This upcoming presidential election sparks a lot of important issues that pertain to American girls. Teens and young adults played a big part in electing President Obama in the past. He is someone that is relate-able to most, as a person of color who came from meager beginnings. This year marks his last term and most candidates on the horizon are lackluster at best. Many young women care about issues that relate not only to American women but to all worldwide.
Most of all, teens, and young women are concerned about equality in every sense of the word. There are key issues that concern the issue of equality, from schools to the workplace and in the greater sense of society. This is an issue that older generations seem to think has already been won. In fact, there is a long way to go.
Equality in Schools: Sex Education and Dress Codes
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 19 states across the US make students take a sex education course that is focused on correct anatomy and medically sound information. The remaining states decided actions would be necessary. Many local governments have stuck to abstinence-only sex education. In these states, which are mostly located in the South, there is a startling rise in teen pregnancy. Also, a rise occurred nationwide in the numbers of teens who have contracted completely treatable and avoidable sexually transmitted diseases.
Yes, abstinence-only sex educations is an important component to a fully rounded sex education course. However, the importance of education is key, so people are equipped with biologically and technically accurate information about their bodies. Many schools employ speakers to come to a class assembly. But many of these speakers focus on female students and their options and/or choices, rather than including education for both genders. The focus is typically on girls, as they tend to become armed with firm ways to limit boys advances. Instead, boys should be taught acceptance of some people not wanting to participate in sexual activities.
Adolescent culture is reflected in hazing rituals and college campus behaviors. It seems to be the norm to harass young women for wearing anything from a bikini to a parka. Instead of teaching women to dress conservatively, it should be imperative that men act with a certain level of chivalry and common sense.
In other countries, girls who experience a well-rounded health and sex education class are more empowered and less likely to become pregnant before the age of 18. Survivor Elizabeth Smart expresses concern over the method of sex ed courses that in effect ‘shame’ young women who participate in sexual activity. Comprehensive sex education is important because it is usually something parents leave up to the schools, for fear of embarrassment and misinformation. Parents seem to rely on schools to take the lead here. It is an important issue because the things taught in these classrooms steer the mindset of young people. They will carry over these practices into their future personal relationships with their partners, children and even in the workplace.
Equality in the Workplace: Equal Pay and Equal Treatment
“Women today are paid, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. And the gap is even worse for women of color - African American women earn only 64 cents and Latina women earn only 55 cents for each dollar earned by males.”
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed by President Obama on January 29, 2009. Many young women seem to think that pay discrimination is a thing of the past. Actress Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting expressed this statement in January of 2015:
“Things are different now, and I know a lot of the work that paved the way for women happened before I was around… I was never that feminist girl demanding equality, but maybe that’s because I’ve never really faced inequality.”
Women who work everyday jobs still face inequality in the workplace. Whether it is pressure to perform a sex act on a superior or to quit once they decide to start a family, women face decisions in the workplace men never have to think about. The most unfortunate thing about inequality in the workplace is that it is expected. It is the social norm to step down from a high paying job once that female executive decides she wants a child. It is the social norm to be ‘nice’ to a higher ranking employee to get preferential treatment. ‘Nice’ being a term used to encompass anything from bringing coffee to having intercourse. This treatment can go both ways. Men, in fact, do experience sexual harassment in their place of business. But exploitation of someone, usually a female, in a weaker position in her career is a reoccuring problem that has no real solid solution.
When employees speak out about harassment, they can be fired for something unrelated, just so that the company can get rid of them. Although many companies encourage an ‘open door’ policy for employees to be able to speak freely about problems in their office. It really is a farce. Many large chain businesses have prospective employees sign their job application at the bottom. On some of these applications, a business will have a clause just before the signature line that states the employer can fire at any time without notice and an employee can leave at any time without notice. Many businesses think that they are protecting themselves from whistleblowers, but, in fact, this does not negate a person's right to feel safe in the workplace. Shady businesses will rely on this clause to mislead employees who otherwise would report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Equal Medical Care: Birth Control and Cancer Screenings
Many Conservative candidates look to Planned Parenthood as a hot point in this coming election. What many of these candidates do not understand is that Planned Parenthood does not use government funding to perform abortions. Much of the funding from federal grants goes to cancer screenings. But that doesn't diminish the need for birth control.
