Today is August 26, 2013, which is being observed as Women's Equality Day (http://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/womens-equality-day/). It was on this day in history that women were included in the United States Constitution. Prior to that time, women were not allowed to own property, have any sort of credit, or to vote. Women were considered "less than" in most every way. The main purpose of a woman, of the past, was to be a "helpmate to her husband." Times have changed; but, women still have a long way to go.
Today, women are considered to have equal rights; but, is it really true? Old stereotypes still exist in many things. Women have worked hard for the rights that exist. They have made huge strides in changing the way society looks at them from the past. In the past, women were to stay at home, take care of the housework, the cooking, the baking, the laundry, and teach the children by raising them with chores, discipline, and help with their homework. Husbands were expected to come home from work, have dinner on the table, and the house neat and clean for them. Times have changed, though. Many women work outside of the home--or even in the home--for pay. With today's economic status, most families need two paychecks to make ends meet. Other women have a college degree and want to put it to use or continue in their careers. Although family may be important to them, self-improvement and being able to help provide for the family may be of a concern. With this shift in work situation, many women ask their husbands for help with the housework and the children--and are scrutinized for it. It is not always an easy situation for a woman to be married, work, and have a family; but, it is quite often a choice that is made.
Although women are supposed to receive equal pay for equal work; this is generally not the case. According to Virginia Sapiro, "Women may be increasing the amount of time they spend on the job, but they continue to earn considerably less than men do. ... Among full-time workers in 2000, white women earned about 75 cents for each dollar white men earned. African American women earned 85 cents for each African American dollar, and Hispanic women earned 88 cents for each Hispanic male dollar," (Virginia Sapiro, Women in American Society: An Introduction to Women's Studies, 5th ed., 2003, New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, pps. 491-492). Women are still stereotyped, many times, in regard to jobs. In many cases, a man is chosen over a woman in a particular field.
Other stereotypes occur in language and in the media. Many textbooks, magazines, and other printed materials are written as "he," "him," or "man" when the intention is to be generic, such as "he/she," "him/her," or "man/woman." Other language intricacies also devalue women. In the media, women are still portrayed in television commercials, shows, and movies as the homemaker, housewife, and mother. Some have branched out to include women as a working woman; but, usually only if she is displayed as being single. In a majority of commercials, women are still in the stereotypical roles. How often do you see a man advertising a cleaning product? A woman may be shown to advertise car parts; but, this is generally done in a sexual and seductive manner--not as if she were knowledgeable about an engine.
Women are important in our society. They are nurses, teachers, lawyers, police officers, jailers, writers, sales clerks, managers, accountants, business leaders, and so much more. Women make a difference. Women get involved. Women volunteer more than men do. Much of what has been accomplished in communities is due to the women that volunteer for different groups. These women get things done. It could be part of their nurturing instinct to hold close what is important to them and work for a better world. Women juggle many things in everyday life. For those who are married, or have children, it is even more of a balancing act. According to Virginia Sapiro, "Not surprisingly, given the relatively low levels of support women receive for juggling family, personal, and employment obligations, employed wives have less time for themselves and less leisure than employed husbands do, so they experience more stress," (Sapiro, Women in American Society: An Introduction to Women's Studies, 5th ed., 2003, New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, p. 474).
Proverbs 31: 10-28 tells the virtues of the ideal woman/wife. Some of the values listed are strength, words of wisdom, and the use of her hands to plant, harvest, and to sew. Proverbs 31: 29-31 says, "'Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all.' Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates," (The New American Bible, 1987, Wichita, KS: Devore & Sons, Inc.).
Equality between men and women has not been an easy road to travel. It has not ended yet. The solution will not be something that happens overnight. But, each little stride that is taken is one step closer to a better world for women--of today and of the future.