Honoring Opportunity, Acknowledging Reality; Women's Progress Has Come with a Heavy Price
Byline: Janice Shaw Crouse, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
International Women's Day (IWD) is an annual celebration around the world. It began in the early 1900s with a focus on ending discrimination against women: defending their right to enter the paid work force, vote, be educated, own property and run for public office. Now IWD has become a global day to mark the economic, social and political achievements of women. While almost everyone celebrates the numerous achievements in women's well-being and progress, we must acknowledge the reality: Those achievements had an unexpected and very costly price tag.
Women in the 20th century have enjoyed rapidly increasing opportunities and improved conditions from across the span of social indicators, including health, family, education, economics, attitudes and religion.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the median age of women was slightly higher than 22; now it is almost 37 - the highest level in history as deaths in childbirth have plummeted. Women have dramatically increased their high school graduation rates from a low of 26 percent in 1940 to nearly 87 percent in 2008. By 2007, women were earning 50 percent of doctoral degrees, nearly 57 percent of bachelor's degrees and nearly 61 percent of master's degrees. In 1973, women who worked year-round full time earned 57 percent of what men working year-round and full time earned. By 2007, the ratio was up to 77 percent.
With these advances, however, have come some major setbacks. In the United States, two major areas that present roadblocks to women's advancement are single motherhood and sexual promiscuity - cultural trends devastating to children's well-being that hit women hard, too.
While women in general have made economic progress, single mothers live in poverty at a far higher rate than married couples - five times higher. In 2007, the poverty rate for female householders with children under 18 and no husband present was 37 percent. Taking a closer look at the rates reveals that single mothers with children under the age of 6 have a poverty rate of 49.9 percent, and the rate for single mothers with two or more children under the age of 6 is an astounding 63.8 percent. The deterioration of marriages and families has produced significant disparities in how well women fare.
Amazingly, the promotion of sexual promiscuity often goes hand in hand with messages about empowering women. Some feminists argue that women have a right to be sexual just like men and, even, that being a slut is positive proof of women's power. …