10 Challenges That American Women Still Face Today

women scientistsOur blog post “10 Things That American Women Could Not Do Before the 1970s” has prompted amazing responses from Ms. blog readers. Feminists of the 1960s and 1970s worked tirelessly to secure the rights for women that we enjoy today. However, as many readers noted, we cannot get complacent: We must continue the fight to ensure equality for all. In light of some of the comments have a look at some challenges we still face today:

1. Getting paid as much as men.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which turns 50 this year, was intended to prohibit sex-based wage discrimination. However, women still receive an average of 77 cents to every dollar earned by men, and stories of income inequality are unfortunately all too common.

2. Being fairly and proportionally represented in the media.

In family films, there are, on average, 2.42 male characters to every female character. If that isn’t bad enough, don’t forget the disproportionately lower number of women film critics, directors and producers.

3. Becoming President.

49 countries in the world have had a woman leader; the United States hasn’t (yet).

4. Getting a cheap haircut.

The Danes have outlawed it, but in America you’re still likely to pay for a haircut depending on your gender rather than your hairstyle.

5. Occupational sex segregation. 

In 2009, men outnumbered women at a rate of 73 percent to 27 percent in all science and engineering sectors of employment.

6. Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

This document complied by the ACLU and others shows that unfortunately, this is still a very real problem that many people face.

7. Sexual Violence.

Nine out of 10 victims of attempted or completed rape in the United States are women.

8. Getting access to free birth control.

Even under the Affordable Care Act, some birth control is only available with co-pay. The United Kingdom and other countries offer free birth control, why can’t we?

9. Getting blamed and shamed. 

Victim blaming, slut-shaming, and “rape-splaining” are largely targeted toward women victims.

10. Menstruation frustration.

Post-pubescent and pre-menopausal, women are still menstruating—and still getting patronized for it.

What other challenges would you suggest that we’re still facing? Please comment!

Photo by George Joch courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory under license from Creative Commons 2.0


  1. Deborah Pavek says:

    We’re still being told that our working is causing the disintegration of this country, the family etc, etc, etc

  2. Citykitty says:

    Most women in this country still change their last names to their husband’s last name. That’s not equal. I think this has to do a lot with expectations on the role of women in our society.

    • Also most women, even the women who keep their birth names (the women’s last names), still give their children their husband’s last names. I’m not saying that children should have their mother’s last name (unless the father abandons them and vice versa), but it took TWO people to make the children and giving the children only either the father or mother’s birth name gives way too much credit to either one of them.

      The solution is unfortunately pretty complicated and has to be different per family. But for me, I think both the husband and wife should be able to keep their birth names as I see last names as a very important part of one’s identity (Why else do men react defensively and aggressively when women say/imply they want to keep their last name and/or give their children her last name?), but their children should have a sort of hybrid last name of their parents. So, I guess as far as referring to a particular family unit, the family should be known as The [Last Name Of The Children] Family. It may sound strange, but The [Last Name Of Only One Parent] Family is a pretty flawed familial system as not even both parents are given equal credit in name for creation of their children.

    • Personally speaking the women aren’t forced to change their last name. It is their choice. So it not being equal in todays society is not true. I think the point of view of what Marriage is different depending on culture. Some cultures marry and to let their legacy of their name live on so marrying into ones family and inheriting one’s name is an honor(in Asian cultures, second sons and so on can marry into their wives family inheriting their family name). This has nothing to do with being a woman, but how it is viewed and valued through their culture. It is one thing if the LAW is forcing women to do it, but here in America at least, I know many that either retain their name or hyphenate with their husbands with no issues.

      So the solution is actually pretty simple. It’s not an major issue, lets leave it to the couples and families to decide how they want to identify themselves as there is nothing stopping them to. It should not be something that should be declared by law.

    • Omg I thought I was the only person to think outside of the box as to why women have to change their last names to their husbands. I brought this up to people and they just laugh or think it’s a silly observation; a lot of people don’t seem to think anything of it because it is the time period we live in..but I still think it is odd. Saying things such as , that’s how things are , it’s to carry your husbands legacy and to respect him or it’s a tradition …is not good enough for me. Why is it necessary ? Why can’t it just be combined or just be optional in legal papers ( socially ) it is soooo stupid and degrading in my opinion. I feel like few people are curious enough to ask questions and become open on all angles. I know if we do this we can become more effective in our communities as a nation.

    • I also believe that women are more prone to getting raped only because they are of course women.

