Social issues threaten true meaning of Women’s Equality Day

President Obama delivered remarks to a small room of guests on Women's Equality Day. Though acknowledgement of the holiday is a good step forward, more needs to be done in regards to equality between men and women. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

President Obama delivered remarks to a small room of guests on Women's Equality Day. Though acknowledgement of the holiday is a good step forward, more needs to be done in regards to equality between men and women. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

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During the Rio Olympics, female olympians took the headlines just as much as Micheal Phelps and even Ryan Lochte did. Gold medalists Simone Biles and the rest of the final five were praised by the nation for their incredible athleticism and winning gold. Simone Manuel was the first African American female swimmer to win a gold medal in history.

Friday, Aug. 26 was Women’s Equality Day and on the surface it appears as if the divide between the sexes is fair and equal. Women won a lot of the U.S.’ medals during the olympics and, outside of sports, Hillary Clinton is the first female presidential nominee of a major party.

President Obama in his yearly proclamation on Women’s Equality Day stated how women are “leaders in the forefront of progress.”

“We celebrate the anniversary of this hard-won achievement and pay tribute to the trailblazers and suffragists who moved us closer to a more just and prosperous future,” President Obama said. “We resolve to protect this constitutional right and pledge to continue fighting for equality for women and girls.”

There is still a lot of progress that must be made in order to be able to completely celebrate Women’s Equality Day. In 1920, Aug. 26 was the day women won the right to vote due to the passing of the 19th Amendment. Women’s Equality Day has shaped within its 96 years to represent the ongoing struggles women in the United States are facing.

Ongoing struggles such as the sexual and physical harassment that continues to terrorize millions of women all over the world is one issue that should be addressed if we are to truly celebrate this holiday. Addressing harassment and the consequences that are given to  male rapists should not be glossed over in our discussion either. Weak sentences on rapists only undermines the traumatic affect rape or sexual abuse has on victims, either female or male.

David Becker, an 18-year-old high school student, was given only two years of probation for sexually assaulting two unconscious female classmates. His case exemplifies the blasé attitude the court has for rape victims. The slap on the wrist is accompanied by the fact that Becker won’t have to register as a sex offender, and if he successfully completes probation his conviction for won’t appear on his record. By judge Thomas Estes giving Becker such a light sentence, he is disregarding the traumatic harm that has been inflicted upon the two female victims.

It’s because of cases like Becker’s and even Brock Turner, the Stanford University swimmer who was caught raping an unconscious female student behind a dumpster, that we as a nation cannot fully say that it is Women’s Equality Day and mean it – a holiday does not mean progress or that issues are resolved. Sexual assault is an ongoing epidemic and a struggle women face everyday and it is a topic that should be talked about because discussing this problem is one step towards Women’s Equality Day becoming even more equal.

Felicia Lynnette, a DePaul graduate and past member of the Feminist Front group recognizes a different obstacle women of today are facing.

“Sometimes my biggest question is who exactly are we celebrating, which women are supposed to be our heroes,” said Lynnette. “In 2016, we really need to come to terms with the fact that no one group can be equal until all groups are. We can’t have a conversation about equality for women until we have a conversation about intersectionality.”

Women with different racial backgrounds in the United States have had to struggle against two forms of oppression. Being women of color causes even more of a setback in terms of women’s progress since all are facing unique struggles against oppressive issues.

“I won’t consider women to be in a good place until they’re not only equal, but they’re being validated,” said Lynnette. “In terms of women and men, it’s like a hole versus a flat land, that’s not an equal playing field. We have to recognize this first and make that up.”

While there is progress being made in other aspects of society, and they should be celebrated, the movement for women’s equality needs to be continued and strengthened if this holiday is to be taken seriously.

“Legally we do have the same opportunity, but having a vehicle to achieve those opportunities is really hard when you make less money than a man or when your taken less seriously than a man,” said Lynnette. “(It’s really hard) when society tries to dictate everything you are. I think that women still have a long way to go.”

It should be understood that Women’s Equality Day is an appreciated, respectful and, at its core, beautiful day, but it is in no way celebrating the ideal that women are fully equal to men. We should strive, as a nation, to ensure equality so that when celebrating Women’s Equality Day we are celebrating the true meaning of the day and not celebrating it shallowly.