At the 2017 Women’s March in Washington DC, an older woman wielded a protest sign that read: “My arms are tired from holding this sign since the 1960’s”. The reality is, women are still fighting for equal rights in today’s society despite some strides made over the past fifty years. Upon integrating themselves into every facet of American culture, women’s rights have become a hot-button topic in the worlds of entertainment, politics and regular civilian life. Every decade, it seems, is a reintroduction of the same issues that have become impossible to overcome because of male patriarchy.
In the Information Age, we have seen social media be an integral part in the forward trajectory of mass movements across the country. The “Me Too” Movement, founded by Tarana Burke, has taken its rightful place as one of the leaders in this new-found form of protest. For those who have been or are currently being sexually abused, Burke “created a new foundation for how we understand and make connections between our different experiences with violence and inequality” (Time Magazine). The movement was able to allow women the safe space to recount their experiences and through that its garnered relationship. This relationship will be the saving grace for the advancement of women’s rights in American society. For example, think back to the 1991 hearings of Anita Hill and, then Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas. Hills allegations of sexual advancements from Thomas was an all too familiar story for thousands of women across political ranks. But it was a familiar story that is often swept under the rug in exchange for job security or avoidance of a public lynching. Hill bravely sacrificed everything to make sure the world knew that this man’s character needed to be called into question. Eventually, Thomas was sworn in as a Supreme Court judge, but Hills hearings “spurred what became known as the “Year of the Woman” (The Washington Post). Women were being elected to Congress in large numbers, all because of relation and empathy. This is much like what we see now, with the election of many women to government positions in response to the Presidency of Donald Trump. Through his presidency, we have seen first-hand that not much has changed if a man can sit in the highest office of the land while publicly berating those who don’t agree with him.
The fight for women’s rights is not just isolated in America but is spread across nations. All have different extremes, but each is rooted in the same ideals of women not having a voice or representation. Much like in America, England has similar issues in the progression of women’s rights. The prison system, when it pertains to women, is not often talked about but England is taking some necessary steps to reduce the prison population. The origins of women’s suffering still need to be addressed, but by introducing the Female Offenders’ Strategy, it should “halt the tide of women ending up in prison” (We Are Agenda). Perhaps the most stagnant among those seeking equality among women and men, are countries who practice the Islamic faith. Their strict observance of the Qur’an limits the spaces in which women can inhabit. The laws that are placed on women in these countries are largely concerning men. In past years mosques could only be attended by men, but since the 1970’s “Muslims have constructed mosques that provide a separate space for women, however, the women often remain isolated in areas” (Oxford). We may see these laws as extreme, but systematically, America is also struggling with having a large number of male-dominated spaces. Women’s rights are not only rooted in specific requirements but also cultural norms which are hard to shake because they are mostly ingrained in us from birth.
Acknowledging that these issues exist is the first step in dismantling a society that has been built on white male patriarchy. Through organizations and movements, women have been able to speak on their experiences boldly. We have to make sure that these stories are not falling on deaf ear and use them as collateral to bring forth the change that we so desperately need. Progression in women’s rights will create a better world for not just women, but everyone.