  3. Pamela Beecher says:

    When two spouses have advanced degrees and the husband insists on taking the “better” job offer thereby forcing the “mom” into a lower paying, less career satisfying job by saying you can work less and spend more time with the kids. At first this sounds appealing, but after the kids leave home, you are left in your 50’s with no personal savings or bennies, totally dependent on his position for health insurance. If you try to get “back into” your career you will be punished by those in your field for leaving to raise your children. If your marriage fails you have nothing to fall back on and must sue for half of your husbands pension. In this day of easy divorce it happens easily – don’t be trapped into giving up your career of choice.

  4. Whio in the world Patronized a woman for mestrating?

    I have to pay for all prescription drugs I get so why should birth control be any different

    Men and Women are made different and I do not see why it is a be different in receiving birth control, men have to pay for condoms don’t they? I agree with some of this, but some of it is bull!!!

    • William L. Turner says:

      In Canada birth control is covered by almost all benefit plans. Even faith based organizations offer it. Birth control in Canada is not nearly the hotbutton issue as it is in the US. I support choice for birth control and abortion. As a male I shutter at the thought of being forced into fatherhood for engaging in sex. Men should also have the choice to “opt out” of fatherhood early in the pregnancy. Basically he tells the mother he wants nothing to do with the child and abdicates all rights and responsibilities. The women can then make an informed choice as to whether she wants to keep it, have it or give it up for adoption. Even a former President of the National Organization of Women supported this position.

    • who in the world patronized women for menstruating? you might try reading the linked article if you cannot figure it out.

    • Men have to pay for condoms because they can have sex (theoretically whenever they please) but birth control has many other uses besides preventing a pregnancy, it can help with menstrual cramps and can even stop your period all together. Also, most copays on birth control range around $10 but you can buy a $3 box of condoms.

  5. Nora Miller (@nmillaz) says:

    Access to *free* birth control? How about access at all? I was at Univ of Massachusetts in 1967 when Bill Baird was arrested for simply *displaying* a birth control pill! It took that kind of brave action to get *legal* access to birth control. In 1973, the year after Baird’s case was decided in his favor by the US Supreme Court, the Court recognized a woman’s right to abortion in Roe v. Wade. It is critical that young women understand that these rights have a relatively short and tenuous history in the US, and that they need to be continually re-asserted and protected by new generations of women. If they are not protected, they WILL be lost!

  6. It’s interesting that most men seem to discriminate against women, but if not for us they wouldn’t be here.

    • Maria Ryan says:

      My daughter and I were just discussing how callous men can be about menstrual cramps and childbirth. Since men are such big babies when they get sick, we decided that if men were the ones giving birth, the human population would have died out long ago. And they call us the weaker sex??

  7. Among other things,we couldn’t wear pants how matter how cold it was,so I rolled-them-up when I got to school! Nor could we wear the sandals known as “thongs” as we couldn’t wear nylons with them;I was sent home from then-named East Paterson(N.J.;now “Elmwood Park High”) during the next-to-last class & as it started raining & the then-being-constructed-Rte.#80-&-surroundings were mud I ruined my new leather thongs that I had saved babysitting money for! ($22)

  8. William L. Turner says:

    Wage-gap? The 77 cents figure is meaningless. If it is broken down by age group, it is quickly revealed that women between 24 and 30 actually out-earn their male counterparts (Remember the Time Magazine cover-story last year?). Too many men in science and technology? Well women are even more over-represented in public sector positions, nursing and nursing, all safe, stable and high paying fields. Women pay more for a haircut? I agree that is discriminatory. However, would anyone like to talk about the significantly higher automobile and life insurance rates for men?

    But hey, I know with younger women doing so well, feminist organizations really need to dig deep to maintain their relevance and, thereby ensure continued funding, whether through government or private donations. It is only human nature I suppose. I imagine in the early days of the modern elevator, the Association of Elevator Operators made a futile pitch that their members were indispensable.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Mr. William:
      It is because of people like you that feminist organizations exist. It is because of people like you that, besides the easily observable issues of sexual inequality, the discriminatory undertones of words spoken everywhere still continue.
      I would take a guess and posit that you aren’t a young woman. I am. And I say you truly don’t know how much feminist organizations are needed, especially by young people–female and male.
      Also, if you don’t consider yourself a feminist, you may want to revisit the definition of “feminism.”

