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All About Women's Rights Issues

An Illustrated Guide to Current Women's Rights Issues


It is a testament to the power of institutional sexism that women, despite making up 51% of the population, are a minority group. This is changing, but not fast enough. In fact, our culture seems to be moving backwards sometimes--clinging to theories of gender that paint women as irrational and feeble-minded, laws that exercise lurid control over women's bodies, and school policies created to resegregate the next generation of girls into subservience. We need a feminist movement in this country.

Is Feminism Relevant?

March for Women's Lives Signs
Photo: © 2007 tattingstar2 (Flickr user). Licensed under Creative Commons.
When people ask whether something is relevant, that usually means they don't like it. People who ask whether religion is relevant, for example, aren't usually the same people who wash the chalices in the sacristy; people who ask whether the civil rights movement is relevant aren't usually the same people who pound the pavement at NAACP rallies; people who ask whether politics is relevant don't usually run for office. But many people, both inside and outside of the feminist movement, have questioned its relevance. What does this mean?

Shirin Ebadi: Fighting for Women's Rights in Iran

Shirin Ebadi
Photo: Elisabetta Villa / Getty Images.
While U.S. talk-show pundits casually chat about bombing Iran from the comfort of their leather swivel chairs thousands of miles away, the courageous former judge and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize recipient is actually doing something to address human rights abuses in her home country.

An Illustrated History of Feminism in the United States

March for Women's Lives
Photo: © 2007 tattingstar2 (Flickr user). Licensed under Creative Commons.
The key to understanding feminism in the United States is to realize that it consists not of the feminist movement, but rather of multiple feminist movements. Brush up on the history of feminism with this illustrated guide to 12 pivotal events in feminist history, from the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792 to the monumental March for Women's Lives in 2004.

Third-Wave Feminism

Iraqi Women Protesting
Photo: Mario Lama / Getty Images.
The dominant voices in the feminist movement have historically been those of upper-class heterosexual white women with economic means living in industrialized countries. In recent years, the scope of feminism has broadened to better include women in developing nations, indigenous women, immigrant women, women of color, lesbians, bisexual women, and transwomen. In 1993, the term "third-wave feminism" was coined to describe this new, more comprehensive feminist movement.

Reproductive Rights 101

Uterus Kites
Photo: © 2007 Ellen Chyun. Licensed under Creative Commons.
The most obvious violations of women's rights are the laws that tell women what medicines they may take, which diseases they may vaccinate themselves against, and so forth. Reproductive rights includes the right to abortion, which poses unique bioethical concerns, but abortion is far from being the only reproductive rights concern on the women's rights agenda. There is a comprehensive movement afoot to restrict women's reproductive rights in other ways as well, and the feminist response must be equally comprehensive.

Equal Pay After Ledbetter v. Goodyear

Construction Workers
Photo: © 2006 Ben Ostrowksy. Licensed under Creative Commons.
On average, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Congress hasn't done anything meaningful to address this problem since 1963, and a recent Supreme Court ruling highlights the need for a more aggressive legislative response.

The Bush Administration's War on Girls

Home Economics
Photo: Library of Congress.
Title IX of the U.S. Code used to mandate equal funding for boys' and girls' public education programs, but a recent ex post facto signing statement from the Bush administration indicates that they plan to move full speed ahead with a national program of mandatory gender segregation.

Why Girls Are "Dumb at Math"

Math Homework
Photo: © 2007 Jon Oakley. Licensed under Creative Commons.
A new study has found that if girls are told that there are biological differences between the sexes that make boys better at math, they'll perform worse on math tests. This discovery should have put an end to the school gender segregation movement; instead, it appears to have rejuvenated it.

National Organization for Women: The Feminist Movement's Grass Roots

Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Summer
Photo: Marianne Todd / Getty Images.
The 550 autonomous local chapters that comprise the National Organization for Women (NOW) represent a wide rage of local cultures and ideologies, but collectively they form the backbone of a national organization known for direct action. While NOW is primarily associated with the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s, it remains the nation's largest and most visible feminist organization.

The Feminist Majority Foundation: Saving for the Future

Martha Burk Meets with Feminist Majority Foundation
Photo: Getty Images.
Founded by former NOW president Eleanor Smeal, the Feminist Majority Foundation works to secure the long-term future of the feminist movement in America through public education, policy analysis, and coalition support.
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