In the past few months, some women’s issues have come to the forefront of popular media in the United States, most notably questions about the availability and cost of contraception. This article about Limbaugh’s comments and the ensuing hub-bub sum it up pretty well.
But people are confused why we are talking about women. In this NYT debate, David Brooks says that “Nearly everybody is cool like things with contraception…we’re kind of exhausted by the fight that never goes anywhere.” He’s right that it’s exhausting, but wrong that it’s over; just today (again, International Women’s Day, March 8, 2012) the controversial Virginia Bill requiring women who seek abortion procedures to have an ultrasound (and pay for it themselves) was signed into law.
But even if Brooks was right—that the standard politicized “women’s issues” are settling down—there are so many other faces of sexism live in our culture.
A piece in the Herald Tribune surveys the adversity women face globally and comes back worried.
This Newsweek piece describes in fairly certain terms the evidence that we still live in a culture with structural inequalities here in the U.S. The article quotes the Deborah Spar, President of Barnard College: “We have fallen into what I call the 16 percent ghetto, which is that if you look at any sector, be it aerospace engineering, Hollywood films, higher education, or Fortune 500 leading positions, women max out at roughly 16 percent.”
One of the effects of this inequality is that when women do succeed, they are often celebrated as the token female versions of whatever professional success they’ve achieved, as in this Forbes article about a newly-minted billionaire.
Even outside of the mainstream, the VIDA count shows us that left-leaning, politically-minded magazines like the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and Harper’s are still publishing woefully fewer women than men.
What then is to be done? One advantage that feminists have in this day and age is that various inquiries (in both sciences and the humanities) are demonstrating that feminism is good for everyone. This Economix post shows quantitative evidence that the wide availability of birth control benefits populations and economies.
An article about the resignation of moderate Republican Olympia Snowe optimistically suggests that 2012 could actually be a year where we see positive change for women in politics.
And this article explains why feminism is good for men, and gives a reader an idea of how to start those conversations.
How to have the conversation though? In a piece by UK activist and reporter Laurie Penny critiques the way in which International Women’s Day has lost its sense of urgency. As she describes the social movements that have taken place globally over the past year, she dares feminists to avoid politeness; “It's time for anger. It's time for daring, direct action, big demands, big dreams.”