Women’s struggle to assert their rights

Women’s struggle to assert their rights

The evolution of the Bread and Roses Women’s Movement

Nowadays daily news concerning sexual assaults and sex inequalities are flooding the media. As the Harvey Weinstein’s case that created possibly one of the biggest scandals in the industry yet.

With this media bomb, women can finally find their way to speak freely. And, they know that people will listen to their stories without any judgments.

In fact, in work and in society in general, women were almost always considered as weaker that men.
Natural submission of the wife to her husband was compulsory according to the civil code of Napoleon written in 1804. This one was applied to all Europe throughout European civil laws limiting women’s rights.

We can see how women were treated and were considered in the 19th century.
But even though society has evolved, there is still some major inequalities. Here’s some fact about those inequalities between women and men in America in our time:

  • Women earn 15% less than men in their salary.  
  • 57 on 194 countries in the World allow abortion

The beginning of feminism 

The term feminism can be used to describe a political, cultural or economic movement aimed at establishing equal rights and legal protection for women.

The first man that talked about feminism by criticizing the fate of women in society was Alexander Dumas the son in his book “La Question des Femmes” (The Question of Women) written in 1872. 

But the real birth of this movement was in the 70’s with the liberation of the women through culture

3 main steps in feminism exist:  

  • The first period refers to the 19th and early 20th centuries. The main demands relate to the right to vote, working conditions and educational rights for women and girls
  • The second period (1960-1980) denounces the inequality of the laws, but also the cultural inequalities and puts in question the role of the woman in the society
  • The third period (late 1980s-early 2000s) is seen both as a continuation of the second wave and as a response to the latter’s failure. This period will be literally overtaken by the American feminist movement. 

The United States and the women’s rights

It is important to focus on the United States and the events that are taking place with regard to the right of women.
Indeed, it is the country where the right of women is strongly contested in the mass media and in everyday life.
Americans are people strongly involved in this fight against gender inequality.

Gloria Allred: The women’s lawyer

Gloria Allred - The Women's List, fighting for Women's Rights

Gloria Allred was born in the 1940s, she invested herself really early in the movement of civil rights.
She has created the “Los Angeles Teachers Institution”.
Especially famous in the United States, Gloria Allred is a renowned lawyer in civil rights.

Gloria Allred’s history

Nevertheless, it is important to understand that she is a woman who became a mom at 19.
Next, she raised her daughter alone as a single mom very quickly. So she had to fight for her daughter and her to support their everyday needs.
But she was a raped at the age of 20 which leaded to an unwanted pregnancy in an era where abortion was still not allowed.

At that time, abortion was done clandestinely and was still not included in morals.
It is why for more than 40 years now she has been advocating for women victims of rape, sexual harassment, discrimination or abuse of power through the law.

The most famous cases of Gloria Allred

Bill Cosby

Among the cases taken in charge, the first most resounding was the Bill Cosby one.
The former star of the Cosby Show was accused by dozens of women that he drugged and then rape them.
In most of the cases, the alleged facts to Bill Cosby have been prescribed. It meant that a trial couldn’t take place, considering that the acts that should have been punished were more than 20 years old.

The End of Prescription

Recently, given the intense dissent to the Cosby limitation period, Gloria Allred has managed to change and even abolish the prescription in some states of the United States.
From now on, victims of rape will have unlimited duration to bring to justice their aggressor.

Other Cases

Other cases have garnered media attention, blending Gloria Allred with most celebrity sex scandals. Allred was there representing the family of Simpson’s slain wife, Nicole Simpson.
Donald Trump was one of them during his election campaign as many women decided to reappear and trust Gloria to attack the future president.
Even more recently, the Weinstein case is once again leading Gloria Allred into the spotlight of the mass media.

Allred’s Law Firm

With other lawyers, she has created a law firm “Allred, Maroko and Goldberg”. They defend sexual assault, origin, age, disability or sexual orientation.

On the other hand, it is important to note that people of our generation are not born in times when women did not yet have the right to vote. It is therefore important to know how women have decided to take responsibility in front of the men and proclaim their right to have a gender equality.

Back to the women’s rights history

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King playing Tennis, she fought for Women's Rights

To learn more, a film released in 2017, The Battle of the Sexes, presents Billie Jean King, a 29-year-old woman ready to fight for an equal salary to the one of her competitors.

Born in the 1940s as well as Allred, Billie Jean King is known for her commitment to gender equality and the recognition of women’s sport.She was ranked world number one tennis player.

Inequalities in Sports: The Women’s Tennis Association
The Women's Tennis Association, created by Billie Jean King, fighting for Women's Rights

However, there was a significant gap in the match bonuses of men’s and women’s tennis players. And it was enough for the famous player to create an association: The Women’s Tennis Association.

This association was created in order to show that women and men are not treated on an equal footing. And, especially in terms of benefits: a difference of 10% was felt in the match bonuses of the players.

