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The United States of Misogyny

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One lesson of the Trump Era is something I hope sticks with us for all time and that’s the fact that things don’t automatically get better. No political battle is ever won. Everything is an endless war for dignity and decency against the exploitation of misogyny, racism, and capitalism. The moment we assume the fight is over, we start losing that fight.

That thought came back to me again while perusing this report, noting that gender equality has significantly stalled out in the United States.

For many measures of gender inequality, women rapidly made up ground in the latter half of the 20th century, but progress has since slowed or stalled entirely, according to a report released March 16 by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

The State of the Union report addresses key questions about gender inequality in the United States, such as whether occupational segregation is declining, why there is still so much sexual harassment and discrimination, and when gender gaps in earnings, employment and related labor market outcomes might finally close.

By examining different types of gender inequality at once, it becomes possible to fashion a systematic and coordinated policy response, said David Grusky, director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. “Otherwise, it’s all too easy to default to piecemeal policies, each oriented to a single narrow-gauge problem.”

This comprehensive approach reveals that for many outcomes women are not making up ground nearly as rapidly as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Following World War II, women entered the workforce in record numbers, but the increase in labor force participation for women has now stagnated, and women remain less likely than men to participate in the formal labor force. Similarly, the wage gap declined rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s, but the rate of decline has since slowed.

The report also identifies some disparities that favor women rather than men. For example, on average women live five years longer than men, though life expectancy rates have converged in recent years. “Gender inequality is not a unidimensional problem in which all gaps favor men or all gaps are changing in the same way,” said Marybeth Mattingly, a research consultant at the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality and an author of two of the chapters in the report.

Although the pattern of trends is complicated, the stalling-out of previously strong trends shows up repeatedly in the report. This stalling-out is especially prominent when measuring whether women and men are segregated into different types of roles in the family, workplace, and community.

For example, women streamed into formerly male-dominated occupations in the 1970s and 1980s, but the rate of occupational integration slowed after 1990. Even today, relatively few women are a bus driver, carpenter or computer scientist. If rates of integration since 2000 are extrapolated, it would take a full 330 years before the workplace becomes completely integrated. We’re in a new world of “snail’s pace change,” said Kim Weeden, one of the authors of the chapter on occupational segregation.

And just to use the most obvious example, while there are many legitimate reasons to dislike or despise Hillary Clinton, there’s no question that she was subjected to a double standard based on her gender, as is Nancy Pelosi and as would any woman who runs for higher office in the near future. We are as a misogynist a nation as we are a sexist and classist nation, perhaps even more so since we are willing to talk about racism but misogyny cuts across all classes and races and leads to a lot of handwaving and denial.

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