An Epidemic of Sexism

February 24, 2010
Sometimes, believing in gender equality and working toward it means celebrating victories. There were victories in achieving women's suffrage with the 19th Amendment, passing women's rights legislation such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963, affirming a woman's dominion over her own body in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade, and more recently, in last year's Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

But more often than not, being an advocate for women's rights means being surrounded by reminders of the work yet to be done, of remaining inequalities and injustices. A "one-stop-shop" for these reminders, this article from Sunday's Washington Post takes a sobering perspective.

Perhaps the author discounts the progress made against systematic and legal discrimination in this country, but she is not wrong when writes that "the appearance of a dangerous distraction from the pervasiveness of sexism." There is an "epidemic of sexism" in this country, women aren't yet equal, and more remains to be done. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act needs the Paycheck Fairness Act to be effective, the news is full of instances of targeted violence against women, both internationally and here in America, and a woman's fundamental and constitutionally-assured right to privacy is under relentless and insidious attack from anti-choice advocates and legislators.

If I disagree with the tone and perspective of the article it is in this way: We cannot live solely in the world as it should be, but rather, must also live in the world as it is. What this means is that while arguments framed in morality, those that rely on what we should do or believe, are significant and powerful, we must also move beyond them to new lines of reasoning.

We need to talk about how pay equity benefits businesses, how ending violence against women grows local economies and how strengthening the rights of women abroad and ending violence against women internationally is a down-payment on our national security. As we work for the rights of women we must find strategies to convince hold-outs that it is actually in their best interests to choose justice over injustice, equality over discrimination.

So I urge you to read the article, but rather than allow it to leave you disheartened and discouraged, move beyond the shortcomings of our society. Find allies, including the Religious Action Center, and explore new arguments and perspectives for achieving gender equality.

Please feel free to contact me at (202) 387-2800 or at with any questions.

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