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Violence Against Women Essay

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    When the constitution was first established women were neither considered citizens nor persons. They were the property of their slave masters, fathers, and husbands. They were not given a voice, they had to fight for it. The issue at hand is violence against women (VAW). Violence may manifest itself in many ways, it does not have to be just a physical element. This paper will explore themes of violence against women in healthcare, wages and occupational discrimination. Themes associated with sexual harassment targeting the workplace will also be explored.

    Throughout all of history, women have been trained to put the needs of others before themselves. In the 17th century, coverture was a common law doctrine that signified the unity of spouses as one person, the one in control being the husband. Wives held no power, they could not own property, enter into contracts with others or initiate legal action. It was believed and practiced that women were best suited for fulfilling roles within the home; legally, women were banned from higher education, most professions and public office (Barusch, 2017). It wasn’t until the Suffrage movement in 1920 that women’s voices were legally heard granting them full citizenship through the right to vote. Following the Suffrage movement was the Equal Pay Act by Alice Paul declaring men and women will have equal rights in the United States (Barusch 2017).

    According to the Human Capital Theory, the gender wage gap occurs when women receive a lesser education than men, have interrupted work histories, less commitment to their work and are unsuccessful in building seniority within the workforce (Barusch, 2017). In 1963, The Equal Pay Act was passed by Congress, this act promised equal wages for the same work, regardless of race, religion, national origin or sex (National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA). Unfortunately, in the over 50 years since it was passed women still make up almost 50 percent of the workforce and yet they still make close to 80 cents for every dollar a man earns (a gender wage gap of 20%). With forty percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are being the primary or sole earners for their household the wage discrepancy affects the quality of life single mothers have in contrast single father or couples. Public policy in the workforce is marked with inconsistency, denial and the unwillingness to adhere to the compliance of laws put in place to protect women’s rights as seen through the wage difference between men and women.

    The article ‘Why is there a Gender Wage Gap according to the Occupational Prestige’ by Charlotta Magnusson, there are two theories she uses to further explain the earning difference between men and women: one is the supply side, which focuses on the individual means and the other is the demand side, which focuses on the structural controls of the labor market (ex. discrimination). There is a wage penalty for being a mother but not for a father. In fact, having a family has a positive impact on a man but negatively impacts a woman’s career. Due to mother’s being the primary caregiver of children, even with fathers’ present, work collides with family obligations; putting a strain on the availability for a mother to do overtime, travel, be on-call and join organizational activities. Thus, indicating the demand side, discriminating against women with familial obligations.

    All women do not have the luxury of having a partner or parental help with their financial needs. The wage inequality between men and women as previously discussed is 80 cents to every dollar men make. However, the cost of living between the two does not factor in the difference in pay but remains the same. Projecting this type of inequality places an added burden of stress onto women based solely on the gender of their sex. Barusch speaks on this as a greater risk of depression in women because of an increased risk of poverty.

    In 1971, the Supreme Court outlawed the practice of private employers refusing to hire women with preschool children (NWAH). Due to fact that women might take off from work to perform motherly duties, they are given projects that are inferior compared to men (Magnusson, 2010). Even when men and women have the same work ethic, men are more likely to receive a promotion over a woman, because of a premature idea that they will be unavailable to complete a future task given. It is not only in men driven fields that women are often overlooked but in women-dominated fields, men also excel quicker. In fact, it is unlikely for women to be promoted unless there are already a large number of women already in place at that employment (McLaughlin, Uggen, Blackstone, 2012). The gendered bias of men excelling when having a family and the women’s decline in the workforce addresses the inequality women face on a daily basis. It is through this burden of being the backbone of the family that a women’s occupation tends to suffer due to family obligations. Although pay equity will continue to be a goal for women the sacrifices working moms have to undergo are improving.

    In this section, the healthcare system and their practices of mistreating women as well as minority women will be under review. Time after time the healthcare system has reiterated through its policies and procedures that it decides who is worthy and unworthy of (proper) care and treatment. ‘Our healthcare system more effectively meets the acute care needs more commonly experienced by men than it does the chronic care needs more often experienced by women’ (Barusch, 2017, p.204). In the 1800s, Congress passed the Comstock Act, prohibiting the distribution of information about birth control methods and abortions limiting women’s knowledge and ability to decide what is right for them. Abortions are safer for a woman to undergo than childbirth but because of the moral dilemma and negative stigma associated with women being in control of their bodies, it was illegal.

