Coronavirus pandemic shows women’s movement has a lot of work to do

As the new coronavirus has swept through almost every country on the planet, it has hit some populations harder than others.

In Rhode Island, Latinos make up 46% of the state’s case count. Nationally, blacks and Latinos are infected at disproportionate rates.

And one group is serving massively on the front lines – women.

Experts say women make up the majority of healthcare and social workers and are more likely to take on roles of caring for sick people and children at home.

In 2020, 100 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, women – and women of color in particular – are bearing the brunt of essential work during the pandemic, while earning less than their male counterparts.

While women have won many political victories over the past century, including the election of a record number of women in Congress in 2018, advocates say great progress is yet to be made in the areas of reproductive rights, equal pay, health care and improved maternal health outcomes for black women, which are more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.

Ratification of the 19th Amendment in practice guaranteed the right to vote only to white women, said Françoise Hamlin, associate professor of history and African studies at Brown University.

Black women faced many barriers to voting and would not be able to fully exercise their right until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, she said.

Indigenous women were also left behind because they were not considered citizens until Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, said Loren Spears, executive director of the Tomaquag Museum, a Exeter Indigenous Museum. Even so, many indigenous people continued to face discrimination at the ballot box until the voting rights law was passed, she said.

“The first wave of suffragists, they didn’t want to include black women,” said Ellie Brown, development manager for the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, a research and granting organization focused on women’s issues. “Women, to them, meant white women.”

Divisions remain in feminism – for example, the Me Too campaign, which launched a movement around justice for victims of sexual harassment and violence, was founded by a black woman, Tarana Burke, who is often overshadowed by Hollywood actors who widely popularized the slogan, Hamlin mentioned.

But researchers agree that the movements have become much more intersectional.

“I think there’s more of a feeling of, we’re all in the same boat,” she said.

Feminism doesn’t work if it doesn’t include everyone, Brown said, and the issues advocates need to expand beyond what are normally considered women’s issues – such as access to control over women. births and parental leave.

All of the great social issues of our time are women’s issues too, as women are often affected the most by them – especially women of color, according to Debra Mulligan, professor of history at Roger Williams University.

Take the coronavirus pandemic. Nationally, 77% of healthcare workers and 78% of social workers are women, according to The New York Times; 52% of all skilled essentials workers are women, and women of color are more likely to hold essential jobs than anyone else.

In Rhode Island, 87% of healthcare workers are women, and nearly half of those workers are women of color, according to the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. Ninety-eight percent of child care providers are women and 20% of child care workers are women of color.

In 2017, 70% of Rhode Islanders participating in the state’s family leave program were women who had to stay home to care for family members. Of all Rhode Islanders who took family leave to bond with a new baby, 61% were female that year, according to the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island.

While women continuing to play the most essential roles, both at home and in the workforce, pay equity continues to be a focal point for women’s rights advocates.

Nationally, white women earn 79 cents on the dollar, compared to their male counterparts, black women 62 cents, indigenous women 57 cents, and Latin women 54 cents, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families, a Washington DC-based women’s policy organization. .

In Rhode Island, women typically earn 84 cents on every dollar paid to men, according to the National Center for Women’s Rights, an organization focused on gender justice. For black women, it’s 59 cents and for Latin women, 50 cents.

The change is going to overhaul the existing systems and restructure power, Hamlin said.

In Rhode Island, women make up 38% of the state legislature, while they make up about 29% of legislatures nationwide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Defenders said they were encouraged by the selection of Kamala Harris to run for vice-president with Democratic candidate Joe Biden – the first woman of color to appear on a ticket to a major party – but they warned that, s ‘he was elected, Harris alone could be vice president. we will not bring about the necessary reforms without a broader cultural change.

“Women might have the right to vote and the right to play varsity sports and do all of those things, but there still isn’t that kind of social change,” said Kathleen McIntyre, assistant professor of studies on gender and women at the University of Rhode Island. “There are still ugly stereotypes and disrespectful patterns happening. “

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Rhode Island pay gap

Median weekly earnings for men and women by level of education, according to the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. Data from 2017.

Less than secondary

Men – $ 750 Women – $ 480

High school graduate

Men – $ 984 Women $ 642


Men – $ 1,500 Women – $ 1,000

Median annual income for women in Rhode Island from 2012 to 2016, according to the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island.

White women – $ 48,859

Asian Women – $ 44,962

Black women – $ 35,214

Latin Women – $ 29,798

What Rhode Island women earn for every dollar paid to a male counterpart, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Women as a whole – 84 cents

Asian women – 77 cents

Black women – 59 cents

Latin women – 50 cents

The pay gap for Rhode Island women amounts to a typical annual loss of $ 9,037 in wages.

Loren Spears, executive director of the Tomaquag Museum, said Indigenous peoples continued to face discrimination at the ballot box after the 19th Amendment was passed.