A Decade of Accomplishments or Failures for Women’s Rights?

From Hillary Clinton running for president and Sonia Sotomayor joining the Supreme Court to the rising number of female undergraduates, women have much to be proud of in terms of accomplishments throughout the past decade. Perhaps we can even utter a (tentative) sigh of relief as many long-fought battles (Plan B, anyone?) seem to have ended successfully.  However, as Katha Pollitt describes, women are, in some areas, far from reaching a comparable level of equality with their male counterparts.

Examine, for instance, women in the realm of wages and economics:

Parking valets still make more than daycare teachers, and in every field men still earn more than women. … The percentage of female-headed households in poverty went from 28.5 in 2000 to 31.4 in 2008, but because of welfare reform, the TANF rolls have barely risen. And the mortgage crisis hit black women hardest of all.

In education, the number of degrees conferred upon women in the field of biology increased, but in the fields of physics and math, women’s graduation rates flatlined or decreased. Additionally, only about 27 percent of tenured full professors were women.  On a bright note, women’s studies programs have been thriving.

In the areas of reproductive health and family life:

Abortion rights continued to be whittled away, with more and more state restrictions and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s shockingly patronizing 2007 majority opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart upholding a “partial birth” abortion ban without an exception for the health of the mother–an outright violation of Roe–on the grounds that the woman might regret her decision later.

Teen pregnancy rates rose, but gay marriage was legalized in 5 states.  Unfortunately, women still experience about the same amount of violence and lack of justice for victims as in previous decades.

Finally, in the realm of culture and the media:

Women are still drastically underrepresented on op-ed pages, on Sunday chat-shows, as experts in news stories, and are scanted in literary prizes, awards and Best of the Year lists, as actresses and directors and playwrights.

However, as Pollitt mentions, five women won Nobel Prizes in 2009.

With huge strides in some areas and baby steps in others, women have much to look forward to and equally as much to accomplish in the 2010s.


About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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