Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, which originated in the U.S. in 1908 as 15,000 women marched on the streets of New York City, demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. (The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote wasn’t ratified by Congress until 1920.) In 1909, National Women’s Day was recognized in the U.S. on Feb. 28. Over the next several years, several European countries, plus Russia, joined the movement, holding large rallies that included men and women for International Women’s Day to advocate for rights to work, vote, hold public office and to end discrimination. In 1975, the United Nations officially celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8. With over a century of fighting for women’s rights in various arenas of society, how well is the United States, the country that was the impetus of the movement, doing?
In the 2017 Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum, the U.S. came in at 49. The reasoning:
The United States moves down four spots compared to last year. It records some improvement on the Economic Opportunity and Participation subindex — in particular due to a smaller gender gap on the wage equality for similar work indicator — but experiences a decline on the Political Empowerment subindex, which stands at its lowest level since 2007, due, in particular, to a significant decrease in gender parity in ministerial level positions. More positively, the United States has fully closed its gender gap in Educational Attainment for a number of years, highlighting the substantial potential of the country’s next-generation female workforce. The United States has closed nearly 72 percent of its overall gender gap, a decrease of 2 percent since 2015.
According to research done by the Inter-Parliamentary Union regarding women’s representation, the U.S. dropped from 52nd 20 years ago to 104th in 2017 among more than 190 countries. The United States is also one of seven United Nations members that have not adopted and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, an international treaty that promises to end discrimination, establish equality and fight against violence. There are 186 nations that have ratified the convention.
While women, females, may not be forced into marriage or be stoned for cheating on their husbands or for not being virgins, the United States has some clear problems. And while some women may prefer a male-dominated society, having a choice in the matter is obviously critical in so many facets of life, from the workplace to the homestead. Though the #MeToo movement gave women the courage to speak out against harassment and sexual violence, it seems as though the bar is set pretty low that such a movement has to exist in the first place so that women will have backing and feel they can avoid certain repercussions for demanding a little respect.
It’s hard to feel good about International Women’s Day when the U.S. continues to drop in rankings on a global scale, though we can at least say that we aren’t as bad as lowest-ranking countries. At this point, the only thing that really matters is getting women involved in politics who really relate to a widespread gamut of women and men alike. Dividing and demeaning one another helps no one.