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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Women’s Equality Day heightens everyday standards

    If, like me, you were too busy celebrating the end of the first week of the semester to notice, President Barack Obama issued an official proclamation on Thursday. We should have pulled out the party hats, you guys. Obama proclaimed it: Friday was Women’s Equality Day.

    Oh, gosh. How terribly sad. We missed it. What will we do on the 364 other days of the year?

    In the interest of fairness, you can’t accuse just the Obama administration of quiet, hollow gesturing. Every president since 1971, the year Rep. Bella Abzug pushed Congress to pass legislation designating Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day, has published a proclamation for it. Way to ride Abzug’s coattails, dudes.

    According to Obama’s proclamation, “the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution tore down the last formal barrier to women’s enfranchisement in our nation and empowered America’s women to have their voices heard in the halls of power.” Aug. 26 marks the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

    On the 91st anniversary of this day, Obama’s proclamation stated, “We are working to ensure that women-owned businesses can compete in the marketplace, that women are not discriminated against in health care, and that we redouble our efforts to bring an end to sexual assault on college campuses.”

    We are working, still. That’s the part to keep in mind.

    Despite tearing down the last “formal barrier to women’s enfranchisement,” women still earn less than men do. Unrestricted access to safe abortion and contraceptives is still limited in many states, including Arizona. Sexual assault on college campuses is a legitimate issue, but so is sexual assault anywhere.

    The emptiness of the Women’s Equality Day proclamation should not distract from the Obama administration’s bigger efforts, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the creation of the Council on Women and Girls. The proclamation should have been treated as a reminder of achievements such as these, of how far we’ve come through history. It should also serve as a reminder of how much ground there is left to cover.

    In fall 2008, 55 percent of students enrolled at universities nationwide were female, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2009, 29.9 million women ages 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or better. Only 28.7 million men did. Women also had more high school diplomas and associate and master’s degrees. However, more men had professional or doctoral degrees than women. Women still earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men.

    Thanks for the shiny proclamation, Mr. President. It’s not as meaningless as we think it is, but it’s also not as true as we’d like it to be.

    Women’s Equality Day is one day of many on which we have to honor what has been accomplished by acknowledging the amount of work that’s left to be done. If Women’s Equality Day is the one day of the year for recognizing milestones like the 19th Amendment, then the other 364 days we have left should strive to be as life-changing as Aug. 26.

    What’s done is good. But it’s not good enough.

    — Kristina Bui is the copy chief for the Daily Wildcat. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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