What the Biden presidency means for women’s rights

Gayatri Malhotra Xrzmubq0psu Unsplash

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra

It seems obvious that everyone deserves a fair chance in the world. A majority of both Republicans and Democrats believe women should have equal rights to men. The dispute that arises in conversations surrounding this issue is a false understanding that women’s equality and empowerment have already been adopted. It is a common belief that we are living in a post-feminist society and that we lack the advantages that men have simply because we haven’t worked hard enough or because we are biologically different. The truth is there is still plenty of work to do.

Women are told that the patriarchy no longer exists and that they have equal rights. We can vote, right? To many it appears women have equal opportunities because they are better off than they used to be. Still, in many professions, women aren’t paid the same as their male counterparts. For women of color, the pay gap is even worse. Women pay more for common household items and hygiene products. They are underrepresented in government and in the media both in front of and behind the camera. Females receive less funding and investments as entrepreneurs. They are at a greater risk of rape, domestic violence, human trafficking, and living in poverty. 

Once young women move into the world they begin to notice these inequalities. Often they start to blame themselves because they haven’t been educated about the patterns within society and the patriarchy that controls them.

Getting involved and joining the fight is an important way to advocate for women’s rights. The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, millions around the world joined the 2017 Women’s March. They believed women’s rights were being threatened. One of the most important things one can do for women is support candidates who understand women’s issues and don’t threaten these rights, but instead seek out to make positive change. 

As we wait for votes to be recounted and to find out where Trump’s lawsuits are headed, what do the results of this election mean for women? It’s obvious that Trump and Biden don’t agree on many issues. One of the views that they differ strongly on is that of women and the rights they should be allowed. Many people struggled to choose a candidate for many reasons, one being that both men have been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate touching. Some Americans refused to vote for either one. Even so, the turnout was historical. 

When it comes to violence against women, Biden has been fighting for years.  He wrote the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as a senator in 1990 and pushed until it became law in 1994. Along with providing funds for shelters and training law enforcement, this act also created a toll-free hotline for victims of domestic violence. Apart from well-wishes on days where domestic violence is forced into the forefront of people’s minds, Trump’s administration hasn’t done much to create actual policy. A large reason for Trump’s unwillingness to take a solid stance against domestic violence has to do with guns and the fear his supporters have of losing them. There are gun control measures within the bill that would keep abusive, unmarried partners with histories of domestic abuse from being able to purchase guns. If Biden is elected he wants to reauthorize the VAWA, and push to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. This is listed as one of Biden’s top first 100 day priorities.

Reproductive rights is one of the most divisive issues in the United States. Some argue that issues such as being pro-life don’t qualify as political beliefs. They argue that those are religious views that have no basis in fact or science but are instead based on what is written in a religious text. Nevertheless, many people’s views on abortion drive who they vote for. 

Trump’s goal is to make it harder to get an abortion and to overturn federal protections. He supports a near-total abortion ban except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life. Biden wants to protect a woman’s right to choose and would like to keep access to abortion legal. He has made it clear that his views from the past have changed. He has split from his church’s stance and would not impose their beliefs on every person, rather he thinks abortion should be a constitutional right.

Biden claims to understand that women should be involved in creating policies that directly impact their lives. Straight white men are always encouraged to speak their minds without any fear while women are often expected to be quiet. How can we expect to change the world if only half of us are welcomed into powerful positions? Trump has added a few women to political positions but his administration still remains strongly dominated by men. Biden has plans for diversity and inclusion. He claims he will nominate and appoint diverse people. He has already selected an African-American woman as his vice president making her the first female VP in United States history.

For centuries women have been restricted from participating in politics. Today, of the 535 members of Congress, there are only 131 women, a record compared to the previous years—but still not close to balanced or equal. Women need to be involved in the conversations that take place within political environments. By nominating and electing women, their voices are being amplified and their stories are being shared. 

Trump has ignored the Obama-Biden executive order to promote diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce. Biden intends to reissue and mandate strict compliance with this order. The Obama-Biden administration also created the White House Council on Women and Girls which was disbanded by Trump’s administration. This council was created to ensure the federal government was doing its best to tackle issues such as equal pay. When Trump’s administration disbanded this council they didn’t replace it with anything else.

Biden has stated his support for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA would bar gender discrimination at the federal level. It passed the deadline before it was ratified by the 38 states necessary for the amendment to become law. Biden claims his administration will work to pass the ERA. If this happened women’s rights would finally be an undoubtable part of our constitution. His track record backs this up as he has co-sponsored the ERA nine times in the past. The Trump administration has opposed lawsuits that seek to dismiss this deadline. This administration has also attempted to repeal a law that requires companies to report salaries by gender, race, and job title to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  

While we know based on the past four years how little Trump is willing to do for women, we don’t truly know what Biden is capable of accomplishing within his four years, if elected. In the past Biden has voted against the communities that many people who voted for him support. But specific promises often mean more than vague ones, and Biden has been extremely clear on what he hopes to change. Instead of merely criticizing the ideas and plans of Trump, Biden has laid out his own specific assurances.

It’s entirely possible that the majority of Biden’s claims are just empty campaign promises to secure his presidency. Promises are used to win elections whether the passion behind them is an act or not. Plenty of presidents have broken promises but it is important to realize this is not all that common. We are wrong to disbelieve all campaign promises. Politicians try to accomplish the things they claim they will, but no president can single-handedly accomplish all of their goals. Many initiatives stall when it comes to Congress and courts.

 Let’s allow ourselves to be hopeful for a second. Let’s say Biden truly has changed his mind on some of the issues he has stood against in the past. Now would be a good time to address cancel culture. We don’t need to devalue the progress that people can make. In our current society, once you have said the wrong thing or done something ignorant you lose all credibility. This can be a fine thing when it comes to people who have done such severe harm that there is no coming back from it. I was finishing up film school when Harvey Weinstein was finally called out and canceled. That was a great feeling as a woman in media, knowing that a large number of people had our backs when it came to similar situations. But cancel culture doesn’t just hold people like that responsible for their actions, instead, it applies to anyone who has said something in the past and has later tried to take a stance against their old views. This stops people from wanting to change. Apart from a few cases, people should not be punished for the rest of their lives based on an outdated view they had years prior. If they don’t believe there is anyone willing to accept them after they evolve, why would they bother to learn from their mistakes? As long as a person is consistently trying to do better they shouldn’t be canceled by society. 

People can go from being problematic to learning the importance of fighting for others. Cancel culture can be dangerous. There is so much left for everyone to learn as members of society. If Biden truly has grown I am willing to welcome him with open arms. He is a great potential ally. He has promised that his administration will ensure women’s issues remain at the forefront of policy.

Gender equality is a man’s issue too. Society needs men to be on board to get anywhere with this cause. Yes, men are ahead in many ways, but they clearly don’t have the benefits of equality either. Women are often allowed to express their emotions while toxic masculinity holds men back. The mental health of men is almost certainly affected by their inability to express themselves. I’m excited to see if Biden is truly in our circle. Personally, I don’t think he could do any worse than our president from the last four years. Everything could stay the same, but I don’t see it getting worse.

Remember, these are just two individuals. No matter who wins, there is still plenty of work to do when it comes to human rights. Consider their promises as goals rather than assurances for total transformation. When we work together, support each other, and listen, we can accomplish so much more than if we simply rely on the president to fix things for us.

Categories: Politics