Ninety-eight years ago, the women’s suffrage movement kicked off a century of progress for women’s rights in the United States. The 19th amendment. The Equal Pay Act. The Civil Rights Act. Title IX. The Gender Equity in Education Act. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Violence Against Women Act. And many more pieces of legislation designed to thwart discrimination against women.
So when millions took the streets during the Women’s March, some people dismissed the event as a pointless political stunt. After all, the battle for women’s rights in our nation was fought and won already, right? Not quite.
For every women’s ‘right’ there is a shadow side of women’s ‘reality’. Lack of enforcement, power imbalances, social stigmas, and inequity – simply having so-called equal rights is not enough.
The reality is most women have – at some point – felt silenced, ignored, disrespected, or unsafe, just for being a woman.
Women in the workplace are undercompensated and overlooked, and their intelligence is routinely discounted. At home, women are saddled with the second shift of housekeeping and caregiving. Women are catcalled and harassed. Women are physically and sexually abused, trafficked, and murdered.
Women are more likely to live in poverty, overpay for everything from razors to mortgages, and carry student loan debt longer than men. Women’s choices about their bodies – how they care for them, dress them, use them – are judged and policed. Women are underrepresented in STEM, and told they can’t succeed in politics.
This list represents but a small sample of the dark side of #WomensReality.
Rights matter, of course, and many people – including men, women, and non-binary folks – still do not have them. We ought to continue to push for full rights for individuals of every gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, ability, class, income, religion, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, or nationality. But we also must acknowledge that human rights do not guarantee equality if people and institutions continually fail to enforce them.
Ending violence against women, closing the wage gap, achieving fair representation in leadership and politics, deconstructing harmful stereotypes – these issues can’t be boiled down to a simple matter of human rights.
What we need is a culture shift to examine our reality. We need to wake up to the discrimination that’s happening on a daily basis, to our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, friends, and colleagues. The work of gender equality is global and local, too.
That’s why LiveYourDream.org has launched an awareness campaign called #WomensReality. In the spirit of similar social media movements, we want to expose the gap between stated rights and the harsh realities women face.
Our theory is that if all the women who have experienced hardship simply for being a woman could talk about their experiences, it might illuminate how big this problem truly is. The #WomensReality campaign is a rallying cry to acknowledge that gender inequality happens in complex and nuanced ways that the promise of ‘equal rights’ can’t and won’t solve. We have a long distance to go before we actualize full gender equality.
Join the conversation by sharing a time when you felt silenced, ignored, disrespected, or unsafe just because you’re a woman, and tag #WomensReality.
Together, we are a force for truth.
LiveYourDream.org is a movement – an online community of nearly 100,000 volunteers and activists addressing some of the most serious challenges women and girls face today, such as gender-based violence and lack of access to quality education. LiveYourDream.org is powered by Soroptimist, an international nonprofit of volunteers that economically improves the lives of women and girls through its Dream Programs. Learn more and join the community!