This election race asserts that a woman is less of a man. Women across the Nation unite this April 28, sharing their poignant narratives and footprints against nationwide feminized legislative insurgency. This insurgency against women in this election race is not a just a discourse of gender and politics. This wave of feminization in politics is moving beyond the rising rhetoric. It is impacting legislation. Commencing with several bills: the controversy on contraception and abortion, endorsing of Violence against Women Act (VAWA), vocabularies like Slut, Fetal Pain Bill, Vaginal Ultra-Sound – demeaning and inappropriate for government business. This wave is sweeping over State Houses and floors, across the nation from Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, Arizona, to Georgia. The diatribe against Sandra Fluke and the analogy made by Representative Terry England, women as farm animals, are shaping perceptions and vocabularies, unfortunately influencing outcomes for women. Legislative rights of women are at stake.
Aiming for gender equality in legislation is a smart thing to pursue. Then political, economic and social participation of women as equal and equitable partners become viable, where women are then included as known quantity in an electoral race. Legislative rights, define proportion of what is fair and equal. Otherwise, in the absence of clear-cut legislation, leading to unfair and unequal consequences. Legislative equality of women eliminates perception-based judgments, decreasing vulnerabilities of women and minority groups. Without legislative equality−social, political and economic justice remains merely vocabulary limited to activists only.
Even today in the land of the free, women continue to struggle for their political, economic and social rights. As consequences of women unfriendly laws crafted by legislators lacking gender awareness, opportunities in social and economic costs continue rising. Georgia must review and revise laws influencing women’s rights from a legal standpoint. Gender parity in laws lead to significant increases in workforce productivity, economy and social progress improving general well-being of men, women, families and communities. The actions for improving political, economic and social participation of women in Georgia are insufficient. Who votes on what bill ultimately matters and this begins with political representation.
The proportion of women among State legislature in elective office nationwide in Georgia stands at the ranking of 26. Currently, no elected women official represents Georgia at the national level. Men comprising of 2 Senators and 13 House members represent the US Senate and the House. Likewise, men hold all the statewide elected executive positions with zero women representing these offices. In the State legislature, women represent 23.7 percent of Senate and House/Assembly showing that only 9 women make up of the total 56 State Senators. In the House, representation is slightly higher with 47 women out of 180 House members. A comparison of historical data reveals that since 2005, there has been a steady decline in political representation of women in the legislature, adversely influencing trends in other sectors as well.
Not surprising, in Georgia, the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings has been historically low. Despite the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 that seeks restitution for pay discrimination, on average, a full-time worker in Georgia is still paid $9,000 less per year than a man reflecting a median weekly earning of about 77.5 percent of their male counterpart. Paycheck Fairness Act that seeks to update 1963 Equal Pay Act is yet to pass into Law. Weakening their earning capacity further, other related legislations negatively influence women’s economic participation in the workforce.
These legislations on reproductive and preventive health care, unemployment insurance and access to safeguard and social services disproportionately affect women’s professional capacity to participate within the workforce. The externalities and internalities associated with these unsupportive legislations negatively influence productivity of 50 percent of the labor force influencing the economy. In the end, a robust economy is dependent on the trajectories of women friendly laws and gender equality in the workplace and for the workforce. Georgia’s jobless rate still stands at 9.0, above the national average of 8.2 percent. Within the civilian population, this number is much higher. The preliminary 2011 data on employment status by State and Demographic Group (excluding data for Asian Americans) www.bls.gov/lau/ptable14full2011.pdf shows Georgia’s total at 10.1 percent against a national average of 8.9 percent. The employment decline is more visible among women and ethnic minorities. For example, the average unemployment rate of African Americans is 15.8 percent, compared to 7.7 percent for Caucasians, 7.7 percent for Hispanics. Only 52.7 percent of women are currently employed compared to 63.3 percent of male who are employed. The effect of income inequality has social consequences, pervasively normalized in the absence of legal provisions of social safety nets, security and human rights.
With rallies taking place in several cities today, women are demanding their rights and equality. If legislature continues to display negativism in gender parity, the repercussion on family, society and the economy will be tangible and will take much longer to restore. It is time to put the brakes on the negative perceptions and vocabularies, recognizing that women are important partners for progress. This recognition begins with political responsibility and recognizing that passing of the VAWA and the Paycheck Fairness Act is a smart thing to do, now.
What would happen if Romney were to win the election in Georgia? Putting it bluntly, Georgia will absolutely need a bipartisan commitment in improving gender equality in the legislature and across the board of law making. Bring Georgia in, by building bridges to this century. Make Georgia a state of 50/50 by improving legislation that supports women’s participation in the political, economic and social arena. When laws are fair, equitable, and equal − a woman is not less of a man.