    In 1916, Margaret Sanger, an advocate for birth control opened the first clinic in Brooklyn that focused on protecting a women’s’ right to control her own body (NWAH). Hundreds of women just like Margaret were jailed for their actions towards the advancement of women’s rights, the Suffrage movement was integral in providing women with the ability to have voices, vote and help implement laws empathetic to the disadvantages of women. It wasn’t until years later, after the suffrage movement that medicinal use of birth control was approved in 1936. Birth control was associated with such a negative stigma, it was believed that sex would promote promiscuity, disease and social instability. There was not only a stigma just around birth control, another theory believed was enabling the middle and upper class to control their reproductive rate while leaving immigrants and the working class without a way to control their reproductive rate would produce an inferior race (Barusch 2017).

    Margaret Sanger reinvented the way society viewed birth control by coining the phrase ‘family planning’. The family planning movement lead to the involuntary sterilization of thousands of disabled and poor people starting in the late 1920s. All the way into the1980s before it was ended by the federal regulation; welfare officials would ‘require voluntary consent to sterilization as a condition of receiving aid’ (Barusch, 2017, p.434). The targeted population of sterilization for supplies and financial support was generally poor minority women.

    Minority women, specifically ‘African and African American women continue to be medically underserved and understudied’ (Gregg, p.102). Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among African American women. White American women are more likely to receive breast cancer, African American women have a significantly higher mortality rate upon diagnosis. The common denominators of minority women with breast cancer are: they present at younger ages, are diagnosed with advanced stages, come from lower-socioeconomic statuses and lack of knowledge pertaining to causes and treatments (Gregg ). The medical profession has deemed minority women less worthy of receiving help due to their actions in providing this systematically oppressed population the proper care. Cancer statistics reveal income disparities in diagnosis and in treatment aid in the demise of this specific population.

    Poor, single, mothers cannot afford a disease like breast cancer. Often times they have to make the sacrifice of choosing between taking care of themselves or their children. Wage inequality does not help this cause when finances are a major factor. Women must continue to gain knowledge and advocate for themselves in order to help ratify the healthcare’s ambivalence, unwillingness, and denial in upholding public policies that protect the rights of all women.

    The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was established in 1994. This Act is a landmark in enshrining women’s rights through funding services for victims of rape and domestic violence, seeking justice for gender-related crimes, training for police and court officials insensitivity and a 24-hour hotline for battered women (NWAH). At least one in four women experience sexual harassment in the workforce and will need the services provided through the VAWA. The term sexual harassment was not coined until the 1970s, it is defined as ‘unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature that interferes with one’s employment or work performance or creates a hostile or offensive work environment’ (McLaughlin, Uggen, Blackstone, 2012, p. 625).

    Unfortunately, hostile work environments lead to low morale, an unproductive workforce, a revolving door of employees, and the tarnish of a company’s name. McLaughlin, Uggen, and Blackstone explore the power-threat theory, women in authoritative roles are frequently targeted, motivated hegemonic masculinity. Sexual harassment is a form of sex-discrimination; it is driven by the motivation to protect the hegemonic social standing. Women who challenge their ‘subordinate’ positions in society are often targeted. Close to 90 percent of employees who experience harassment do not file a formal complaint. Supervisors (a part of the less than 10 percent to report harassment) simply do so because they are knowledgeable about proper protocol following such an act. Through gained knowledge of the matter, sexual harassment workshops, policies, and grievance procedures are integral in the workforce today.

    Society has tried to stifle the advancement of women, shattering the glass ceiling often comes with its own institutionalized set of consequences. Violence can be defined as acts of a result from a powerful relationship, this could include threats, intimidations, neglect, and acts of omission. Women have suffered psychological harm, deprivation, and maldevelopment in every aspect of their lives from the roles they play within their homes, the way they are viewed as objects and unintelligent human beings, the invisibility they receive in the workplace and the mistreatment they undergo within the healthcare system. Women will continue to experience violence against them all throughout their lifetime. It is up to them to create the change needed to rise against the war on women.


    1. Sexual Harassment, Workplace Authority, and the Paradox of Power Heather McLaughlin, Christopher Uggen and Amy Blackstone American Sociological Review Vol. 77, No. 4 (August 2012), pp. 625-647 (23 pages) Coverage: 1936-2015 (Vol. 1, No. 1 – Vol. 80, No. 6) Published by: American Sociological Association

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