Why after 100 Years of Suffrage We Still Have to Fight for Gender Equality

On August 18, 2020, America celebrated the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. The 19th amendment, ratified on August 18, 1920, was the culmination of a long fight and was in no way the end of the road to complete gender equality. Women of color were still seen as second-class citizens, and it would take until 1965 for black women to be able to safely vote with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. It is vital that we honor the legacy of the generations of individuals who fought for voting and gender equality in our country, which still acknowledging the strides we must make to become truly equal. The odds are stacked against women due to the societal belief that they are inferior, and it will take 100 more years of protests and fights to gain the true equality that women deserve. 

There has historically been a stigma around sexual assault and victims speaking out. However, the #MeToo movement has created a space for women to speak out and share their stories. Created by Tarana Burke in 2006, the hashtag and movement didn’t become globally renowned until actress Alyssa Milano tweeted it out during the Harvey Weinstein case. By giving victims a platform to reveal their abusers, the hope is that justice will be served and the assailants will receive a punishment, something that has been an abnormality for too long. However, not only has the #MeToo movement revealed the sexist nature of our court systems in dealing with sexual assault but also the systematic oppression of black women that exists as well. Breonna Taylor’s death displayed the ignorance of the media regarding black women and their suffering, as it took far too long for her story to become mainstream. It is the same system of privilege that has allowed sexual assault to become acceptable that has enabled racism and oppression. The fight for gender equality must not stop with white women, as women of color face far more disadvantages. We must switch the narrative and ensure that female victims of sexual assault and the system, in general, have their voices heard and are supported unconditionally. 

Along similar lines, the fight for reproductive rights has been a contentious issue since the beginning. Roe v. Wade marked the beginning of a long battle in terms of a women’s right to privacy and to choose, a controversial topic marred with religious undertones and a heavy moral decision. The reality is that it isn’t about individual beliefs on abortion, but rather the oppressive nature behind the ban of it. If legislators and the courts were to ban a woman's right to choose, it would set the precedent that women don’t have full autonomy over their bodies. This is a dangerous situation to be in because it leaves the door open for bans on birth control to be enacted. The main issue of the abortion argument is that those who want to ban it want to for religious reasons. There is nothing wrong with holding the personal belief that abortion is morally wrong, but it a quite another to attempt to bring this into the government. America was founded on the principle of the separation of church and state, and for politicians to manipulate the law in a way that furthers their religious agenda stands against everything our founders fought for. The confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett proves that the fight for reproductive rights isn’t over, as the Catholic justice has openly opposed abortion and other religious-based beliefs, like gay marriage. It shouldn’t matter what your personal belief is, all women should be up in arms over the possibility of their freedom being up for grabs. Especially considering the fact that the same politicians and justices who are fighting to end abortion rights will always have access to them, as their power gives them this privilege. This fight will never end, as it is morally contentious, but the hope is that abortion rights become so ingrained in the law and society that the idea of the loss of them is senseless. 

While suffrage secured women the constitutional right to vote, it didn’t guarantee their rightful place in society. In 1972, an amendment known as the Equal Rights Amendment was proposed that would ensure gender equality by removing the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property entitlements, and other rights. This amendment was never ratified and the original amendment has now expired, demonstrating America's lack of value of women's rights. The lack of ratification of such an amendment plays into the larger role of sexism in society. Women still struggle to make the same pay as a man and there are far fewer female executives than there should be. Regardless of the experience a woman has, there is a good chance they will be overlooked in careers of politics, business, STEM, and most other fields as well. The general consensus is that their gender has some influence over their ability to lead and perform well in a job. The patriarchy has convinced society that powerful women are dangerous and bossy, a disruption of the natural order of things. It is necessary that girls are taught at a young age that they can do anything they choose with their life, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, or any other construct society attempts to box them in. Instead, they should own their identity and utilize their unique experiences to bring a fresh perspective to the career and tasks they pursue. There is already plenty of the white, heterosexual male perspective, it would be in our best interest to mix things up. 

The 100th anniversary of suffrage honors the brave men and women who fought to change what seemed like a rigid world. They went against the status quo and stood up to bully lawmakers and citizens who said that women didn’t deserve equality and the right to vote, as their only job was to sit still and look pretty. It is because of the women who came before me that I am pursuing a degree in political science, with the hopes of one day becoming a representative in the same government that used to keep women out. But while we’ve made great strides, there is still a long way to go. I hope that movements like the Women’s March continue to energize the fight for equality and inspire young girls everywhere to dream big and become the next generation of proud women who aspire to make a difference and dismantle the patriarchy ingrained in society. It is no secret that girls truly can, and will, change the world.