March 8, 2017

Today, We Honor All Women

Today is International Women’s Day. It began as International Working Women’s Day to honor the International Lady Garment Worker’s Union strike and in the 1970’s, the United Nations officially began celebrating International Women’s Day. Across the world, women are going on strike to highlight issues women disproportionately face, such as sexual assault, curtailing of reproductive freedom, paid family leave, and economic disparities in income and wealth. Within the United States, a related action is taking place, called A Day Without a Woman, which also seeks to highlight gendered issues and continue the protest momentum from the Women’s March on January 21st, 2017.

Protest movements have been a critical part of social change in the United States, ranging from the abolitionist and suffragist movements to union organizing at the turn of the 20th century, the Stonewall Riots, and the Civil Rights Movement. And there are reasons for action—gender disparities still exist. President Obama stated in a speech in 2016, “Today, the typical woman who works full-time earns 79 cents for every dollar that a typical man makes.”

This disparity exists across socioeconomic status, whether you’re comparing the wealthiest men and women or the poorest men and women. Additionally, that 79 cents figure drastically changes when looking at race. According to Pew Research Center  and Center for American Progress,  white women make 82 cents to the dollar compared to white men, but black women make 64 cents to the dollar, American Indian women make 59 centers to the dollar, and Hispanic women make 54 cents to the dollar. This highlights the importance of just one of the topics of discussion on International Women’s Day and also highlights the critical need to discuss the intersection of all identities. Many black abolitionists, like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, were key fighters for the women’s right to vote. Many white suffragists, such as Abby Kelley Foster and Lydia Child, fought tooth and nail for abolitionism.

Another critical example of the importance of intersection of identities is hate violence. Across the world and in the United States, women face disproportionate violence, such as rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence. Transgender women bear the brunt of that in the U.S.—72% of victims of hate violence homicides in 2013 were transgender women. Furthermore, transgender people are more likely to experience violence from the police than their cisgender counterparts, a rate that is even higher for transgender people of color. This is despite the fact that transgender women of color led the Stonewall Riots, a critical turning point for LGBTQ rights in this country at a time when LGBTQ people could rarely express themselves in public. Marsha Johnson, a black transgender woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a Puerto Rican transgender woman, were leaders in those actions and would also become leaders in recognizing the AIDS epidemic, combatting sexual violence, and addressing homelessness. Their work and legacy has benefited people of all backgrounds.

The Race to Equity Project at the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families highlights the disparities in economic and health outcomes between the Black and white populations in Dane County. It is likely that those outcomes are even more disparate when broken down by race and gender. So, on this International Women’s Day, we want to take a moment to recognize the unique hardships faced by women, especially women of color and transgender women, and remember to advocate the closing of these inequities. We cannot hope for success for all our children and families if we deny success to girls and women.

Race to Equity Team