116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa used to be hailed as a leader in civil rights and equality, making significant strides in desegregation of schools, voting rights for African Americans and refugee resettlement. Today, Iowa is a state that pushes people out with restrictive laws instead of welcoming them in with refuge and support.
Just last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed House File 2416 into law, banning transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s sports in Iowa. As a result, transgender athletes may only play a sport if they use the gender on their birth certificate, not the gender they identify as.
Current reproductive rights laws are particularly restrictive for women in Iowa, as state law demands an abortion cannot be performed after 20 weeks since the last menstrual period unless in cases where the women’s life is threatened by the fetus or in cases where pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Further, the fetal heartbeat law bans abortion at as early as six weeks — and most women have irregular cycles, and may be unaware that they are pregnant at this point, with no choice but to conceive even if it derails their life, negatively impacts their health and causes financial strain.
Change can only happen when people come together to work toward a common goal.
Access to abortion is already limited in the state with biased counseling playing a major role in restricting that access. To me, it’s always been strange that a state thinks they have the right to tell a woman what to do with their body. For a Republican-majority Iowa Legislature that supposedly favors limited government involvement in people’s day-to-day lives, there seems to be a lot of hypocrisy when it comes to deciding what a woman can and cannot do with her body, regardless of how it may affect her life.
No, Iowa is not a state looking to protect all of its people, but rather control and limit certain people’s lives and rights.
Women are burning out faster and longer than they were a year ago — and in larger numbers, according to the 2021 Women in the Workplace report from Lean In and McKinsey. The gap between burnout between women and men has nearly doubled, with women having less control over how and where their work gets done. Everybody’s tired and everybody’s stressed. But burnout is a level of exhaustion felt to the very core, when nothing in your life is changing but you’re forced to go through the same miserable motions to put food on the table and support yourself and your family.
In Iowa, only 30 percent of women hold executive-level leadership positions, according to a 2020 Fearless report. And over a quarter of Iowa’s population lives in a child care desert, meaning the average Iowan household doesn’t have access to adequate child care due to child care workers quitting in large numbers and providers closing their doors. What’s a single-mom supposed to do with her kid when she needs to work two jobs just to cover the bills?
That’s why the agenda for women’s rights by activists is so important to support, as they push for racial equity (as inequity informs racialized misogyny), voting rights, family-forward legislation and community-centered care, reproductive justice (the right to make our own decisions about our bodies), LGBTQ+ rights and closing the wage gap.
“#InternationalWomensDay is not for celebrating. It is for protesting against and raising awareness about the fact that people are still being oppressed or treated differently because of their genders.” — Greta Thunberg, Twitter.
Despite the fact that society regards women as generally more emotional creatures, in my own experience women tend to be the strongest people I know. Rarely is there time left at the end of the day for a woman to care for themselves, especially if they have a family to run.
It’s about time we respect women enough to give them a choice and trust in their decision-making. They’re often the ones who hold everything together anyway, whether it be running a household, filling in the gaps at work to make things run smoothly and taking care of others. And because of that, they don’t have time to break down and deal with their health or care for themselves adequately.
Change can only happen when people come together to work toward a common goal. We did so in 2020 and 2021, when we elected the most women of color into Congress and other representative positions. We can surely do it again.
It’s easy to take people for granted in this fast-moving world, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to forget about the people who took care of you and were always there when no one else was. So, this Women’s History Month (and beyond), look to the women in your life and see what can be done to support and uplift them, on both a personal level and a social justice level.
Nichole Shaw is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: email@example.com