Let’s just say it: 2015 was a rough year plagued by one awful news cycle after another. But the best part of the new year is getting to start over and ditch what isn't working. Here are a few societal issues we would happily leave in 2015.
1. Decreasing Access to Reproductive Healthcare
2015 saw rollbacks in access to abortions in many states, following 2014’s awful year for women’s health. Denying women medical care is repugnant, and it’s not working. Instead, here’s what does work: easily accessible birth control. It lowers the rates of unwanted pregnancies, which lowers the rates of abortion (and next time anyone tries to tell you that birth control is a women’s issue, make sure they realize it’s actually an economic issue that affects everyone). On the other hand, restricting abortion access means women opt for DIY procedures, which can be extremely dangerous. If you want to help women, give them the medical care they need.
2. Calling Grown Women “Girls”
Referring to adult women as “girls” is condescending and infantilizing — and we never do the same thing to men (have you ever heard of a “business boy”?). Note that the only acceptable use of “boy” when referring to a job carried out by a human male is “ballboy,” and that person is a literal boy, not a fully grown human.
3. Abysmal Parental Leave
Not only is the United States way behind the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to maternity leave, but the companies here that can afford to support their employees opt out more often than not. FMLA is not nearly enough; politicians (looking at you, Carly Fiorina) are coming out against paid leave; and parents are left to decide between parenting and their careers. Nope.
4. Not Enough Support for Rape Survivors
Between lost wages, derailed education, costs of a civil suit when criminal courts fail, and the cost of relocation, it’s estimated that the average cost of being a rape victim is $110,000. No wonder rape is staggeringly underreported — survivors are financially punished for coming forward. This has to stop.
5. Interviewing Powerful Women Like They’re Celebrities
I swear to God, if one more reporter asks a CEO or politician about her dress size, designer preference, hair choices, or how she “has it all,” I’m going to Hulk my way out of this pantsuit and start smashing everything in sight.
6. A System That Makes Balance Impossible
Do you feel like you’re constantly being told to find balance, but it’s completely beyond your reach? It’s not your fault: Our work system isn’t structured to foster balance — in fact, it’s the opposite. Between valuing hours worked over quality, a lack of support for parents, and leaders disconnected from their employees, balance is presently a pipe dream.
7. Rampant, Dangerous Discrimination Against Transgender People
It is perfectly legal in 32 states to fire a person based on their gender identity. Trans people are almost four times as likely as cisgender people to earn below $10,000 per year (and this number gets much worse for trans people of color). One in five trans people have been homeless. In most states, there’s no guarantee that medically necessary procedures will be covered by insurance. And the staggering rate of violence against the trans population has reached crisis level. This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the discrimination faced by trans people, and changes are necessary, right now.
8. Holding Out for a Retirement That Doesn’t Exist
Get a job, put money into your 401(k) or IRA, and cash out when you hit 65, right? Wrong. We’ve been sold a false dream for retirement — one that’s not attainable given the current savings options available to most people. At some point, we need to accept that retirement simply looks much different from the version we’re used to, and we need to get prepared.
9. The Concept That Crying at Work Is Weak
Being emotional at work isn’t unprofessional — it’s human. The “there’s no crying in baseball” approach to the workplace is a sexist dig at women, which doesn't even make sense given that men totally cry on the job, too. You personally don’t like to cry at work? Fine by me — it can be private for some people. But wasting time castigating people for expressing emotion is pointless. Let’s move on and get some work done.
10. Guilting Women for Working and/or Hiring Help
While men get to trot off to work without anyone panicking over the welfare of their children, mothers are routinely judged for working outside the home. For the millionth time: Women’s lives are not for public consumption. You don’t get to have an opinion. (Not to mention that many parents — not just mothers, given that mothers are not always the default stay-at-home parent — feel that working makes them better parents, and see benefits in their kids’ lives). And if you have something to say about women who hire nannies or housekeepers, you can just shove it.
11. Sexualizing Women’s Health Crises
I dread Breast Cancer Awareness Month because I simply cannot stand to see the “Save the Tatas” and all-pink-everything campaigns. Breast cancer doesn’t happen to breasts — it happens to people (not just women with their attractive boobs, by the way). It’s not sexy or cutesy, it’s grueling and costly — financially and emotionally. This mortifying angle on awareness has to end.
12. Gaslighting Women About Their Own Bodies
Perhaps nothing better illustrates the ways in which women are seen as unable to control their own lives and bodies than the fact that doctors don’t take women’s pain as seriously as male pain — in fact, in order to get equal attention, women have to prove that they're as sick as male patients. Let’s leave this notion of hysterical women behind where it belongs (i.e., nowhere).
13. Infantilizing Nicknames, Especially at Work
I once had a male client who called me “Love.” When I complained to higher-ups, they told me I was making a big deal out of nothing, and were shocked when that same client started sending me explicit texts on my personal phone. Being called “Sweetie” might seem innocuous, but it’s a subtle cue that you don’t deserve the same respect as your male colleagues. Can we just stick to real names?
14. Letting Fear Get in the Way of Making Money
The stock market might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If your fear is keeping you from investing, you’re missing out on a chance for serious wealth. Instead of standing on the sidelines, gain some empowering stock knowledge and give it a go. And remember not to panic when the market dips — it’s totally normal.
15. Dudes Running the World
When it comes to leadership, gender disparity is alive and well. There are fewer women who run companies than men named John (seriously) and the wage gap is appalling. We need female leaders, and what’s more, we need feminist leadership. Let’s keep an eye on the world’s powerful women, and work tirelessly toward a more egalitarian future. In other words: Burn. It. Down