      • Clueless, maybe says:

        Elizabeth, all William did was pointed out some facts. all you did here was to get angry and attack those facts.
        It was definitely bad for woman in the past – no one disagreeing with that. Playing fields are pretty leveled these days

  9. Kristen says:

    If you watch TV, you will notice that every single cleaning commercial or commercial with machines that do any kind of cooking or cleaning in it will have women doing the cleaning or demonstration for the product. And car commercials? Especially luxury car commercials! Ladies, we are always in the passenger seat.

    • Jack Sparrow says:

      umm… Oxyclean was a guy… the Sham wow commercial is a guy, the epitome of cleaning products in general is MR CLEAN… so im failing to see how your comment has any further relevance.

      • “Well here are THREE examples of male spokespersons for cleaning companies, so obviously your claim that women are more represented in commercials for cleaning products (both because women are taught to be the “cleaners” of the house/family–therefore the industry appeals to the massive market of women who believe their job is to clean house–and because such commercials contribute to the belief that it is a woman’s job to clean in order to keep her family happy, thus continuing such a cycle) is invalid. Lol, gotem!”

  10. A couple of years ago I heard an academic describe a conference attended by people studying fundamentalism in ALL world religions. The object was to try to identify a common thread in all these groups. The only thing they could come up with was “the women are getting out of hand.” So I suggest that the greatest challenge for all generations of American and other western cultures is to understand that our hard earned right to self-hood could go away in a heartbeat. We need to internalize the fact that these battles are never “won” and act accordingly. Male dominance and superiority are deep-rooted in all cultures and have been written into that powerful force called religion. Even liberal religions mostly still refer to their deity as male. When women’s role is defined by religious belief we will always lose, and very few things are more powerful than religion. In theory it could be different, but history defines religion so it is not.

    • Hi hun, I appreciate what you’re saying about the root of ‘all religions’, but I suggest you study the various branches of paganism, the length of time that pagan kingdoms actually lasted into the AD (the Nordic model allowed women to fight along side their menfolk and own property/initiate divorce, same as the Celtic regions that allegedly didn’t fight off the Christians as well). In the east Kwan Yin is still revered in many places- goddess of mercy. Anath(the one they mention in The Book of Revelations who Jesus calls out to- Egyptian/Caaninite sun war goddess) still had templess functioning in the middle-east at them time when Islam started, and to this day they have at least one country over there with more than 10% of the population being pagan Study religions and their histories, and you’ll see how they set a very evil fruit out in this country’s educational indoctrination. I suggest any one that thinks women were treated like chattel the world over through out time and in all faiths put down their school mandated text book and research on their own. This white wash they do is dangerous- it’s to give the exploitative cultures a pyramid of solidarity- you enmasse were always treated likes slaves by the vicious, but hey, you could order your women and children around, so there is that. SSicknesss…. Hurts the cause of both genders and sets the stage for brutality.

  11. Elizabeth M. says:

    Related to some of the items already on the list, I would add that women still face challenges from being sexually objectified by media and society. Not only are women not proportionally represented in the media (#2), but when they are shown, they tend to fit a ‘standard’ white, thin, young beauty ideal and are often hypersexualized. This happens in movies, tv, advertisements, video games, magazines, etc. Perhaps that’s why women’s haircuts cost so much more (#4)—women’s looks are considered way more important than men’s looks. The sexual violence (#7) is related to this too. If women are objects of sexual beauty rather than people, then attacking them for sex is fitting.

    • Tadhg O'Gara says:

      Keep in mind that on statistic are way worse off. More males have eating disorders than females, 80% of suicides/suicide attempts are male, males still face a high number of sexual harassment (although most of it is male to male, it is still a large issue.), men may not be held to as high of standard as females in looks but in responsibly for things like providing for their family with can lead in mental problems for men.

      As for the beauty ideas that is based mostly on human instincts, eg. larger hips gives more support for a baby when climbing up a tree as we did when we where more like monkeys, thinner means fitter and more likely to be able to run away from a threat, larger breast are easier to grab onto for a baby. And keep in mind that the more excited a males is in sexual activity to more sperm be will release.

      As for haircuts been more expensive and less females in media that is just economics. There is a higher demand for female haircuts to prices rise. And males consume more of certain types of media so natural more males will be in it.

  12. Other challenges we face, you ask? There is sexual harassment, idealized beauty images perpetrated by the media which has all sorts of terrible repercussions, victim-blaming and slut-shaming, sex-trafficking, socialized gender norms which are harmful to boys and girls… Shall I continue?

