Last week I wrote about the most important things for feminists to work on in 2015. This week, I am unpacking some of the biggest issues feminism will face in upcoming years. It’s going to be an upward battle, ladies and gentlemen.
- Human Trafficking
The sex trade, occurring in every corner of the globe, involves trafficking an estimated 600,000-800,000 people across nation's borders every year (2014 TIP Report). Human trafficking is now the second highest grossing criminal enterprise according to the US State Department.
Furthermore, this intensely cruel phenomenon that many believe only to happen ‘on the other side of the world’, is very prevalent in North America. An estimated 200,000 individuals are trafficked within the United States each year (2014 TIP Report).
Some of the risk factors for being a victim of the sex trade include a history of sexual assault, homelessness, a lack of education, and drug problems. And of course, gender is one of the biggest indicators of risk, as women and girls make up 98% of all trafficking victims (ILO, April 2005).
This is a worldwide crisis that strips women and girls of their rights and subjects them to a life of humiliation and deprivation. This is not just a “women’s issue”. This is most certainly a human rights issue, and unfortunately one that will not go away easily.
- Reproductive rights
This past year was horribly regressive for female reproductive rights in North America. As I discussed in a reflection upon 2014, the case of Hobby Lobby was a significant setback for reproductive rights.
Furthermore, abortion is still a very contentious issue in North America. Although abortion is a common experience, roughly one in three American women having an abortion by the age of forty-five (Guttmacher Institute, 2014), the stigma surrounding it remains very strong.
Today, women seeking abortions in USA face a myriad of hurdles and restrictions. As of November 2014, a woman in Texas must receive state-directed counseling that discourages her from having an abortion, be prohibited from using telemedicine for the performance of medication abortion, and only receive public funding in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
It is unacceptable that women are not given control of their own bodies. North America is allowing men in the political and judicial spheres to impose decisions upon women that have consequences these men will never endure. Overturning these rulings and breaking down social stigma will be a huge undertaking for the progression of feminism, but outspoken leaders like Justice Ruth Ginsberg and Wendy Davis give us hope.
- Glass Ceiling
Yes, in the majority of countries around the world, women still do not make an equal salary to men. Yes, we still do the same jobs for less money. And yes, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams both made 7/9 of what their male co-workers cashed in on for American Hustle (Marie Claire, Dec 2014). And if J Law isn’t receiving equal financial recognition, rest assured, very few of us are.
This will be a significant issue for feminism to tackle in 2015, not only because there are countless systemic factors at play preventing women from increasing their earning potential, but also because a notable percentage of North Americans do not believe there is a “glass ceiling” or a financial inequality based on gender.
For those of you non-believers out there, here’s a handy dandy info graphic from Huffington Post.
- Violence Against Women
At least one in three women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime (Oxfam Canada, March 2014). Violence against women and girls is not just a women’s issue; it is a fundamental human rights issue and a central challenge to development, democracy and peace.
The campus initiative Project Callisto is a step in the right direction. It has created a “college sexual assault reporting system” for North American students. It allows victims of sexual assault to write up the incident, report the case if/when they choose, and remain anonymous.
Yet as positive as initiatives like Project Callisto are, we need to create countless initiatives to properly combat the deeply engrained and globally pervasive violence against women. We need approaches that are human rights-based and gender-conscious, placing priority on promoting and protecting the human rights of all women and girls. We need to strengthen local and global institutional capacities (and willingness) to fully eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
This will be no small feat.
- STEM Industries Gender Inclusion
The technology sector is growing at a rapid pace. Silicon Valley companies are popping up everyday and growth predictions show no signs of slowing. Today, women hold a mere 27% of all computer science jobs in USA, and that number isn’t climbing (Forbes, 2012). We are leaving very little opportunity for the female equivalents of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg to thrive.
If a country like Lebanon (which arguably faces significant political strain due to turbulent neighbouring countries) can foster a private sector where 26% of working women have specialized careers in sectors like medicine/engineering (in comparison to 8% of men) certainly other countries around the world can foster this kind of female-friendly professional environment too (Al Monitor, Jan 2015).
- Corporate/Political Involvement
As I wrote in a previous post on women in the workforce, working women not only face a glass ceiling, but also many corporate barriers. For example, women in Canada make up 56.5% of university students (Macleans, 2013), yet only 9% of businesses in North America have a female CEO (Grant Thorton, 2012) and only 14.3% of Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO (Knowledge Center, 2013).
Similarly, as noted in my post about preying on powerful women, women have a very difficult time acquiring positions of political influence due to systemic hurdles. This is evident, as only 18.8% of US Congress is female (The Atlantic Wire, 2013) and women make up only 27.6% of the House and Senate in Canada (Toronto Star, January 2015).
As we move into 2015, it will take significant legislative changes to eradicate these clear inequities. North America needs to take a page from Rwanda’s book; a country that boasts a parliament made up of 63.7% women (Quota Project, 2014). Nations around the world must strive to create political and professional equality.
- Including Trans Folk
Our current definition of ‘female’ is too narrow, hindering our ability to welcome transgender people with open arms. In 2015, one of our biggest barriers will be educating people (and ourselves) on the implications of diction, and broadening this definition.
As a theoretical framework that urges people to see every perspective as equal, it is imperative that third wave feminism work towards becoming a more inclusive movement.
As stated in my last post on a feminist’s to-do list, advocates for the movement need to gain and nurture their allies. Not only because this will further our cause, but because everyone, not just cisgender women, deserve to be a part of this revolution.