Missouri: Show Me Feminism

Missouri women are disproportionately impacted by the wage gap, poverty, and domestic violence. Missouri politicians routinely sacrifice reform on these issues in order to align with their party’s platform, despite the fact that reform would benefit half of their constituents.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, Missouri women are paid on average 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. Latina and black women are especially impacted by this and make a lower wage than Missouri’s average. This wage gap is partially responsible for Missouri’s poverty problem.

Women are also more affected by poverty than men with 15.9 percent of women living in poverty as opposed to 13.3 percent of men in Missouri. Reasons for the high poverty rates include lack of childcare, employment opportunities, and access to social services, especially for women of color. Poverty also creates unstable living conditions for women resulting in homelessness.

Intimate partner violence, the leading cause of homelessness for women, impacts women’s safety and housing. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 41.8 percent of Missouri women have experienced sexual violence, making Missouri the state with the third-highest rate.

These issues are considered feminist issues because they disproportionately affect women, and the goal of the feminist movement is to solve the problems women are affected by like sexual violence and poverty and to seek equality. Missouri’s politicians have the power to create and end policies-a responsibility they abuse by sacrificing progress for partisan policies.

Missouri has a history of electing anti-feminist politicians who continually vote against policies that harm women. In 2013, Roy Blunt voted against the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). He claimed the act was too politicized because it emphasized the protection of immigrant, LGBTQ+, indigenous, and rural women. However, these marginalized groups experience higher rates of domestic abuse. Blunt is anti-LGBTQ+ and against immigration,so he rejected a bill that provides various resources for Missouri women. His lack of support for the VAWA hasn’t changed since 2013. In 2019, when it went through the House again he refused to commit to voting if it went to the Senate and dismissed his constituents asking for him to vote yes.

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley has publicly criticized feminism. On Oct. 31, 2021, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley delivered a speech at the National Conservatism Convention, supporting strict gender roles and arguing that feminism and the left are trying to destroy men.

“The Left is telling America and its men, you’re evil,” Hawley said. “You’re terrible. You must apologize and submit to your government masters to be reformed.”

Hawley continues his speech by arguing that men are blamed for every problem in America. He criticized Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez’s comments on the subject.

“Take Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. ‘White supremacy and patriarchy are linked in a lot of ways,’ she says. Meaning that America’s systemic racism is a systemic problem with men,” Hawley said.

However, Hawley fails to realize that racism and sexism are interconnected systems. Women of color are at higher risks for domestic violence, poverty, and homelessness than white women and are consistently paid less. Hawley’s ignorance towards women, especially women of color, keeps real reform that would benefit Missouri women from happening.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is an example of prioritizing party politics over reform. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a proposed labor law that would add protections to the Equal Pay Act and Fair Labor Standards Act to help close the gender pay gap. Senator Hawley and Blunt voted no as well as six of eight Missouri representatives, including Ann Wagner, Eureka’s representative.

Opponents argue that the act won’t close the gender pay gap because women don’t go into high-paying, competitive jobs, and others disbelieve in a pay gap entirely, despite the overwhelming statistics that support its existence.

Missouri politicians’ disdain for feminism is also evident in their treatment of transgender women. A bill recently passed the Missouri House 100-51 that banned transgender women in schools from competing on girls’ teams. Transgender women are women and barring them from competing on their gender’s sports team is both discriminatory to women and the LGBTQ+ community.

How our politicians vote is important because it changes the lives of Missouri women. Paying women and men the same wages for the same jobs embrace equality and helps solve the poverty and housing crisis many women are the victims of. In addition, women should be entitled to protection from domestic abuse no matter their race, sexual orientation or immigration status, especially because those women are the most at risk.

Opponents of feminism argue that feminism is an attack on men, the “right,” and traditional values. However, feminism seeks to equalize the status of women, and calling feminism an “attack on men” is a false claim because men have never been the target of any oppressive laws, women have. Furthermore, right-wing political parties have identified themselves with opposing the feminist movement and have no desire to implement reform that could be identified as left-wing. In contrast, left-wing political parties have an all-or-nothing attitude when implementing policies, sacrificing reform over time for partisanship pride. As for opponents praising traditional values, society viewed women as submissive and inferior to men, which is not something we should carry over to the 21st century.

Partisan politics should not be more important than meaningful reform. Our state’s government has a responsibility to represent and serve all of Missouri’s citizens, not to pick and choose which citizen’s rights they want to protect, based on political party affiliations. When we protect feminism, we protect the ideas our country has idealized from its birth: life, liberty, and equality. Our representatives, our senators, our governors and our politicians (every person with a role in our government) must prioritize feminism. They are the ones that have the power to change policies our government has made in the past and implement new ones to curb the rates of poverty, homelessness, and violence rates. It’s not a left-wing issue, it’s not a right-wing issue, feminism is an issue for everyone.