Marching in Pioneer Valley Women’s March? Count on it!

  • MIKE WATSON IMAGES

Published: 1/7/2020 12:29:50 PM
Modified: 1/7/2020 12:29:17 PM

I recently returned to Greenfield after 15 years in Los Angeles and being back in the Pioneer Valley is like being in the company of an old and trusted friend. Living here, the disparities faced by women living in larger metropolitan areas may seem distant. However, women everywhere continue to face those challenges which are unfortunately as enormous today as they were when the Women’s Marches first began in 2017.

In a March 2019 Politico Magazine article, 11 female lawmakers, journalists and scholars weighed in on the biggest challenges facing women today and unfortunately, the list is no shorter. While the 2018 midterms brought more women to the legislative table and there are more women running in the presidential race than ever before, the U.S. ranks 75th out of 193 nations in terms of women’s representation in government. For women of color and culture, this number drops exponentially.

Economic inequality continues at every level of employment from childcare providers to the CEOs at Fortune 500 firms. Women make up 63% of workers earning federal minimum wage which has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009. Additionally, women represented only 5% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies; men continue to make up from 69 to 82% of top managers. Among full-time workers, women earned approximately $0.81 for every dollar earned by men in most industries, a number that has remained stagnant in the 21st century. If part-time workers are included in these statistics, the gap grows even wider as women are more likely to have reduced schedules in order to manage child-rearing and other family-related caregiving work.

Trauma-centered feminism in the U.S. has also been cited as a major challenge for women in 2019. Women are being taught on college campuses that they are vulnerable, fragile, and in imminent danger. This message promotes the concept that women need to be protected from men rather than acknowledging the strength and focus that women carry within them.

Since 2016, there has been an all-out effort to normalize misogyny. We have a president who thinks nothing of making demeaning and inappropriate statements about and to women. Under this administration, we have seen the Department of Education introduce measures that provide greater protections for college students accused of sexual misconduct. Additionally, the rules that were implemented to reduce the gender pay gap have been suspended, there are new restrictions to reproductive freedom, and Supreme Court justices who put the future of Roe v. Wade at risk have been confirmed.

While environmental changes are having a profound effect on the health of all people, women tend to be impacted more profoundly than men according to researchers at Harvard, the University of Colorado, and the National Institute for Environmental Sciences. Women make up 70% of the global population living below the poverty line, making them more susceptible to environmental changes including poor air quality, reduced water quality, vector-borne diseases and reduced food security. When temperatures spike, women have been found to die more often from heat and heat-related illnesses and have poorer pregnancy outcomes.

Most critically, women lack access to comprehensive health care which is associated with adverse outcomes including increased maternal and neonatal death and illness, and poor health for children. While women in Massachusetts women receive better prenatal care than the national average, there has been a decline in prenatal care over the last eight years for all women, particularly among Latino and black women. Combine this with the systematic assault on Planned Parenthood, which has served as an inexpensive source for mammograms; blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and sexually transmitted disease screening; assistance with obesity; and managing intimate partner violence, and women are facing sharp declines in their access to healthcare.

While it would be more convenient for me to march in my somewhat homogenous hometown this year, I will be in Springfield marching with women representing a wider cross-section of those affected by these challenges. It is my wish to link arms with the men and women of all ages, sexual-orientation, and ethnicities from the Pioneer Valley who are passionate about creating an environment in which all individuals can grow, thrive, and succeed.

We invite you to join us in Springfield on Saturday, Jan. 18 for the Pioneer Valley Women’s March. We will be gathering at 1985 Main St. (Northgate Center) at 11 a.m. and will march at noon to City Hall. All ages and genders are welcome.

Karyn Skiathitis, MSN RN CPN, is a resident of Greenfield.

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