When roughly a million people marched in Washington D.C. in January for women’s equality, there was some backlash. One woman’s Facebook post went viral as she declared she did not need anyone to march for her; that she was quite content with her level of equality as an American woman. The hashtag #NotMyMarch went viral. The sentiment was that women in the United States are equal enough, and many people pointed to the lives of women around the rest of the world, saying that, in comparison, American women have it great and should be happy and stop complaining already.
However, just because women in the U.S. do enjoy some benefits of living in this country, it by no means indicates that the story of the struggle for women’s rights is anywhere near over or that we have reached some kind of happy ending. Yes, women can now own land and vote, but even that took a lot of protesting and effort for us to get to that point.
And furthermore, who says that wanting to protect women’s rights here in the U.S. means that a person doesn’t care about the plight of women in other countries? Wanting to stand up for women’s equality in the U.S. and wanting to stand up for women’s rights worldwide are not mutually exclusive aims. The world unfortunately still needs feminism, and America is no exception.
In fact, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap report, the U.S. has actually been falling behind in the last year. Out of 144 countries considered, the U.S. came in 45th place, falling from 28th place in 2015. So, to those who say that American women had no good reason to march, I beg to differ. There is no better time to march than right now, as we are watching women’s hard-won equality slipping away, both in the U.S. and worldwide.
There are 44 other countries in the world that placed higher than the U.S. based on these criteria: health and survival, educational attainment, political empowerment and economic opportunity. According to the report, economic opportunity was the area that hurt the U.S.’s rating the most. Women’s participation in the workforce is declining in the past year and less women are in senior positions. Furthermore, women are still not making as much as their male counterparts in the workplace.
However, workplace inequality is definitely not limited to the U.S. The progress towards economic equality worldwide has stalled globally, as economic participation and opportunity drop to 59 percent. This is the lowest level that rating has been at since 2008.
Despite the fact that women attend universities in equal or higher numbers than men in 95 countries, there is the drop in women’s workforce participation. And women around the world are on average making half of what men make despite working longer hours. Only four out of the countries surveyed have equal numbers of males and females in the position of senior officials, managers and legislators.
The report found that the top five countries for women’s equality were Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Rwanda. The next five top countries are Ireland, the Philippines, Slovenia, New Zealand, and Nicaragua. Since the 2015 report, 68 countries have increased in ranking, and 74 have decreased.
The U.S. has been a leading force in shaping human rights policies for the rest of the world, but we are leaving our women behind, and many people refuse to see it. We have a moral responsibility to continue to be a trendsetter when it comes to human rights, and this includes basic human rights for our women.
At the rate things are now going, the global gender gap is not forecast to be closed until 2196. Now, tell me once again why there is no need for feminism, either here in the U.S., or worldwide. Tell me why a march was not needed.
By setting a higher standard for women’s equality domestically, the U.S. can help shape standards for the rest of the world. How can American women help empower the rest of the world if they are themselves being disempowered?
Women are roughly half of the world’s population, and they embody half of the human experience. As long as women’s rights are not proportionate to men’s, it is a humanitarian crisis that must be addressed. It starts here in the U.S. and reaches to the rest of the globe.