There has been a lot of focus in the media on the topic of sexism recently. The issues range from equal pay for equal work to disparities in earnings for professional athletic teams like soccer. In 2014, female full-time workers made only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men in similar professions and in professional athletics, our internationally championship-winning women’s soccer players earn only 1/4 of what players on the men’s team are paid. Human rights violations such as domestic violence, rape, and incest also affect disproportionate numbers of women relative to the number of male victims and the majority of perpetrators of such violence continue to be men.
The word “sexism” basically refers to inequalities of opportunity, treatment, and compensation that systematically pervade the culture we live in. While the United States is considerably better than many other countries in the progress made towards women’s equality, much remains to be done. Some of the changes made to enhance the equality of women, such as giving women the right to vote, occurred early this century (1920), but many more significant advancements occurred in the 1970s, 1980s and on through the present time.
Many of the women in this room have had life experiences that pre-date the Women’s Rights movement that became nationally prominent in the 1970s and many of the women in this room no doubt participated in bringing about some of these changes. Younger generations of girls and women sometimes take for granted many of the opportunities that were made possible by women of previous generations and the feminist movement. However, many young women are intensely involved in continuing efforts towards women’s equality today.
Whether any particular woman identifies as a feminist, most women have either participated in or benefitted from the movement towards women’s equality in society. Sexism in society can be as invisible as the air we breathe or as obvious as disparities in women’s pay for equal work. Great progress has been made and there is more to be done. Let’s talk about the impact of sexism on our individual lives and experiences.
- Have you experienced sexism in your life and how has sexism affected you?
- Do you see sexism as something that is real (i.e. not just a matter of women having a “chip on their shoulder” but as an actual problem and condition in our society?
- In what ways do you feel your life or actions have advanced you personally or advanced the standing of women in general?
- What next steps or additional changes do you think need to happen in society to further promote women’s equality? Do you see yourself contributing to this change?
- Are there ways that your daughters’ nieces’ and granddaughters’ experiences reflect continuing sexism in our society or the progress that has been made in women’s equality?