By Allison Shoenaur
Elm Staff Writer
Hey, reader. Are you a woman? Do you feel like the United States isn’t responding to your needs as a woman the way you think it should? Do you think the 30 percent difference in incomes between you and your current (or future) male counterpart is unfair? Do you think the United States lacks enough sexual harassment and women’s health laws or accessibility to trustworthy and fully-certified contraception and pre-natal planning? Do you like snow and hate pornography?
If you answered “yes” to any of the presented questions, then you should find the “Newsweek” that was published two weeks ago. Its featured article was about which countries are currently best serving their women inhabitants. The countries were given scores based on the laws and court cases that protected women’s rights (“justice”), availability of women specified health care benefits (“health”), how common it is for women to be in the government and what government positions they occupy (“power”), the rate of women’s success in school (“education”), and women’s preferences in the workforce and the differences between their and men’s incomes (“economy”). Then they were ranked based on their scores. Which country ranked number one?
Iceland currently is run by a female prime minister and recently banned the production of all forms of pornographic entertainment. Not only is it illegal to produce and distribute porn, it is against the law to run a strip club as well. Also, Iceland actively keeps tabs on laws focused on women’s issues though a government agency.
Sweden takes a very close second place, with overall better scores than Iceland. Sweden has a good reputation for equality in domestic housework, and equal extended paternal leave whenever a child is born (16 months paid leave). Despite this, statistics show that violence against women, in domestic situations and in cases where a stranger was the assailant, is relatively high for such a small, liberal country.
Canada ranks at number three, Denmark at number four, and Finland, the first country to give women full suffrage back in 1902, rounds off the top five.
So where is the United States on this list?
The United States sits pretty at number eight, between Norway and Australia. It’s not a bad position; top ten means something when it concerns the equal treatment of a group of human beings, but it is a little embarrassing that Switzerland, a country that didn’t let women vote until 1971 and didn’t legalize paid maternity leave until six years ago, beat the United States in the “justice”, “health”, and “power” categories.
Is there anything the United States can do to move forward? Yes, of course. All of the countries on this list have opportunities to move forward. No one country earned perfect scores, though some came close. In fact the United States already has an important lead on the other countries.
The United States rules in the “education” category. It earned a 97.3. Only three other countries on the list had scores equal or higher than the United States (the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Denmark). It’s been a known fact that in the United States, women are more likely to enter and finish college and to continue their education to earn their master’s degree than their male counterparts. It’s also well-recorded that girls tend to score higher than boys in subjects like science, math, and literature.
The education of children is always the most important part of creating a new system of beliefs. Giving children the building blocks to form their own opinions helps immensely later in life, when they can take those blocks and move on. Those opinions, in the hands of the right woman, influences the beliefs of another woman and, before long, the United States can see itself in one of the Top Five Most Woman-Friendly countries in the world.