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Celebrating Women's Equality Day

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Madeline Phipps

We've come a long way, but there's still a lot to be done

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Campus Life  •

While we often take voting for granted, it hasn’t always been a right for everyone. Women have only had the right to vote in the U.S. for about 100 years.

Since that right was given with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, gender equality has certainly improved in the United States. “There are more women in college than men now, and certain groups of women are more represented in higher-paying professions than they used to be,” said Hava Gordon, director of DU’s gender and women’s studies program. “However, these successes do not mean we are living in a ‘post-feminist’ era.”

While many of us are probably familiar with the fact that women make roughly 77 cents to every dollar a man earns, Gordon suggested several other inequalities that we might not think about as often. “We still have a media culture that over-sexualizes women in order to sell products,” said Gordon, “and we still see significant patterns of gendered violence, like sexual assault or domestic violence.”

Despite many successes, we are not living in a 'post-feminist' era. Hava Gordon, Director of the women and gender studies program

She added that compared to other nations, the U.S. lags behind when it comes to equality. “If we examine political representation alone, we are outpaced by some African countries and European countries that have much more gender equity in political offices held,” said Gordon.

According to the United Nations, the U.S. ranks 96th in the percentage of political offices occupied by women—only 19.4 percent of those seats are held by women, compared to the 63.8 percent held by women in Rwanda, the leading country.

That statistic hits home, especially in the midst of election season. While Gordon acknowledged the progress toward equality with the nomination of a female presidential candidate by a major political party, she also identified the challenges women politicians confront.

She said, “Women politicians are often caught in a double bind: They face a crisis of legitimacy and a lack of credible authority—which is more easily given to white men. But when they act decisively or project too much confidence, they are chastised for being too aggressive and not feminine enough.”

Despite the inequalities that remain, Gordon points to ongoing feminist activism as a sign of progress for gender equality as well as economic and racial equality. “Movements like Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and the Fight for 15 (a national campaign for a $15 minimum wage)—many of which are organized by women—are helping to redefine what gender equity looks like as it intersects with these other justice issues.”