Election 2016: A feminist’s perspective

BY EMILY BETZ
Opinion Editor

Let’s talk about the ‘F’ word: feminism. In these times people seem to have an aversion to labeling themselves as feminists. It has somehow become a bad or dirty word. This is in part due to the mistaken association of feminism with angry, man hating, defeminizing women. But that isn’t what the movement stands for.  Being a feminist is synonymous with gender equality, believing that women are deserving of the same rights and respect given to men. And this issue has been the forefront of many political discussions right now in both the Republican (GOP) and Democratic debates. One would think given that it is 2015 and this is America, equal rights for women wouldn’t even need to be a discussion. Unfortunately however, it is, and it’s a necessary one.

Far too much of the 2016 campaign has been taken up with sexist comments made by both candidates and the media. Donald Trump in particular has received a lot of negative attention for his comments towards women, both during and before his campaign. But the news has been even worse. One Fox correspondent said “Men won’t vote for Hillary [Clinton] because she reminds them of their nagging wives”, and an LA Times reporter praised Hillary for “vying for the most powerful post in the free world with jowls, face creases and a less-than-Pilates-toned physique.” We are looking for the next President of the United States and we should be judging them on their policies, track record and opinions, not in the same way Trump judges his Miss America contestants.  

America is looking at a crop of GOP candidates who do not value the rights of women as a priority. Besides both the subtle and not so subtle sexist comments, each GOP candidate has made a strong stance against many women’s rights issues. All of them have stated their willingness to abolish abortion nationally, with exceptions only for extenuating circumstances (rape and incest). Both Marco Rubio and Ben Carson have made clear their changes to federal policy would involve no exceptions. All the GOP candidates have also said they would stand against federally mandated paid family leave, would like to cut funding to women’s health clinics like Planned Parenthood, and have barely even touched on equal pay for women. But seeing as how they all talk about their wives as if they stepped out of the 1930’s, we needn’t even ask. On the other side of the aisle Hillary Clinton is running her campaign around equal pay for women, paid family leave, a woman’s right to choose and all around equal rights. Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley share Clinton’s views on these issues.

We live in a country where women make up only 19 percent of our elected offices, and according to an Inter-Parliamentary sensus this ranks the U.S number 76 out of 190 countries for the number of women in government. We are ranked lower than Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Uganda. Sixty-three of those countries have seen a women as their head of government, while the U.S still hasn’t.  We are also only one of three other countries to not have a mandated paid family leave. And the pay gap, that’s a real thing too. For doing the same job as a man, a woman in the United States can expect to make 21 percent less. Which means, since the average income per person is $26,695, by the age of 60 a woman will have made around $235,410 less than a man working in the same position.  In 2013, our country’s legislators put forth 694 provisions on reproductive health and rights, 47 percent of which were regarding the restriction of abortions. Now how can a government made up of 81 percent males tell women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies?

Now the issue of equality for women isn’t just a United States issue but a world issue. There are countries far worse off than us who are dealing with rape as a military tactic, child slavery, starvation, women not having access to health care and education, along with so much more. Who we elect as the next President of the United States is not just a leader for our country, but a world leader. There was a time the United States was at the forefront of progress, and we need a President who can bring us there again. This doesn’t mean voting a woman into office on the mere fact she is a woman. Equality is picking the best person for the job, regardless of gender, whether that be a man or a woman. We need a feminist. A man or woman who will value women’s rights as a priority.  It’s about time women in this country start making up more than 19 percent of the conversation, because women’s rights are human rights and they should matter to both genders.

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