Women in the SOTU Addresses

Women living in the U.S. have been placed lower on the social ladder than men ever since the country’s founding. There are many factors that have fed into the lack of women’s opportunities. One factor is that from the very beginning, women have been locked into a stereotype of the housewife and care giver of the children, and in the workplace, women have been suffering the consequences ever since. At work, women have been forced to apologize for things that simply come with being a woman and cannot control, like pregnancies. Yet, there is still an excusable discrimination against women in 21st century!

During his State of the Union Address, Obama got the loudest applause on the segment explaining the importance of equal opportunities between men and women. He continuously mentioned that because women occupy the same number of jobs in America as men do, they deserve the same amount of pay. However, one problem with equality reforms are that they take decades to see the results naturally in public. I looked in the presidential archives, and checked to see how many presidents actually tried to get women’s equality noticed. I was shocked to find that the first time women’s equality was consistently brought up in the Addresses was not until 1980, under Jimmy Carter’s presidency! Women were mentioned twice in the entire speech, and were brought up because Carter felt women should be given equal opportunities to serve the army. (Each time the word “woman” or “women” are mentioned, there are about three to four sentences that follow, still pertaining to the topic of women). From there, Ronald Reagan (1988) mentioned women once, to talk about their rights in terms of abortions. In 1992, George Bush failed to mention women at all! In 2000, William J. Clinton broke a record, mentioning women three times throughout the address. He fought for equal pay before gender because at that time, women were making 75 cents for every dollar a man made. Clinton also talked about the need for women’s safety in the Violence Against Women Act. Then women took a step backwards. In 2008, following close in his father’s footsteps, George W. Bush failed to mention women at all. Every time they were mentioned, it had something  to do with “men and women” in the workplace.

Leading up to the address, women had little to no reason to suspect being mentioned by Obama. Since 2000, woman’s average salary compared to men has only improved two cents, the ratio now 77 to 100. However, Obama mentioned women more than any other president in history, hopefully proving as a step in the right direction. Obama supports women in his speech, but his actions will speak louder than his words. This supports my theory that women have been victimized on a professional level due to a lack of exposure.

Sources

Obama’s State of the Union Address

the SOTUs of presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, William Clinton, and George W. Bush

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/sou.php

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