics for the first time in decades.” It’s as if Roe v. Wade never happened. One thing we must keep in mind is that the impacts of all these closures will not be distributed equally. Low income women (they are struggling enough as it is)  will be disproportionately affected by all of the attacks on reproductive rights. More than ever we need legislators who give a damn about reproductive justice.

4. Equal representation in government: Perhaps you may have noticed that a lot of the people making health care decisions for women tend to be (white) men. Women make up half of the population of this country and yet, we are grossly underrepresented in government. So much so that when the total number of women in the Senate hit 20, it was headline news. According to the Center for American Women and Politics(CAWP), women currently hold 99 (18.5%) of the 535 seats in the 113th Congress. 99. out of 535. A lot of the 99 women happen to be white. In 2012, Mazie Hirono (D-HI) was the first Asian/Pacific Islander woman to be elected to the senate. Not only are we not sending enough women to Congress, we are not sending enough Women of Color to Congress. Women of this country deserve better. If we are ever to have a more transparent, inclusive and accessible government, we need to elect more women. It goes without saying that we need not just more women, but women who fully support reproductive justice.

5. Trans* women need to be included in discussions about violence against women: The 2012 report from the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs had some troubling findings:

  • Transgender people were 1.67 times as likely to experience threats and intimidation compared to LGBTQ non-transgender survivors and victims.
  • The 2012 report found that 73.1% of all anti-LGBTQ homicide victims in 2012 were people of color. Of the 25 known homicide victims in 2012 whose race/ethnicity was disclosed, 54% were Black/African American, 15% Latin@, 12% White and 4% Native American.
  • The report also found that 53.8% of anti-LGBTQ homicide victims in 2012 were transgender women. This is a considerable increase from 2011 (40%) and continues a three-year trend toward disproportionate and severe violence experienced by transgender women.

We can’t begin to tackle the very big, very complicated issue that is violence against women if we are excluding some women. Then there’s the issue of violence against trans women not being taken seriously enough by law enforcement. Islan Nettles comes to mind. Or trans women getting arrested when they dare defend themselves against racist, transphobic attacks. It is very troubling when the people tasked with protecting you end up being the source of harassment and abuse. Reporting violence to the policy is not always possible because transgender people experience policy violence. They are 3.32 times as likely to experience police violence compared to non-transgender people. Violence against trans* people and trans women is very real and needs to be taken seriously.

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