The Battle of the Sexes

Some time after creating this association, Billie Jean King decided to agree to match against Bobby Riggs, former world number in the 1940s. He was a macho man who believes that men, even older, are superior to women in terms of sports quality.

Billie Jean King vs Bobby Riggs

However, Billie Jean King accepted this match to promote the right to gender equality. This is why she wanted to control the circumstances of the match.

She refused that a sexist man be a commentator of her match. She didn’t wanted any obstacles to the promotion of equality between women and men in sports in general.

Article publishing scores 3-0 for Billie Jean King

This match, nicknamed “The Battle of the Sexes” was a major media event at the time.
Billie Jean King dominated Bobby Riggs on a score of 3 sets to zero.

The defense of women’s rights

This film has allowed new generations to discover the rights of women in another light. It was revealed that Billie Jean King had an extra marital relationship with a woman during her years of defense of women’s rights. Also, it revealed her homosexuality, becoming the first sportswoman to come out.

She used her notoriety to defend women’s rights and LGBT rights. Her participation in the battle of the sexes of 1973 is part of this logic.

Billie Jean King with Elton John
She has also been involved in the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Billie Jean King with Barack Obama - Medal of Freedom for her fight for women and homosexuals
In 2009, Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her fight for women and homosexuals.

The LGBT and Homosexuals rights

Gloria Allred parading at the gay prides, fighting for equal rights for all genders

In addition, activist from the beginning for the legalization of abortion, Gloria Allred also fought for the rights of homosexuals. She parades every year at the gay pride, for a long time.

It is important to highlight the fact that Gloria Allred, still a lawyer and a proud defender of women’s rights, participates actively in Gay Pride to defend the rights of homosexuals.

Indeed, these rights are still far from being adopted by the entire world population. Nonetheless, it remains a very sensitive subject in some countries such as Russia for example.
Billie Jean King and Gloria Allred are important women for the United States.
Indeed, it is thanks to them that the world can move forward and progress. They fought for their rights and inspire many women to follow them and think differently.

The Evolution and the Step Back of the Right of Women in Society

These two main figures denouncing the inequality of women both in the world of work with a consequent gap in incomes between men and women and as well as sexist abuses, have considerably advanced the evolution of the right of women in society.

Since the election of D.Trump, the American female population stepped back on women’s rights considering threats by the future president. That is to say, its main purpose was to completely prohibit access to abortion.

Movements for the women’s rights

The Women’s March

For this, several movements including the best known, The Women’s March, were performed the day of the investiture of Trump. They have demonstrated for the rights of women and men in general, but against racism, homophobia and global warming.

A 2nd march was made on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on January 20, 2018. This movement has spread internationally: In France, in Italy as well as other countries around the World.

Following the case of H.Weinstein, 33 women including figures of American cinema. It is the case of Angelina Jolie, who accused the director of sexual assault to guarantee a career according to him.

Spreading with social networks

The release of speech via social networks has increased with the creation of “#MeToo”.

Women denounce their aggression mainly at work with this hashtag.

This denunciation served to draw attention to the unspoken and taboo subject of rape and sexual or racial abuse.

Measures taken to reduce inequality

However, at the G7 and G20 summit, several states committed to reduce by 2025 the gap of employment rate between men and women.
This commitment from the states demonstrates an international interest to fully assert the rights of women in the world.

Even if feminism is a movement that is sometimes too violent or badly considered by some people, it only defends a desire for equality among all human beings.
It should be noted that if some violence is expressed by feminists, it is due to the difficulty of making one’s case heard and of enforcing this desire for egalitarianism.

2019’s for Women

The 2018 Women’s March in London was a huge spectacle, with the people of Britain coming out in droves to ‘Bring the Noise’ in protest against the visit of Donald Trump to the UK, and everything that he represents. 

In 2019, organizers behind the Women’s March London have opted for the theme of ‘Bread and Roses’, taken from the 1912 rally of the same name fronted by Rose Schneider.

Rose Schneiderman
Demonstration of women in the 1900s for their rights

American suffragette, she was one of the most influential female labour union leaders.

Rose Schneiderman said that “The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.”
Via this powerful statement, she was demanding both ‘bread,’ a metaphor for having the bare minimum, fair wages, as well as ‘roses,’ to signify quality of life and comfortable living and working conditions. 

Symbol of "Bread and Roses", meaning the fight women's led for their rights.
’Bread and Roses’ therefore became widely adopted as a political slogan for the western feminist movement in the early 1900’s.

In this ‘Bread & Roses 2019’ it will replicate the defiance and celebration of previous marches and rallies by women in London and across the world. 

It’s important that we make a stand against ‘economic oppression, violence against women, gender pay gap, racism, fascism, institutional sexual harassment, hostile environment and Brexit’ says Women’s March London.

With the official date for the UK’s departure from the EU looming, this time the Women’s March on London was to protest against austerity.

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