  13. The triple role of worker, parent and caregiver for elderly or disabled family members is wearing women down and making them less able to be advocates for their own rights. No one has yet reconciled how women and men are supposed to work and raise families and look after the vulnerable in society. In addition no one cares for the women themselves if they get sick.
    If a woman takes time off work to look after family, then she gets flack for not being fully committed to her job. Men don’t experience this duality or condemnation. If a man took time off to look after an ill parent, he’d be seen as a hero. In an economically driven society, the bottom line is profit, not people.

    • William L. Turner says:

      Every women should be barred from complaining about the failure of men to step up to the plate and take a fair share of childcare responsibilities; you ladies don’t let us anywhere near it. When I was a teen, before I was old enough to get a real job, I tried to put my name out for babysitting. Never got a call. Society is still very suspicious of men in positions of trust over children, such as male grade school teachers and day care workers.

  14. There are still a lot of things that seep into the unconscious, creating messages that women are secondary, sex objects and more demeaned. Language, movies, TV, magazines… ok, the world.

  15. I believe that one of the top ten challenges for american women today, should have sonmething to do with enroling more man in believing the feminist cause…

    • Tadhg O'Gara says:

      There is a massive amount of problem men face as well and they desperately need attention. Just google it and you will see how serious some of these are.

  16. There’s is still a very clear line between what is appropriate for boys to play with and what is appropriate for girls to play with. If we want to start changing attitudes about what it means to to something “Like a girl” we need to start educating and changing the way the children of America think. It starts with education from an early age.

  17. Nice comment Aidan! I agree! Furthermore, take a look at this video :


  18. Patricia Morey says:

    Being abused, beaten, and even murdered in their own homes by someone who vows to “love” them!!

  19. Mariana G says:

    Our course starts since the moment we women are created. If someone reads the bible about the creation, they wrote, that “men were created to the image of God” while a woman was created out of “the rib of a man” ! I have seen how religion have pay a great deal on focusing on domination. Why they do not say it backwards? One of the sadest concern is that many women had the belief that they cannot get educated! as the men get to choose when and how they can educate themselves.
    In my humble opinion, I belive the more education and awareness women get the most liberated and self-suficient she gets. Some experts in the subject belive the brain is like a “muscle” the most you use the better it gets. ..

  20. Kaycie Rizzo says:

    I hate it when people are like “sorry you can’t do something because you are a girl.” Um excuse me? You wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for women…smh >:(

  21. im dead inside now

  22. I believe one of our top issues today is the objectification and the slogan of “sex sells.” Woman are beautiful, yes, but why is it that in our society we are treated like a piece of meat rather than a work of art? I am not saying that EVERYONE partakes in this, but if you listen to our popular rap music it is promoting drugs, and woman being a slam piece that is available to “fuck & chuck.” This issue honestly hurts my heart. I almost feel embarrassed when I am walking down the street and get cat- called and whistled at… Some woman enjoy it for a boost of confidence, but I disagree. To me it is demeaning. I do not like hearing that woman have “pussy’s” and if you are weak or are of low standard you are a “pussy.” Do people not realize how truly strong woman are. We have the most amazing maternal instinct, we are unbelievably loving, we endure so many things today that are not acknowledged. I have seen woman come back and show unbelievable power and strength after being beat, raped, neglected, demeaned, harassed, ect. Being a woman who has been sexually abused I stand up and say NO. I will not stay silent as long as this issue persists. I will not sit in the back of the class and listen when woman are told to “speak when spoken to”, “front hand is abuse but back hand is punishment”, ect. Makes me sick. I know my daughter will not grow up with mind set of being “obedient” to men and not want to speak in fear of being told shes wrong, wrong, wrong. She will not grow up thinking the sexier she looks means being noticed more. She will learn she is beautiful inside and out. This is what being a woman in 2017 means to me.

    I know a lot of people will read this with heavy points of view against what I have to say. That is perfectly fine. We are all entitled to have an opinion. I am married and I love my husband very much. He is loving, he is caring, but most of all I found a man who respects me. He appreciates my role as a woman and I truly do feel as one person with him.

  23. You do not have to change your last name…there is no law that states that you have to. It is your Choice!

  24. Women are cool

  25. “Nine out of 10 victims of attempted or completed rape in the United States are women.” Not if you count forced penetration.

    “Becoming President.” I encourage the women who make up 53% of eligible voters to make that happen!

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