The natural biological differences between men and women open the door for society to push people into gender-based roles that influence and and limit their behavior and attitudes, according to the Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology. This becomes a continuing cycle in which social gender norms are attributed to biological disparity, which then supports the continuation of the fabricated gender roles. This circular reasoning is why, even as men and women move closer to equality under the law, they often still find themselves on opposite sides of a myriad of gender-driven controversies.
Many people see abortion as a debate over the protection of unborn babies versus a woman's right to sovereignty over her body. Brian Frederking of McKendree University proposes a different view that explains how the issue of abortion ties into gender expectations. Frederking states that the right to choice should be viewed as a part of the larger Women's Rights movement. If we are interested in restricting abortion rights, he says, we will continue to embrace traditional gender roles and there will be no gender equality. If we truly want gender equality, we must embrace modern gender roles and the right to choice, as it levels the playing field between the sexes.
Despite legislation passed in 1963, women who work full-time still only earn an average of 80 cents to each dollar earned by their male counterparts who do the same work and possess comparable education, skill sets and experience, according to the AFL-CIO. This discrepancy in earnings costs the average full-time female worker in the U.S. anywhere from $700,000 to $2 million over the span of her career, says economist Evelyn Murphy. African-American women earn just 68.9 percent of the wage earned by white male workers. The percentage for Latina women is a scant 60.2 as compared to the earnings of white males. Earning power equals opportunity and access. As long as women are underpaid, they will be disadvantaged.
The Glass Ceiling
The "glass ceiling" is a term referring to the advancement potential of women in the workforce. The fact that men hold the majority of powerful or high-profile positions in the corporate world is not surprising. What is surprising and alarming is the staggeringly low percentage of women to crack the upper echelon on the job. According to USA Today, women who are employed by Fortune 500 companies account for only 15 percent of board memberships. Of the same group, only 3 percent are CEOs.
Women in Combat
Fourteen percent of soldiers currently serving in the U.S. armed forces are women. Until now, there has been a ban on the service of women in combat, although they do perform critical combat support functions. MSNBC reports that this may soon change. A military advisory commission has issued a recommendation to the Pentagon that the ban be lifted. Opponents of servicewomen in combat cite concerns that female soldiers lack the necessary physical stamina and strength. They also fear the potential breakdown of unity among combat troops with female members. Supporters of the rule change argue that there is no evidence to support either of those negative scenarios.
- McKendree University; Gender Equality and Abortion; Brian Frederking; 2006
- USA Today; Have Women Shattered the Glass Ceiling?; Ileve H. Lang; 2010
- MSNBC; Military Commisssion: Lift Ban, Allow Women in Combat; Pauline Jelinek; 2011
- Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology; The Social Roles of Men and Women
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