It sounds like a variation of the old lament by men that they can’t figure out what women want. It is, however, a much more serious concern. Figuring out what issues and activities matter to the contemporary woman is important to politicians, yes, but it also matters to government agencies, universities and other educational institutions, non-profit organizations and it should even matter to corporations and churches as they attempt to connect with women employees, customers, and congregationalists.
In 2013 there are any number of issues that matter to American women. According to NOW (the National Organization for Women) there are six priority issues:
- Abortion Rights/Reproductive Issues
- Violence Against Women
- Constitutional Equality
- Promoting Diversity/Ending Racism
- Lesbian Rights
- Economic Justice
Some of these issues are obviously divisive. While many women believe in a woman’s right to choose, still others believe that abortion is wrong. However, reproductive issues are more than just abortion. They include access to birth control and fertility treatments, and even parental rights over fertilized eggs that haven’t been implanted. In the future reproductive rights might include ownership of genomes and rights to cloned body parts.
Looking at the top issues, even violence against women is a nuanced debate. While everyone agrees that violence is bad, not everyone agrees on how to end that violence or what sort of punishments fit the crime. Domestic violence, sexual assault, and even sexual slavery are involved in this issue.
Ending racism and economic justice may seem old hat, after all the country is in a post-racist era and women can get jobs in nearly every field. The reality is that many stereotypes still exist about women of color which limits their options in contemporary society. And in terms of economic equality, women still make a fraction of the salary of men, even in fields where more women are graduating and succeeding than men. Worst still, over the past few decades the amount of money women make compared to men has actually fallen a few cents compared to their male counterparts.
The list of issues important to contemporary women extends beyond abortion, violence, and employment and income equality. Some of the other issues identified by NOW as important include disability rights, health, immigration, marriage equality, family law, social security, equal rights for mothers and caregivers, education, welfare, women in the military and Title IX which gives women equality in sports. And that’s not all the issues, just a few random choices.
Whichever side of the divide any women picks, these issues is critical to the way women see themselves and other women and how men and society as a whole view women.