10 Things to Thank Feminists for (and 10 Things We Still Need to Work on)Joslyn Gray
Oh, those wacky feminists. Always burning their bras and eating granola and asking for equality n’ stuff. Like, you know, the right to vote, control your own money, and leave a man who beats the crap out of you. Crazy stuff like that.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we bring you 10 things we can truly thank feminists for, and 10 more things we still need to work on.
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The right to own property 2 of 22In 1848, the State of New York became the first in the U.S. to pass a law granting married women the right to control their own property. Prior to that, women ceded all legal rights to their husbands upon marriage in a practice called coverture. By 1900, every state had given women substantial control over their property.
(Pictured: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was instrumental in the passage of the 1848 New York State Married Women's Property Act. Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
The right to hold public office 3 of 22Although women still couldn't vote in 1788, the United States allowed female citizens to run for election to federal office. In 1932 Hattie Caraway (D-AR) became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate — and she won by a landslide.
Currently, 17 of the 100 U.S. Senators are women. Of the 435 members of the U.S. Congress, 76 are women.
(Pictured: Senator Hattie Caraway. Photo Credit: U.S. Senate Historical Office)
The right to vote 4 of 22Women achieved the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits any U.S. Citizen to be denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. (Unfortunately, women still cannot vote in Saudi Arabia.)
Are you making the most of this right? In the 2008 presidential election, 66 percent of eligible women voters actually voted. (Only 62 percent of eligible men voters did.) But of women aged 18-24, only 52 percent voted. Sigh … if only we could vote by text message.
(Pictured: Women demonstrate for the right to vote in February 1913. Photo Credit: Library of Congress)
Access to education 5 of 22The first U.S. college to admit women, men, and people of color all at the same time (gasp!) was Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH. One of Oberlin's most prominent graduates was noted abolitionist and women's rights pioneer Lucy Stone.
What was available before Oberlin admitted women in 1833? A handful of single-sex education institutions. One of the first women's colleges was the hilariously named Single Sister's House, which is now Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC.
(Pictured: Oberlin students in the 1850s. Photo Credit: Oberlin College)
The right to choose whom to marry* — or not to marry at all 6 of 22In 1791, British writer Mary Wallstonecraft became one of the first women to prominently argue that women should not be forced into marriage or traded like property. She also believed that only with a real education could women enter into the contract of marriage with full consent.
Currently, the United Nations states that "men and women of full age, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage during marriage and at its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses." *Note: the right to choose whom to marry may depend on your state. Congratulations, Marylanders!
(Photo Credit: Salvatore Vuono)
The right to leave a man who beats the crap out of you 7 of 22Great Britain passed a law in 1878 allowing women to secure a separation from their husbands on the grounds of cruelty, claim custody of their children, and demand spousal and child support.
In the U.S. around the same time, women could secure a divorce for causes such as abandonment, infidelity, mental illness, and cruelty. However, the divorce was not granted if it was shown that the woman was also at fault for "causing" the abuse or infidelity, or if she had tacitly or explicitly forgiven the offenses. In the U.S., marital rape was legal in all 50 states until 1976. However, marital rape wasn't made illegal in the UK until 1991.
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Birth control 8 of 22In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the first U.S. clinic to provide free birth control in Brooklyn, NY. It was an immediate success, with over 100 women visiting on the first day. A few days after opening, an undercover policewoman purchased a cervical cap at the clinic, and Sanger was arrested. Refusing to walk, Sanger and a co-worker were dragged out of the clinic by police officers. The clinic was shut down, and it was not until 1923 that another birth control clinic was opened in the United States.
In 1965, the Supreme Court ruled that state laws prohibiting the use of contraceptives violated the "right to marital privacy." And while there is very loud opposition to President Obama's policy requiring birth control coverage for all female employees, a recent study showed that 63 percent of Americans favor the policy.
(Pictured: Margaret Sanger. Photo Credit: Library of Congress)
Serving our country 9 of 22Military service is not just about patriotism. Serving in the U.S. military offers an equal opportunity for training, education, and life experience that is unparalleled in the civilian world. Women today make up about 15 percent of the U.S. military.
In 1970, Colonel Anna Mae Hays, Chief, Army Corps of Nurses, was promoted to Brigadier General, becoming the nation's first woman to hold the officer rank of General.
(Pictured: BG Anna Mae Hays. Photo Credit: U.S. Army Historical Resources Branch)
The right to work, choose your profession, and control your earnings 10 of 22The trade profession was opened to unmarried women in Massachusetts in 1787, but it didn't grant married women control over their own earnings until 1874.
Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman doctor in the U.S. in 1849. Arabella Mansfield became the first woman in the U.S. to be admitted to practice law, in Iowa, in 1869. Marie Owens became the first female police officer in the U.S., joining the Chicago police force in 1891.
(Pictured: Marie Owens. Photo Credit: Herstory Network)
The right not to have your ass slapped as you walk through your office 11 of 22Anita Hill's very public accusation that then-nominee for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her became a turning point in American awareness. Ms. Hill, a law professor, said that while working for Justice Thomas when he was head of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, he had harassed her with inappropriate discussions of sexual acts and pornographic films after she rebuffed his invitations to date him. Although Justice Thomas was indeed confirmed in the Court, Ms. Hill's powerful testimony raised awareness about this issue like never before.
(Pictured: Anita Hill. Photo Credit: Brandeis University)
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Let’s work on: Child care 13 of 22
Let’s work on: Buying into the myth that looks are more important than anything else 14 of 22According to the American Society for Plastic Surgeons, women had over 12 billion cosmetic procedures done in 2010, ranging from Botox injections to breast augmentations. Despite this craptastic economy, we spend a staggering $10 billion a year on plastic surgery.
American women also reportedly spend an additional $7 billion a year on cosmetics and other beauty products, averaging out to $100 a month. I like a new lipstick as much as the next gal, but the Young Women's Christian Association notes that if $100 a month were saved and invested, in five years you'd have enough for a full year of tuition and fees at a public college. Something to think about.
(Photo Credit: Ambro)
Let’s work on: Crazy uncomfortable underwear 15 of 22Foot binding may have ended, but the 1800s called, and they want their underwear back. Apparently, women today live in constant fear that (gasp!) their panty lines will show, or something. The amount of products out there designed to squish our bodies into a specific shape is staggering. If you're trying to be sexy, note that I have never heard a dude say anything remotely like "ooh, baby, those Spanx are so hot." Why the eff do women wear these things?
(Photo Credit: Sears)
Let’s work on: Not cutting each other down 16 of 22I have a feeling that the "war" between working moms and stay-at-home moms is almost entirely a myth perpetrated by the media. But it's true that women do a lot of critiquing of other women, whether it's on how we look or how we parent. Try having a conversation about breastfeeding on Facebook if you want to see how vitriolic things can become.
(Photo Credit:Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Let’s work on: Global women’s rights 17 of 22Global women's rights are by far the most serious issue facing women today. Horrors like genital mutilation, forced marriage, human trafficking, and rape victims being stoned to death are occurring every day around the world. Child marriage, which is rampant in many countries, puts girls at tremendous risk. In Saudi Arabia, there is no minimum age for girls to get married — meaning an 8-year-old could legally marry a man in his 60s. (I know, you're like OH MY GAH, right? But let me just point out that in New Hampshire, a girl can get married at age 13 with parental consent.)
The World Health Organization estimates that there are currently 140 million women and girls in the world who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). And the United Nations conservatively estimates that at any given moment, 2.4 million people are being sold, held captive, and forced into service (sexual or otherwise) through human trafficking. The vast majority of those being trafficked are females.
(Photo Credit: United Nations Unite to End Violence Against Women)
Let’s work on: Lack of women in politics 18 of 22There are clearly not enough women in politics. As proof, I give you the sausage-fest that was last month's Congressional hearing on birth control. The House Oversight Committee, which hosted the hearing, has 40 members, of which only two are women. The panel of witnesses who testified about birth control contained exactly zero people with a uterus. If that doesn't make you sit back and say WTF, I don't know what will.
(Photo Credit: Digg.com)
Let’s work on: The absurd early sexualization of girls 19 of 22Yeah, these horrific dolls pretty much sum it up.
(Photo credit: stark. raving. mad. mommy)
Let’s work on: Encouraging girls to pursue whatever career they want 20 of 22We need to especially focus on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields where women are traditionally under-represented. It's important that we make sure to keep every possible door open for our daughters. Telling them they're "too pretty to do homework" probably isn't going to get them into MIT.
(Photo Credit: stark. raving. mad. mommy)
Let’s work on: Equal pay 21 of 22
Let’s work on: Sexual harassment and violence 22 of 22Yeah … sexual harassment and violence are both still huge problems in the U.S. Disappointingly, the organization with the biggest sexual harassment problem is the U.S. military. According to a 2003 report, 30 percent of women said they were raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving. And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars found that 90 percent had been sexually harassed.
However, it should be noted that the 1998 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) takes a huge stance against violent crimes against women, including dating and domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This federal law was re-authorized by Congress in 2000 and again in 2005. The National Organization for Women (NOW) described VAWA as "the greatest breakthrough in civil rights for women in nearly two decades."
(Photo Credit: Ambro)