Breaking Barriers: Empowering Women in the Face of Systemic Oppression

Despite the progress made toward gender equality, women in America continue to face significant hurdles in various aspects of life, including political representation, wage disparity, and societal perceptions. The statistics paint a sobering picture: only 31% of Wisconsin State legislators are women, while there were one million fewer men enrolled in college than women in the past winter. Yet, women earn a staggering $0.84 for every dollar a man earns, a stark reminder of the persistent wage gap.

As a young woman studying politics, I am inspired by the trailblazers who have broken through the glass ceiling and held political office. However, female candidates must prove themselves to a higher degree than their male counterparts, navigating a landscape shaped by deeply-rooted oppressive ideologies and societal perceptions.

The Roots of Oppression

American women from all walks of life must grapple with the nation’s deeply oppressive structures. Since the inception of the United States, women have been excluded from the benefits of capitalism and democracy. The Constitution’s failure to include women in its language and the founders’ notion of which citizens are worthy of liberty set the stage for a power disparity that persists to this day.

Conspicuous consumption, a term coined by sociologist Thorstein Veblen, reinforced the objectification of women in the leisure class, reducing their role to mere vessels for displaying their husbands’ wealth. This ideology, coupled with the founders’ capitalistic mindset, effectively excluded women from the workforce and perpetuated the belief that women are less capable than men.

Shattering the Glass Ceiling

One of the most significant barriers women face is the glass ceiling – an invisible barrier created by sexist biases that prohibit women from advancing in the workplace. This phenomenon extends to the political arena, reflecting the deep-seated bias against women in positions of power.

The winner-takes-all nature of American elections heavily emphasizes candidates’ personalities rather than their merits. In a society where women are often perceived as inferior, a woman’s skill set is overshadowed by her popularity. The 2016 presidential election serves as a poignant example, where Hillary Clinton, despite her extensive government experience, was defeated by Donald Trump, a man without any prior political experience, largely due to his charismatic persona.

Policy and Perception

According to a 2023 Pew Research study, “Women and Political Leadership Ahead of the 2024 Election,” the majority of Americans surveyed felt that women would perform equally to men in leadership roles, or that gender did not matter. Interestingly, half of the participants believed that a woman president would be better equipped to handle healthcare and education policies.

However, policies often reflect the perceptions and ideologies that pervade society. The overturning of Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision that limited a woman’s privacy rights and autonomy over her own body, serves as a stark reminder of the enduring gender discrimination. Whether driven by religiosity or an active desire to oppress women, the implications of this decision cast a long shadow over the hard-fought gains made by women over the past 50 years.

The Path Forward

While America has undoubtedly made strides towards a more progressive and equal society, battles remain to be won. The power of ideologies that degrade women translates into policies that reflect the beliefs and biases of the citizenry. If disparities between men and women are so pervasive in our society, how can America take a woman candidate for president seriously?

Empowering women and advocating for their rights, both in and outside the political sphere, is crucial. America must strive to create a government that truly represents its constituents, embracing diversity and ensuring that women’s voices are heard and their agency is protected. Only through collective effort and a commitment to dismantling systemic oppression can we pave the way for a future where women are truly equal partners in shaping the nation’s destiny.

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