Academic journal article Frontiers - A Journal of Women's Studies

Introduction: Women of Color and Gender Equity

Academic journal article Frontiers - A Journal of Women's Studies

Introduction: Women of Color and Gender Equity

Article excerpt

With this special issue we commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the 1974 Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA). This legislation provided funds for Title IX and codified women's equality under the law in the United States, setting forth a foundation for antidiscrimination policies and remedies, WEEA, along with other landmark legislation of the period, began cultivating a language and rhetoric around gender equity. The WEEA focused on ensuring gender equity in education in the United States; promoting equity in education for women and girls who experience multiple forms of discrimination; and providing financial assistance to implement the requirements of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Forty years later we consider where we are in terms of gender equity, in particular in terms of women of color and women in the transnational context. While very few scholars and activists continue to use the language of a "gender equality" framework, many have been impacted, are doing work around gender equality in various arenas, and are defending the advances that have been made as a result of this framework and the support it received through policy and education.

As guest editors for this Frontiers special issue, we both enter this conversation as women of color concerned about how limited access to opportunity can curtail our advancement. Wendy, trained in political science and women's and gender studies, focuses her scholarship on women of color, in particular black women's access to political institutions and the structures that enable as well as limit their voices in the political process. Advancing women's rights and protections through law and public policy at the local level in the United States largely depends on the roles that women of color play as elected leaders in local governments. Anita was trained as an education, race, and ethnic studies scholar, and she has a fifteen-year teaching and research career in gender and sexuality studies. As a guest editor she offers her insight as an activist scholar who studies social justice pedagogy rooted in feminist and queer social movements.

We find there is no better time to raise the questions we explore in this special issue regarding women of color and gender equity, given both the recent advancements and the continued challenges women and girls of color face in the United States and transnationally. Recognizing the persistence of gender pay inequalities in the United States, as we go to press, President Obama signed an executive order and issued a presidential memorandum to address this issue. The executive order prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who disclose their salary information to each other. The presidential memorandum, addressed to the labor secretary, requires federal contractors to report wage data by both race and gender to the Department of Labor, a significant intervention in that it recognizes that for women of color the existing gaps in pay are even more severe. (1) Together these interventions are designed to make it more difficult for federal contractors to enact and maintain systems that discriminate against women in the paid labor market. Just as this small advancement addresses gender pay equity in the United States, we are reminded that the right to an education is still challenged for girls of color. Recent developments in Nigeria remind us how threatening patriarchal powers regard an educated girl child. Extremists kidnapped over two hundred girls from their school, citing their objections to educating girls. While religious leaders and governments worldwide have denounced the kidnappings, it no less required outraged women of color using social media as a tool to bring global attention and pressure to elicit aggressive responses to the kidnappings. (2)

That pay equity is still not a reality for women in the United States and that an estimated two hundred Nigerian girls could go "missing" in the midst of a school day are just two critical reminders of the elusive nature of women's equality and the persistent challenges that women of color face as they attempt to move closer to this goal. …

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