Many women take birth control for many reasons. Not just to prevent pregnancy, but for medically important reasons. If a person has an unusually thick uterine lining, their time of the month can be very painful. A low dose birth control pill can reduce the risk of infection, clotting and abdominal pain related to cramping. It is also a proven safe way to manage adult acne, rosacea, and other skin problems.
Many people, both men, and women, utilize Planned Parenthood as their source to receive primary care and preventative services. Especially people who live in rural areas, far from a traditional doctor’s office. Closing proactive offices similar to Planned Parenthood would be detrimental to these communities. Many rural area residents depend on social services and grant money to keep family farms running. This is the conservative demographic, and closing proactive medical offices would be hurting their base.
The Case for Campaign and Election Reform
There is much attention in the news to a new candidate, Deez Nuts. This is really a practical joke gone too far. A teen took liberties filling out a simple form, and now his creation is on the ballot. This is a fine example of the need to monitor and better regulate the process for people to register candidates in public elections.
It is another matter entirely to consider that separation of church and state seems to be more of a suggestion rather than law. Many congregations encourage their members to vote conservatively before or after their religious gatherings. Churches especially, who already get preferential treatment in terms of taxes and property, seem to be very vocal in their political views.
Young people, in general, seem to be put off by negative campaign practices, like pointing out an opposing candidates flaws. Whether an ad is focused on an opposing candidate's appearance or their voting record, negative advertising is a sure way to leave a bad taste in the mouths of young adults and teens. Most youth would rather learn a candidate's stance on core issues than be swayed by a smear campaign, which is most effective with older voters.
The Candidates and the Issues
The Economist reported in 2014 that “... the most depressing explanation is simply that in many places, young people do not feel that there is anyone worth voting for.” This still rings true today in 2015. Candidates don’t seem to be relate-able to teens and young adults. Many of them are wealthy and white. Many candidates vying for the presidency are unable or unwilling to address the issue of equality head-on. President Obama’s office has been plagued with a congress that would not cooperate with his push for marriage equality. But his stance on this issue will be his legacy. What will the presidential candidates decree their legacy will be?
Young girls do not see anyone who represents them and their interests. They are actually seeing candidates who represent their exact opposing interests. Donald Trump has a unique stance on immigration reform. He would like to deport all immigrants as well as their children who are born here, meanwhile three of his four American-born children have mothers from different countries of origin. Jeb Bush has expressed a dislike of Asian tourists. Many voters are looking away from the Bush family as presidential leaders. They want new faces to enter the race.
Bernie Sanders seems to be the most liberal of the candidates, but a third party candidate has never won a presidential election before. It is unlikely that the will break that record. Youth and young voters seem to express little interest in Hillary Clinton. She may gain the interest of young adult voters just because she is running opposed to the Republican party, who held up the passing of the Marriage Equality Act.
Bernie Sanders seems to be gaining some steam. He did march with Martin Luther King, but Black Lives Matter activists see that as the past. What he will do in the future remains uncertain. Young people are more interested in what candidates will enact rather than what they oppose. Candidates used to build their campaigns on ideas on how to make things better rather than blaming minorities for the nation’s problems. This wave of candidates seems to be a disappointing lot to the youth.
There are many young women who run interesting blogs on the internet. Kaitlyn Dowling is a unique voice. She makes a good point in her piece on Medium.com,
“It is impossible to measure every experience and influence that comes to impact the formation of political identity for teenagers beginning to explore and form their worldviews. But there are areas that unquestionably impact the formation of political identity, and research lags in these parts of the modern teen experience: the influence of online social spaces and the diversity of individuals and stories with whom they interact there.”
Young women are focusing on themselves more and sharing their stories online, whether through stand-alone blogs or on platforms like Tumblr and Livejournal. Youth, in general, is more exposed to other people’s personal struggles with equality in different areas in life. If they are striving for acceptance in groups like their families, their friends, their workplace, their stories are expressed in raw unfiltered ways through online journalism. It has widened young girls views on topics like civil rights, health care, debt, the US military presence abroad, and gun control.
It is an area many candidates seem to be overlooking. Just because a voice is expressed online does not diminish its value. Older generations of Americans don’t see the value in online content like blogging. Millennials and those who are younger than that generation may turn this election, to which candidate remains uncertain.