Kimala Price, a 2009–10 AAUW American Fellow and an associate professor of women’s studies at San Diego State University, has been active in the movement for two decades. As a scholar and activist, Price has studied how the varying histories and lived realities of different groups of women affect their struggles for reproductive freedom.
Many women of color — particularly African American women in the South, Puerto Rican women, women of Mexican origin in the Southwest, and Native American women through Indian Health Service — were sterilized, often without their full knowledge or consent, Price said. On the other hand, women of European descent have historically been strongly encouraged to have children. Certain policies made it difficult for these women to even obtain contraceptives, let alone sterilizations. These varying histories shape what the fight for reproductive freedom looks like for each group of women.
Social and economic issues such as poverty and unemployment also affect women’s reproductive health. Can someone truly achieve reproductive freedom without adequate housing for her family or reliable access to transportation to attend health appointments? For Price, the answer is no.
“Reproduction does not exist in a vacuum,” Price said. “It is affected by social issues such as economic inequality, environmental issues, LGBTQ rights, and immigration.” These real-world issues, which tend to disproportionally affect women of color, must be acknowledged and addressed. Acknowledging our different histories and learning what influences the reproductive freedom of each group of women will teach us how to support and assist each other.
A new study by the University of Paris-Sorbonne shows that disappearing pensions hurt both the economy and workers. By pushing older workers to remain in the labor force, the U.S. economy has taken jobs away from younger workers who could be more productive. Keep in mind this is not to suggest that older workers can’t be as productive as younger workers. Experience and knowledge go a long way. But when taken across the entire U.S. economy, older workers tend to be less productive on average, according to the study at the Sorbonne. Globally, the peak average age for workers in terms of their productivity tends to be about 43.
The drop in U.S. pensions also contributed to the rising gap between the rich and poor. That change has led to increased inequality, because low- and middle-class workers cannot afford pensions, whereas the wealthy can.
Yesterday was Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day when women’s pay finally “catches up” to men’s pay from the previous year. But don’t forget that the pay gap is even larger for women of color, whose “Equal Pay Days” are much later this year. Get all the facts → bit.ly/paygap101
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked what amendment she would most like to see added to the U.S. Constitution, she replied, “it would be the Equal Rights Amendment. I think we have achieved that through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered,” she continued. “So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion — that women and men are persons of equal stature — I’d like them to see that that is a basic principle of our society.”
Although more than 80% of countries gender equality in their constitutions, including, as Ginsburg noted “every constitution written since he Second World War” — the period during which most of the world’s constitutions were written — the world’s oldest written constitution does not include this protection. In effect since 1789, t U.S. Constitution was written during a period when gender equality was far from being animportant societal value. Over time, the US has passed many laws protecting women’s rights but, as Ginsburg observes, “Legislation can be repealed. It can be altered… That principle belongs in our Constitution.” The U.S. Constitution is exceedingly difficult to amend, however the ERA was nearly added to the Constitution forty years ago. The Amendment, which was originally drafted by suffragist Alice Paul in 1923, was approved by both houses of Congress and endorsed by then President Richard Nixon in 1972. It then went to the states for approval, but ultimately only received 35 of the 38 state ratifications needed to become a Constitutional Amendment. Today, there is renewed interested in an Equal Rights Amendment, which, according to Ginsburg, would recognize that “women are people equal in stature before the law.” Many older women’s rights activists observe that young people are often shocked to learn that the Constitution does not guarantee equal rights for women; in fact, one survey found that 72% of adults incorrectly believed that the Constitution included such a gender equality guarantee. Whether Justice Ginsburg will see the passage of the ERA in her lifetime is uncertain but she says it’s an essential part of ensuring women’s equal protection, observing that a “prime part of the history of our Constitution is the story of the extension of constitutional rights to people once ignored or excluded.”
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: There’s a pay gap between women and men, and that gap is even wider for women of color. But here are a few facts you might not have heard before: African American Women are paid 68 cents for every dollar white men are paid and Latino women are paid 64 cents. For Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, that number is 62 cents. American Indian and Alaska Native women are paid just 59 cents.
September 8 marked Native American women’s equal pay day, the day that the wages of American Indian and Alaska Native women catch up to the money white men earned last year. (It took about nine months, if you’re counting.) We used this occasion to honor all Native Americans, including Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, who would have reached “equal pay” back in July, right before black women did.