Women still not getting fair shake

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By Kelly Seneni

Its no secret that our new Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), is prone to tears. With headlines like “Real Men Do Cry”(CBS), “John Boehner Crying Could Be Useful Political Tool”(Huffington Post), and “For Boehner, there’s crying in politics – and other times, too”(Washington Post), it is obvious that for Speaker Boehner, crying isn’t such a big deal. Whether he is discussing his experience as a small business owner trying to live the American Dream or tearing up as a Texan House Rep in discussing his experience as a POW in Vietnam, his tears are seen as a relatively positive thing.
Let’s look back to the 2008 Presidential election. Hillary Clinton was making the run for office. When, at a campaign stop in New Hampshire, she cried over where she saw the country heading under the Bush administration and how she wanted to change that, the headlines were significantly different: “Can Clinton’s Emotions Get The Best of Her?”(ABC) and “Can Hillary cry her way back to the White House?”(NYT) and “Hillary Cries for Votes” (digg.com) to name a few.
The first time Boehner cried (yes, it has happened on more than one occasion) nobody was questioning whether he could handle being the Speaker of the House (third in line to the presidency). Nobody said that his emotions were getting in the way, or that he was weak. So apparently when a powerful man cries it’s a symbol of manliness, but when a powerful woman cries she is weak. When Boehner cries it’s a useful tool. When Clinton cried she was crying for votes.
I have no problem with a man crying. If Speaker Boehner has a soft side and cries during speeches more than I did the first time I saw the Notebook, that’s absolutely fine by me. Turn on the water works. I don’t really care if he cries or not. I do care about the double standard that came along with his tears. If the media just bashed Clinton three years ago for crying on the campaign trail, don’t put Boehner up on a manly pedestal for boohooing and doing the same thing. Maybe it is just my inner feminist talking, but I think that’s a pretty good example of sexism still alive and well in our society. This, of course, is all aside from the fact that women still make an average of only 82 cents (up from 77 in 2008) on the dollar of what a man makes doing the same job.
Over 40 years AFTER President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, an almost 20 percent difference in salaries between genders still exists. Take Lily Ledbetter for example. In recent years she has been the face of the equal pay movement (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.). Ledbetter was an area manager for a branch of Goodyear tires in Alabama, the only woman in her position. In 1979, when she started, she had the same pay as her male counterparts. In 1998, when she retired, that was not the case. Her pay rested at about $3,700 a month, while the lowest paid male in that position made just under $4,300. In 2007 she sued and the case went to the Supreme Court. She lost on the basis that she was too late to file the case.
BUT, to be fair, women were more likely to take sick days due to the fact that when a sick child calls, a mother must answer. This accounts for the difference in pay between single and married women, although the average pay of all women was 18 percent less than a man‘s pay. New studies show the gap is either smaller or non existent for many single women. Married women still made significantly less than most men (even married men), leading to the 18 percent difference. It goes back to the idea of gender roles. Women are expected to take care of the children, and it is ingrained in us to do so. Is it fair that working mothers can be penalized for taking care of a sick child? Absolutely not (nor should a man in that position be penalized for taking care of his children should that be the case).
I would also like to point out that the United States doesn’t have an actual piece of legislation/section of the Constitution declaring equality between men and women under the law, unlike many other countries. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was proposed in 1923 and rewritten in 1943 by Alice Paul (who most people don’t know because the Women’s Suffrage Movement is rarely covered in depth in history classes), and it declares that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” It was introduced in every Congress from 1923-1972 when it was passed through the house and senate, and then it was sent to the states to be ratified. (Part of the procedure for amending the constitution requires 38 states to ratify it to become law). Long story short, only 35 states ratified. The bill was reintroduced into Congress and it has been reintroduced in every Congress since 1982.
So let me get this straight: in October Congress passed a bill making it illegal for commercials to be louder than the programming introduced in 2008. (Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great piece of legislation). And the ERA has been introduced into every Congress since 1982 to no avail? That’s where my rights are placed? After the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act? Ouch. Have women not yet proven that we deserve to be seen as equals by the government? Eighty-nine years after women gained the right to vote, we are still pushing for full equality.
Whether it be double standards between male and female politicians, difference in pay, or difference in expectations, inequality based on gender still exists. As Alice Paul once said, “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.”

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