There’s this nifty group called the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that collects data regarding how women are doing in American society. For more than 15 years, they have released research that analyzes the weaknesses in how women are treated in various social aspects of the country, including health care, career equality, and family. In their most recent report, the Status of Women in the States, they gave Oklahoma a “D+,” citing their practices regarding health and poverty issues as merit for a “D-” in those areas.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma isn’t even at the bottom of the list when it comes to those issues. West Virginia came in dead last on the list of U.S. states with an “F” grade, bottoming out in many subcategories, like the percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher (hint: it’s less than 20%) or participating in the workforce (hint: it’s less than 50%). And even the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., ranked #1 with a sparkling “A” grade, was ranked an “F” grade for women’s health issues.
Of course, we can talk grades all we want, but we should also examine the grading scale. Each state is judged based on six categories: employment and earnings, poverty and opportunity, health and well-being, work and family, political participation, and reproductive rights. Within each category, major points of contention in the discussion of gender equality come up. For example, researchers studied the gender disparity in managerial and professional careers, and the percentage of women living in counties with access to abortion and other reproductive procedures. The center accurately targets the issues that are most important to many activists, and even leaves room for discussion (not grading-scale judgment) on topics like dating violence.
However, the compelling data also leaves something to be desired from your average reader. Who are we comparing when it comes to looking at say, the gender wage gap? Are we looking at the work of two librarians in equal circumstances, and how do other factors like race and resources come into play? What are we doing with this information? Shouldn’t we be working to solve major problems like these?
Let’s take Oklahoma for an example. Over the past 10 years, the state has seen the largest increase in poor mental health days for women, dropping to 44th in the nation. Why is that? While it’s impossible to prod further without doing some research of our own, it is necessary to use this information to fix it ourselves. Mental health days can range from depression to other mental disorders, and it’s apparent with the worsening in the state that not enough is being done to call it into question. Chances are that Oklahoma is not alone.
The examples of Oklahoma and Washington D.C, along with other states, calls into question how we treat and view women across all professions, social statuses, and emotional ranges. When it comes to mental health, any number of things can foster it: poor living and working conditions are just the tip of the iceberg. If we can encourage people to open up the conversation and see how we can ease these problems not simply within one gender, but all of them, it’s very possible that this can open doors to solving other issues. Listening with an open mind is just one step closer to creating an open society.
As always, we here at HelloFlo take your health seriously – physical and mental. If you ever feel like you need to talk to someone, or are in need of resources for your situation, please reach out and consult a professional.
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