Our series on intersectional feminism has been broad, using statistics and summaries to introduce the issues. However, introductions fail to capture the details and this month, we would like to rectify that. A lot has happened in the months since we began these articles in October, but what have these changes meant for the women we have discussed?
Progress and Regression by Gianna Francesca Vescio
Our series on intersectional feminism has been broad, using statistics and summaries to introduce the issues. However, introductions fail to capture the details and this month, we would like to rectify that. A lot has happened in the months since we began these articles in October, but what have these changes meant for the women we have discussed? Let’s start with updates, particularly the effects of the pandemic, the 2020 Presidential Election, and the recent COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress. There is not a single person in the United States who has not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way, but the degree of that impact has not been equal for everyone. The economic gap between men and women has only widened. With schools and childcare facilities closed, working mothers have been forced to leave their jobs or take reduced hours to look after their families.1 In September 2020 alone, 617,000 women became unemployed, eight times the number of men. 2 Women working in low-paying positions were in a particularly difficult spot with jobs disappearing or their partner’s paycheck becoming more important than their own. We discussed before how Latina women are disproportionately occupying low-income jobs due to a cycle of poverty and the pandemic has exacerbated that divide. Latinx people experienced unemployment faster and in greater numbers than their White counterparts.3 Women who were barely keeping their head above water are now unable to afford essentials such as rent, medical care, and period products. But is there good news? Could anything positive have come from these past twelve months? The answer, surprisingly, is yes! Despite setbacks, women are still surviving. In fact, during this past presidential election, a record number of Native women were sworn into Congress with Congresswomen Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico being joined by another New Mexico resident, Yvette Herrell. Representative Deb Haaland has even been confirmed as the Secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American to hold this position. With the Secretary of the Interior handling the country’s natural resources, this has been remarked as an important symbolic move.4 Native communities are also leading in COVID-19 vaccine distribution thanks to a deep sense of duty to their community and strong messaging.5 Furthermore, the vaccine rollout has begun prioritizing individuals with disabilities or other health issues that put them at greater risk for severe illness. In states such as California, these individuals are not required to prove their eligibility in order to increase accessibility and maintain confidentiality.6 Recent developments have also benefitted low-income women and families. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 includes child tax credits of $3,000+ depending on the age of the children, regardless of income.7 However, some good news is shadowed by continuing bigotry. While the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, prohibiting discrimination based on sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, the bill is not expected to pass in the Senate.8 25 states are going even further by introducing bills that would ban transgender women from participating in women’s sports with baseless claims of unfair advantages.9 Laws like these and the hardships brought on by the pandemic can make it feel as though progress has come to a halt, but we must remember that progress is not linear and every step counts.
Progress is a culmination of efforts made by all people in a community. Next month, we will continue this discussion with ways the average person can support struggling women.