When the moderator proceeded with his questions even though Hillary Clinton was not back onstage at the last Democratic presidential debate, I thought, briefly, that he could have waited for her return. Surely, the director had an extra commercial stacked somewhere, but it was no big deal—simply rude. My accompanying thought was that she had been held up by the line at the ladies’ room. That is such an everyday occurrence that it merited no comment, except that the male moderator refused to wait for her return.
And then The Donald had to weigh in. The only part of the entire incident (other than Trump’s insertion of himself into it) that is disgusting is the poorly designed and placed ladies’ rooms. There is not a woman alive who is unfamiliar with the typical long lines at any event, whether it be during the intermission in a theater or a commercial break at a sporting event.
So why is this still an issue? Is it so terribly difficult to resolve? Not really. It is neither insurmountable nor difficult to fix—but it only troubles women, so who cares? It probably doesn’t help that:
Earning its own hashtag (#everydaysexism), it was far from the only example during December.
The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) just released a study of the gender price differential in New York City. Titled “From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer,” the study looked at children’s toys and clothing, adult clothing, and personal care products as well as senior home health care aids.
On average, across all five industries, DCA found that women’s products cost 7 percent more than similar products for men. Specifically:
• 7 percent more for toys and accessories
• 4 percent more for children’s clothing
• 8 percent more for adult clothing
• 13 percent more for personal care products
• 8 percent more for senior/home health care products
In all but five of the 35 product categories analyzed, products for female consumers were priced higher than those for male consumers. Across the sample, DCA found that women’s products cost more 42 percent of the time while men’s products cost more 18 percent of the time.
Unsurprisingly, they found that the additional cost to be a woman purchasing goods in these five categories ran into the thousands of dollars over a woman’s lifetime. And while New York has protections against discriminatory gender pricing for services within the state (as does California), it has no control over the pricing of goods. So, the DCA is encouraging people to use social media to report instances of fair pricing and of gender pricing under the hashtag #genderpricing. You may also want to consider buying the blue disposable razors instead of the pink ones.
But both of the above examples of everyday sexism pale when compared to the scathing statement issued by the United Nations Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice that was released on December 11, 2015.
...US women do not take their rightful place as citizens of the world’s leading economy, which has one of the highest rates of per capita income. In the US, women fall behind international standards as regards their public and political representation, their economic and social rights and their health and safety protections.
The United States is one of only seven nations that has failed to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All of Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This should not surprise any woman who has been watching us regress since the failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
The Working Group delegation focused on women in public and political life, economic and social life, access to health care, and reproductive health and rights. They did not look at the abysmal lack of access to restrooms or the difference in pricing of male and female shampoos. They just hit the high points—the important arenas of politics, economics, and health care—and it was there that they found us so lacking.
In politics, inhibited by a lack of fundraising prowess, U.S. women rank 72nd internationally.
Four out of 15 members of cabinet are women. Women hold 19.4% of Congressional seats and their representation in state legislatures varies widely between 12.9% and 46.2%, with an average of 24.9%. This represents the highest level of legislative representation ever achieved by women in the United States. However, it still places the country at only 72 in global ranking.
Although the Group acknowledged that American women vote in higher percentages than do men, they are concerned with the new state voting restrictions that place additional burdens on women in poverty and on women who often change their names upon marriage.
As far as women’s working lives go:
we are shocked by the lack of mandatory standards for workplace accommodation for pregnant women, post-natal mothers and persons with care responsibilities, which are required in international human rights law.
They discuss the 21 percent pay gap (which is greater for women of color), and the reduction in the value of the minimum wage (which impacts women, who are the majority of minimum wage workers). Women are also the majority of domestic workers who are offered little to no protection against verbal and physical abuse, as well as wage theft.
The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act provides minimal allowances for unpaid leave for those who work for an employer with more than 50 employees.
However, even for those employees whom it covers, this provision falls far beneath international human rights standards, which require that maternity leave must be paid leave, with best practice being the provision of additional paid leave for fathers too. The US is one of only two countries in the world without a mandatory paid maternity leave for all women workers.
The Working Group bemoaned the absence of universal health care, noting that fully one-third of the people living in poverty (a majority of whom are women) remain uninsured.
Reproductive rights are inhibited by a lack of sex education (and no, they do not consider “abstinence only” an acceptable substitute), as well as a lack of funding, thanks to the Hyde Amendment and severe barriers mandated by some states which include unnecessary medical procedures and waiting periods. All of these have a disproportionate impact on women in poverty.
We encourage steps to reconcile U.S. laws on religious or conscience-based refusals to provide reproductive health care with international human rights law and to prohibit refusal to provide sexual and reproductive health services on grounds of religious freedom, where such refusal will effectively deny women immediate access to the health care to which they are entitled under both international human rights law and US law.
The section on women’s safety includes women in prison, or in detention centers, as well as the alarmingly high rate of violence against Native American women. Lack of gun control is pointed out as a factor in the overall violence figures.
Overall, the United States does very poorly at protecting the rights of its citizens who are women:
While all women are the victims of these missing rights, women who are poor, belong to Native American, Afro-American and Hispanic ethnic minorities, migrant women, LBTQ women, women with disabilities and older women are disparately vulnerable.
The Working Group will issue a full report in June 2016.
As long as our status as women is so low, it’s to be expected that there are women who are willing to vote for Hillary Clinton just because she is a woman. I can’t find it in me to condemn them for I, too, am tired of being a second-class citizen. It is time for that status to change—and so far, our male-dominated ruling class has done very little to change it.
Hell, they can’t even seem to change the placement (or capacity) of a ladies’ room.