Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Is’t Time to Recognize Feminists in America?

NEW YORK (PR) On Women’s Equality Day, the national holiday commemorating passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Ms. Foundation for women released the results of a new poll on the state of women’s equality, new findings on adopting the “feminist” label, and a fresh understanding of how the public feels about community problems and solutions. This is the first survey of its kind that examines whether the public believes specific issues have different impacts on women versus men.

The survey reveals that economic issues are at the core of problems both women and men rank as the highest priorities in their communities — such as the high cost of health care, too many people struggling to make ends meet, and a shortage of good jobs. 

While most think economic issues affect men and women in equal proportions, about one in four adults (26 percent) sees a shortage of good jobs disproportionately affecting women. Only eight percent say a lack of good-paying jobs affects more men. 

“There’s an awareness that economic issues disproportionately affect women that I did not fully expect,” said Tresa Undem, partner, PerryUndem Research/Communication, who conducted the survey. “How the economy affects women specifically is not something we hear a lot about. But it is clearly something many people recognize firsthand.”

The survey finds that a large majority of the public believes in gender equality. However, most (79 percent) acknowledge that there is still more to do to achieve full equality. Nearly half recognize that women of color face additional barriers to equality. Two-thirds recognize income inequalities — with those in the highest income brackets most likely to see disparities.

“This survey tells us that policymakers, community leaders, and movements must change the way we approach problems and issues,” said Ms. Foundation President and CEO Teresa C. Younger. “Women do not lead single-issue lives. For instance, access to birth control and abortion is impacted by income level, racial and cultural bias, gender discrimination and immigrant status. We must implement policies and build movements that address the totality of women’s lives, rather than creating a patchwork of silos.”

Most (83 percent) see community issues as interconnected, not as isolated problems. Nearly 75 percent want elected officials to keep this in mind when considering policy solutions. Many also want nonprofit organizations to think about interconnectedness when they try to solve problems. 

As Republicans and Democrats vie for the women’s votes, the survey sheds light on public perceptions of women in the electoral process. Many respondents recognize the gender gap in political representation, especially at the national level. The public perceives women and men as having different views on policy solutions, as well as different strengths when it comes to solving problems. Men and women agree on this point, as do respondents across the political spectrum. Three-quarters (77 percent) believe that women and men should have equal positions of power.

The survey also finds broad support for feminism, when people understand what it means. While most believe in gender equality, a minority (16 percent) considers themselves feminists. After a simple definition of the term, 52 percent consider themselves feminists.

“When people understand that a feminist believes in political, economic, and social equality across genders, the majority identify as feminists,” said Younger. “We have to do a better job of defining our movements for equality — rather than letting detractors define us. We also must work to address issues where they intersect — not in isolation.”

The research firm, PerryUndem Research/Communication, surveyed a nationally representative sample of the public, oversampling people of color. The survey was conducted May 19–26, 2015. The margin of error is + 3.0 percentage points.

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