Mind the gender gap during Women’s History Month

By Emma Sandler

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The month of March is host to many things, including the Ides of March, St. Patrick’s Day, and Daylight Savings. It is also National Women’s History Month. Considering the national controversy over women’s reproductive rights, perhaps it is most important to remember the rights women have struggled for and still struggle for today.

As early as 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote “A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” which spoke about the radical notion that women were not mere ornaments of society, but creatures who could create, orate and learn just as well as men and should be treated as equals. She urged for women to learn, for they are vital to a nation, since they are responsible for the rearing and education of children. Wollstonecraft  inspired Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to work for women’s suffrage.

Working early in their lives for the temperance movement during the 19th Century, women like Anthony and Stanton were barred from giving speeches at temperance halls, and began focusing their efforts on women’s rights. In 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention in Seneca Falls, NY was the first convention on women’s rights held. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote “a Declaration of Rights and Sentiments” there, a document which was based on the Declaration of Independence. It declared, “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her,” and endorsed full equal rights for women.

It was not until August, 1920 that the 19th Amendment was passed, which would not allow the disenfranchisement based on sex. Oddly enough, it was the 18th Amendment, passed just over a year earlier, that established prohibition. It has always struck me as odd that such an absurd and arbitrary law should be submitted and passed before the most basic and fundamental rights of women.

Today there are far more complications and controversies concerning the rights of women. With the passing of Roe V. Wade in 1973, the issue of abortion and reproductive rights has writhed their way into every national debate. It is a common misconception that the Supreme Court was ruling on the issue of women’s right to an abortion itself. It was not. It was ruling on the issue of privacy.

Currently, thousands of men and women are working to support a woman’s right to choose, as well as the right for contraceptives to be covered in a medical plan. Yet, to even single out a particular sex and “their rights” seems illogical. The term “citizen” does not define itself as belonging to a man or woman, but to any inhabitant of a state.

The fact that one kind of citizen is singled out to see their rights face a guillotine is not only unconstitutional, but inhumane. Whenever you read about an issue regarding women’s rights, replace the word “woman” with “citizen.” Only then can the absurdity of the issue be seen. If we remove the idea of sex and gender, and focus on humanity itself, will we see a change in perception over the idea of rights for women. Women are not a strange or abstract species that differs from men, but that under the eye of the law, they are exactly the same and should be accorded the proper courtesies and rights.

Emma Sandler can be reached for comment at [email protected]