Today, towards the end of Women’s History month, President Obama announced a national monument in Maryland in honor of abolitionist and freed slave Harriet Tubman. Tubman who was born in Maryland helped to free hundreds of slave without ever losing one. She embodies the symbol of freedom and the risks involved to fight for freedom. The monument will be called the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Monument to commemorate the woman who was responsible for helping slaves to reach freedom while risking her life in the process. The new national park in her memory and its monument are located on Maryland’s Eastern shore.
Midway through Women’s History month, the topic of rape and sexual violence against women was the center of focus in many media outlets. The Steubenville, Ohio rape case concluded with the judge finding the two teenagers, Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond responsible for raping a 16 year old girl known as “Jane Doe”. The trial was significant because most of the evidence was uploaded online via video, photographs or through the use of Twitter. The two teens were not tried in an adult court so the verdict is not a guilty one but a finding of delinquency with a sentence to a juvenile facility.
The case centered around Jane Doe, a West Virginia honors high school student, who was substantially intoxicated or impaired and unable to consent to rape or any sexual act while attending several parties in Steubenville, Ohio. During the course of the evening, at least these two teenagers who were later adjudicated delinquent raped the victim while partying around her and then taking photos of her. Those photographs went viral online along with tweets supporting the act of sexual assault on Jan Doe. In Ohio, it is rape to forcibly penetrate with fingers or an object without consent. Most condoned the acts of sexual assault on the victim. Few spoke out against the act of rape against her. Most of the sentiment was about the future lives of the two young men. It seems the age old adage of boys will be boys and that she deserved it are still the norm in many parts of the country when it comes to assaults on women and girls. The judge will decide if the two teenagers will be required to register as sex offenders.
This month Ford Motor Company had a rather unfortunate way of honoring women or rather I should say dishonoring women. Ford Motor Company came out with an ad campaign for its new vehicle. The posters uploaded to a website depicted women in sexually compromising positions as one of the images depicts Silvio Berlusconi, former prime minister of Italy driving a Ford Figo with three tied-up women in the back. He’s looking back on the women with the “victory” hand sign. Another image depicts Paris Hilton driving a Figo with what’s meant to look like three Kardashian sisters tied up in the back. Ford Motor Company and its ad agency apologized for the art work depicted in the posters. One has to wonder, what, if anything, Ford was thinking when it displayed such an offensive display of insensitivity against women. Three women tied up in the back of a car with a man driving while smiling looking at them has no place in an advertisement. When a major corporation and its ad agency think this type of ad is acceptable, one has to wonder what messages are we sending about women.
In other parts of our country, during Women’s History month, North Dakota passed the most stringent form of legislation practically banning abortion in the state. Other states continued to fight a woman’s right to choose and vow to abolish abortion.
At the beginning of Women’s History month on March 3, in Washington, DC, approximately 25,000 members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and other women came out for the re-enactment of the Women’s Suffrage march to commemorate its 100th year. From the suffrage march of 100 years ago to November, 2012 where women outvoted men, women’s rights have evolved. Women still continue to fight for the right to vote when it comes to disenfranchised felons and against voter ID laws which disenfranchise many women.
Women fight for the right to control our bodies when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. Although slavery has ended, hundreds of thousands of women are victims of human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad. Women continue to fight for equal pay—the right to earn the same salary as a man for the same type of work. Women must continue to fight against the victimization of women whether by Ford Motor Company or sexual assaults and rapes committed by men and boys in towns and cities across America. Women’s rights have evolved but they are still a work in progress.