I am so tired of people debating about whether the hijab/niqab/burqa (yes, they’re three different things) are “oppressing Muslim women,” when there are real issues we should be focusing on! Right here, in the United States!
Here are just 7 of the many issues in brief.
1. Maternity Leave
According to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), certain employees have to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave to new mothers. Forbes reports that the conditions for the 12 weeks of unpaid leave for mothers are that the company must have at least 50 employees and you have to have worked there for at least a year with the company before you apply.
San Francisco is the first U.S. city to mandate paid family leave; a few other U.S. cities have also passed partial family leave.
In the same article, Forbes reveals, “When it comes to paid leave for new parents, though, the United States is woefully behind the rest of the world. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), a United Nations agency, the only other country that doesn’t guarantee paid leave for new mothers is Papua New Guinea, where agriculture provides a subsistence livelihood for 85% of the population.”
This isn’t just about a mother being exhausted. The amount of time a mother can spend with her child impacts both the mother and child’s bond, as well as the mental health of the mother.
2. Health Care
Health Insurance is a national problem. With the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 47 million women were covered. Before this came in to effect, according to Obama Care Facts, “only about 12 percent of the health care plans sold in the individual market offered maternity coverage, and women paid about $1 billion more than men each year for identical health plans in the individual market.” This includes preventative measures, like mammograms, screenings and many more.
Prior to ACA, 52% of women delayed medical care because of cost, and 32% of women had to give up basic needs to pay the expenses for their health care.
Not to mention birth control and contraceptive counseling or even getting into the (not even) controversial topic of Planned Parenthood, health care is a basic human right. But by capitalizing on it, many people who have had cancer or have other “pre-existing” conditions, or people who aren’t covered by their workplace or who are unemployed have to put their health at risk or pay a lot for it. It took us a long time to get here, but now with this new presidency the ACA might be in trouble. It may be a long shot for them but they are determined. However we could make it more difficult. Call or write to your senators!
3. Judicial System Against Rape and Sexual Abuse
A low estimate of women raped every year in the U.S. is 300,000, a high estimate is 1.3 million. There is a 1 in 5 chance that a woman will be raped in the U.S. But more than half the cases are not reported.
There are many reasons that we can discuss — but according to facts, of the rapists that were tried, 97% walked free.
In September 2016, Brock Turner walked free after serving half his sentence, resulting in only 3 months behind bars. The judge, Aaron Pesky, was quoted saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.”
I won’t even get into the alleged rape and sexual violence accusations by dozens of women against our now president. But you get the idea of how rapists are being rewarded and why this is a problem, right?
4. Domestic Abuse
1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of some sort of physical violence by their partner in their lifetime. There are around 200,000 phone calls per day on domestic violence hotlines.
Abuse isn’t just physical though. You also have to understand how some women are emotionally abused — where they are taunted, made fun of, cursed at, and prevented from visiting families or friends. This sort of abuse is, in some cases, more dangerous because women are less likely to realize that it is happening to them.
This is a national issue, so why aren’t we talking about it? Why is it still a stigma for so many people?
Abortions have been a massively debated topic in this country. It is highly controversial, with passionate arguments on both sides. According to law, “American women have the legal right to obtain an abortion in all 50 states, through all nine months of pregnancy, for virtually any reason at all.” However, through the years, exceptions and clauses have been added state to state. As a result, women who have had to make the incredibly difficult decision of aborting their baby must go through even more obstacles to be able to get it done.
I am privileged to never have had to be in a situation where I wanted or needed to consider abortion, so I can comfortably say I don’t agree — but its not that easy for a lot of people. And when the government is taking away your rights to your own bodies? That is terrifying.
6. Equal Wages
Is this seriously still a thing?
White males earn more than every other group, including minority men, White and minority women… for the same job.
According to Pew Research Center, “Among women across all races and ethnicities, hourly earnings lag behind those of white men and men in their own racial or ethnic group. But the hourly earnings of Asian and white women ($18 and $17, respectively) are higher than those of Black and Hispanic women ($13 and $12, respectively) – and also higher than those of Black and Hispanic men.”
7. Portrayal of Women in Advertisements
According to Jean Kilbourne, the creator of the film series “Killing us Softly” — a lecture series on how women are portrayed in the media and advertisements, and how the use of women’s bodies objectifies a woman, which leads to violence as well as lower self-esteem.
Some advertisements use a part of a woman’s body, sometimes the breasts or her legs, without showing her face. This, Kilbourne states, is objectifying the woman. They are merely parts of her body and this could lead to or influence, in some cases, violence against women.
By objectifying a woman, she is dehumanized — she is simply just an object, and that is often the first step of violence toward anyone. It also denotes the idea of equality between genders. Advertisements often show men in dignified roles versus women bent in odd shapes or in child-like roles.
That said, some progress has been made. There are some great ads, like the Dove real women campaign and Aerie, which decided not to retouch or photoshop their ads. But with ads like any Carl’s Jr. commercial, which uses objectifying women to sell their products, we still have a long way to go.
There are still so many issues I did not talk about. Real talk: if you’re worried about my hijab, I chose to wear it, and I don’t need your help or analysis.
But there are serious issues that do.