We’re reaching the end of Women’s History Month. Women are half the world, and we get eight percent of the calendar. Let’s make the most of it.
Women marched before they could vote or own property. They marched before they could go to law school, before they could run for office, before abortion was protected under the Constitution, and before Title IX carved a space for them in schools. These rights weren’t given to women—they wrenched them from the hands of their self-appointed gatekeepers. Now it’s our turn on the front lines, and we’re still fighting each day to remind our opponents that our rights cannot be repossessed.
Our historical heroines would be proud to see how their hard-won accomplishments reverberate in women’s lives. But here in 2018, we know that each advancement comes with an asterisk.
1. Women have professional lives! We can go to work, make a fraction of our male counterparts’ pay (this varies widely depending on geography, education level, sexual orientation, ability, and race, but our pennies never add up to 100), and potentially be sexually harassed until we walk out with a box full of paperclips. Scooo-oore! Free paperclips!
The good news is that we know which steps to take to fix this. More comprehensive equal pay legislation can protect our paychecks. Fair work schedules and paid family and medical leave can help us take back our time. And if we enact policies that stop employers from silencing workers who experience sexual harassment, we can step into a future where every woman’s voice is heard.
2.Girls have access to an education! Well, some girls. If you manage not to be pushed out due to your race, a dress code violation, or the lack of resources for pregnant and parenting students, there’s always the possibility that a sexual assault will obstruct your educational opportunities, with economic repercussions that will reverberate for the rest of your life. But at least…I can’t. I can’t.
Once again, though, Team NWLC is fighting the good fight. Enter the Let Her Learn project—a fierce and vital effort to counteract the widespread pushout of girls of color from the education system. With a comprehensive report and toolkit, Let Her Learn arms communities with the resources they need to investigate and address their own schools’ disciplinary biases.
3. Women and girls have reproductive choice! For example, women in Texas can choose to drive miles and miles to get an abortion because there is no clinic nearby, and then they can choose to listen to a state-mandated, misleading series of disclaimers, and if they’re still jazzed about the procedure after that, they can choose to stick around for an invasive pelvic ultrasound, just to see if they’re on the fence. (It should be clear that NONE OF THAT IS A REAL CHOICE.)
Here, too, we’re pushing back. Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case NIFLA v. Becerra, which asks whether the act of intentionally deceiving patients at anti-abortion “counseling centers” is protected under the First Amendment (I’m so done, you guys). NWLC submitted an amicus brief in the case, which you can check out here. I dare you to regulate your blood pressure while you read about this one.
4. Working parents have child care options! Well, if their work schedules adhere to the 9-5 model, or if their jobs are lucrative enough to provide for care, or if they live in a state that subsidizes it, or if they have a family member who’s willing and able to watch the kid(s). Now let’s say you’re a member of the care workforce: 54 percent of Latina single mothers and 44 percent of Black single mothers who work in child care are raising their own children below the poverty line. The lack of federal- and state-funded child care options has real repercussions for just about everyone.
Pop the champagne! I’m serious. This month, NWLC’s child care team worked closely with members of Congress on a bi-partisan agreement that resulted in the biggest increase in child care funding in United States history. That’s $2.37 billion more going toward the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) in the omnibus spending bill. When this country invests in children, their families, and their communities, things can only look up.
One day I hope to sit in a rocking chair, surrounded by my bionic grandchildren, and describe life for anyone who isn’t a straight, cisgender, non-Hispanic white man in the early 21st century. I hope that they think I’m making it up, or at least exaggerating, and I hope that when they memorize the list of American presidents, Trump’s name comes right before at least five women. Because all of this should be history by now.
To get there, let’s do as our forebears taught us: Demand more.