The global theme for today’s celebration of International Women’s Day only tells half of the story. “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum” correctly captures the progress that women have made on civil rights and the achievements of women in politics, economics and social arenas around the world.
Yet, despite all of this progress and achievement, this year’s host of the Oscar award show made demeaning jokes about women, the number of homeless female veterans grows and our state Senate might not allow a vote on continuing insurance coverage for terminating pregnancies under health care reform.
Consider these thoughts on Women’s Day:
• Military Sexual Trauma – Returning female veterans now comprise the most rapidly growing sector of the U.S. homeless population, according to reports.
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Female veterans slip into substance abuse and suffer mental illness from battlefield stressors, just like their male counterparts. But they also must deal with military sexual trauma, or MST, as it is being called.
Sexual assaults and harassment suffered during service careers is leading to post-traumatic stress disorder.
• Violence Against Women Act – Congress reauthorized the 1994 VAWA last week and improved it. The new law extends protections to American Indian women, immigrant women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
• Reproductive Parity Act – In the state Legislature, the Senate Health Care Committee Chairwoman Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, has for two months blocked a hearing on the so-called Reproductive Parity Act. This bill is necessary to extend insurance coverage for abortions under the Affordable Care Act, which is the common practice now by statewide insurance companies. A hearing will be held on April 1.
• It’s not funny – Voters rejected Republican politicians back east who made offensive remarks about rape in the last fall’s general election, and recently Amazon shoppers forced the Internet retailer to remove disgusting T-shirts from its site. The shirts were being sold with slogans, such as “Keep Calm and Choke Her” and “Keep Calm and Rape A Lot.”
• Your Horizons – South Puget Sound Community College brought several hundred middle-school girls together recently to expand their knowledge about careers involving science, technology and mathematics.
They were encouraged by SPSCC instructor Sarah Patterson, “Being a woman in a nontraditional field will help you go places you have never dreamed of. You are the only one that say you can’t do this.”
• Proof Patterson’s remark is true – Five female justices hold the majority on the state Supreme Court. Oprah Winfrey will deliver the commencement address at Harvard University in May. The nations of South Korea and Malawi elected female presidents last year.
• Ending FGM – About 3 million women undergo female genital mutilation every year, adding to the more than 140 million women worldwide who have suffered through this barbaric practice. Of that total, about two-thirds of the surgeries occur in Africa, often in unsanitary conditions using a knife, razor blade or even scissors, and frequently without anesthesia.
• Political power – While voters elected more female U.S. Senators than ever before, the United States ranks 71st among nations in female legislative representation. There are no female mayors in Thurston County, and women lead only 9 percent of the nation’s largest cities.
The glass appears both half-full and half-empty, because we still have a long way to go to find general equality.