By Marissa Luna
Today is Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the 95th anniversary of women finally earning the right to vote through the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
It’s crazy to think that a woman having the right to vote in the early 1900’s was unthinkable and is now the norm. The tables have turned entirely. It would be unthinkable today to deny a woman the right to vote because she’s a woman (not to ignore the fact that many people are still being denied their right to vote even today). It’s an issue, like most, where culture came before policy. An issue, like most, that in order to enact lasting change for the better we must break down the widespread conditioned patterns of thought that uphold oppression.
History has proven that changing policy is hard, if not impossible, to do before changing our perceptions. It took 70 years to change people’s misguided views about a woman’s place in society and for women to be viewed as equals when it came to the right to vote, leading to the passage of the 19th amendment.
Yet, 95 years after women achieved that right, those same conditioned ways of thinking that perpetuated women’s’ disenfranchisement still persist, just in a different form. Women aren’t paid the same as men for doing the same work with the same qualifications simply because they’re women. Women are still expected to take care of the majority of responsibilities in the home, regardless if they have a career or not, because they’re women. Women can and do get fired from their jobs and discriminated against in the workplace for being pregnant.
Our culture is certainly shifting thanks to transgender people, gender nonconforming people, and women and men who are challenging the status quo and refusing to accept that people should be treated unfairly because of their gender. After all, gender is nothing more than a social construct, a conditioned way of thinking about how certain people should or shouldn’t act.
I enjoy celebrating differences between people, but we need to remember to check ourselves when we fall back on patterns of thinking that say a person should or should not act a certain way or do a certain thing because of their gender. We need to remember that when it comes to gender it is all in our head and no one should be oppressed or treated unfairly because of it. We need to remember that we have more in common with each other than differences – we’re human first.
While we celebrate the achievement of a 70 year struggle for equality at the ballot box, remember that there is still progress to be made and it will take all of us together.
Photo credit: UN Women