March has been designated as National Women’s History month to honor the historical struggles and accomplishments of America’s women. Although women have made progress in America’s patriarchal society, they have not achieved parity with men and it is in great part due to conservative Christian ideology; not lack of ability, motivation, or will to succeed. The mindset that women are inferior to men did not begin with the founding of our country, but the Founding Fathers followed established discriminatory practices that have been in place since the bible’s earliest record.
The Christian bible mandates (1 Co 11:3, Eph 5:22) that women subject themselves to a man’s will in all things and male-dominated societies have promulgated that notion up until modern times; in some societies, it is still the law of the land. American women are not held in the same esteem as some Muslim societies are, but they are certainly not enjoying the same freedoms and equality as their male counterparts whether in government or the workplace. In fact, many Muslim countries have a higher representation of women in government than in America regardless that Islamic law traditionally considers women as little more than possessions. In some Muslim societies and third-world countries, women are culturally discouraged from bringing in more income than men. American women do not enjoy income parity with men in part because of culture and more ostensibly because of Republican policies.
In a White House report released this past week entitled, WOMEN IN AMERICA, Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being, statistics showed that women earn on average 75% of what their male counterparts earned in 2009. The income disparity is across all levels of education and experience as well as all job descriptions. The numbers of women and men in the labor force are nearly equal, and young women are more likely to have a college or graduate degree than young men. In spite of a feminist movement that began in earnest in the 1970’s, it is becoming apparent that women have plateaued in the area of income parity. In other areas though, women are under assault from Republicans who are on a rampage to deprive women, primarily poor women, of their equal protection under the law guaranteed by the Constitution. It has been documented before in this column that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has categorically stated that women are not protected by the equal protection clause in the 14TH Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The fact that women do not enjoy income parity with men is not because they have not prepared themselves to be competitive in the workplace or education. Debra Fitzpatrick is the director of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute’s Center on Women and Public Policy; she said, “Despite women doing all the right things to gain economic parity, we’re still seeing there is this tenaciousness to these issues.” Fitzpatrick goes on to say that, “This all points to the fact that the revolution isn’t finished.” If, as data bears out, women are doing all the right things there should not be income inequality. However, despite being better educated and prepared to enter the workplace as men in the same fields, women still earn less as a matter of course.
In a New York state study of starting salaries by gender of physicians leaving residency programs from 1999 to 2008, the research showed that the gender gap cannot be explained by specialty choice, practice setting, work hours, or other characteristics. The study concluded that the trend is “unexplained” and “growing over time.” In 2008, male doctors starting in New York state made, on average, more than $16,000 more than newly trained female doctors compared with a $3,600 difference in 1999. The inequality may be growing and unexplained to researchers, but actions by the Republican majority in the House clearly show the blatant disregard and contempt our male-dominated society has for women.
Republicans have been unrelenting in attempts at cutting services for women; especially poor women. The current Republican attacks on teacher unions are more than just an attempt at union-busting. Statistics from 2010 show that 81.8% of elementary school teachers, 57% of secondary teachers, and 92% of kindergarten and pre-school teachers are women. Wisconsin Governor Walker exempted police and firefighters from the ban on collective bargaining because both of those professions are primarily held by men. Many public school critics say teachers are just glorified baby-sitters who deserve minimum wage and no benefits as if they are teenage girls earning spending money. There has not been the same level of anti-union sentiment aimed at traditional male-dominated professions like law enforcement (13% female), firefighters (3.6% female), or construction work (2.6% female). It does not seem to be any other reason than women are not valued the way men are.
In Congress and state legislatures around the country, Republicans consistently vote to perpetuate gender inequality in pay, health insurance, and health services because they are still laboring under the bible’s directive that women are not equal to men. There is a class-action lawsuit before the Supreme Court by about a million women against Wal-Mart stores for pay discrimination; gender inequality is rampant in this country and no profession is immune. There is no other reasonable explanation and in many conservative circles women are expected to stay at home, give birth, and empty chamber pots for the male. It begs the question; why would any woman ever vote for a Republican?
It is somewhat understandable that in third-world countries and Islamic culture women are treated as possessions for men. It is not understandable why in the greatest country in the world women earn 25% less than a man doing the same job. There are, of course, economic considerations at play and corporations will do anything to bolster their profit margin by paying women less than men. Many older conservative Americans who yearn to return to 1950 still believe that only men should work outside of the home and women should stay home and give birth. Many conservative politicians are doing everything in their legislative power to return women to the role of homemaker and little else.
This month 50% of Americans are being honored for their accomplishments and struggles toward gaining equality in the workplace, government, and civil rights. The White House report shows that women have made progress but there is much more work to do. Women have done everything they have been asked to be treated fairly in the workplace and still it is not enough, and according to statistics, they are losing the battle for equality on every front. Republicans continue to lead the attacks on equal rights for women, and it is a mystery why women support them.
It is time for men to stand with women and demand that half of our population is treated with the same respect and fairness that every man enjoys. Americans have much to be ashamed of, but mistreating our women and treating them like third-class citizens has to be at the top of the shame-list, and it all starts with conservative Christians who cling to bible mythology that women are less than men.