Don’t believe women are oppressed in the US? Read on.

Many people feel that women in the US are privileged, have won their rights, and ought to be content with their lot. While women in the US definitely benefit from many privileges that women in other countries do not have, they are still an oppressed group, and this oppression needs to end. The thing is, people are relatively uninformed about the status of women in the US, and the various issues that factor into their oppression. I have compiled a list of statistics and data that shows, by the numbers, the truth about being a woman in the USA.

Beauty Standards:

42% of American girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner. 80% of 13 year olds have attempted to lose weight. Fast forward to older women, and 2.8 million American women have had botox injections, almost 400,000 have had breast augmentation surgery, 456, 828 have had liposuction. In 1997, 2 million cosmetic surgeries were performed, while in 2007, 11.7 million cosmetic surgeries were performed. 91% of these surgeries were performed on women. Women in the US feel the need to have their bodies cut, reshaped and mutilated in order to conform to prevailing standards of beauty. Women are oppressed by the onslaught of media and advertising that objectifies their bodies.

Sex, Domestic Violence and Rape:

In terms of the global sex trade, an estimated 50,000 women are trafficked into the US each year. The USA is both a destination country for trafficking, as well as a source country. This means that American women ARE kidnapped, or otherwise coerced into the sex trafficking industry. Women are often lured into the sex trade under false pretenses; being hired as waitresses or maids and then forced into prostitution. This is not just a problem for developing countries. It is here, on our own soil.

In the US, 23 women a week are killed by intimates. This has held steady for more than a decade. 74% of women  murdered from instances of domestic violence were murdered after the woman left the relationship, filed for divorce or got a restraining order. Our government has failed to protect women from abusive partners, and band-aid solutions like restraining orders are proven to be, ultimately, ineffective. Until we start taking domestic violence seriously on a legislative level, this percentage will stay about the same. The only country with more women known to have been killed by domestic violence than the US is Russia.

up to 700,000 rapes occur in the USA each year. 18% of American women have survived a rape or attempted rape. In 2001 39% of rapes were reported to the police. 81% of rape victims are white, 18% are black. Fortunately, marital rape is a criminal offense in the USA.

Abortion Rights

Christian fundamentalists continually seek to impose increasing social restrictions on women. We see this because, between 1995 and 2007, 301 anti-choice measures were enacted by state legislatures. 87% of counties in the US are now not served by an abortion provider. Roe v. Wade may stand, but on a state level, women are increasingly oppressed, and hypocritical “anti-big government” Republican politicians seek to legislatively erase women’s power over their own bodies.

In the Workplace

Women still earn 72 cents for every man a dollar earns. In 2008, women occupied only 15% of board positions of Fortune 500 companies.

The proportion of women in government was lower in 2007 than 1997. In Scandinavian countries, there are policies that enforce equality in representation of government. Not in the US, with a paltry 17% of female government officials–Iraq has a higher representation of women in government than we do. So does Namibia, Rwanda, and Afghanistan. Until there is equality in representation on a government level, there is no equality for women on the civic level.

On a Global Scale

While countries such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan have signed and ratified the CEDAW treaty (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) the US is the only signatory that hasn’t ratified it. One aspect of CEDAW would outlaw female genital mutilation-a common practice in developing countries intended to reduce female sexual desire, and thus, ensure virginity at the time of marriage. Not only are women oppressed in the US, the US won’t acknowledge the plight of women in more demeaned, oppressed situations on an international level.

This data was updated in 2009, in the fourth edition of The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World.

Because you’re [NOT] worth it: The dirty little secret cosmetics companies are hiding

It all started with watching the documentary America the Beautiful. Expecting to see a true, though predictable portrait of America as the land of unrealistic body images and eating disorders, I found myself instead struck by the utter insanity that is the American cosmetics industry. In a nutshell: The European Union has banned 450 commonly used cosmetics ingredients because of health risks. The US has only banned six. There has GOT to be something wrong here, I thought, with a discrepancy that enormous.

   American women are not only the most body-conscious in the world, but we are also the most at-risk from harmful ingredients in cosmetics, 60% of which are directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin.

   I did my own investigation of the contents of my own collection of cosmetics. I had never looked at the ingredients in my makeup before, and was surprised that I actually had to look the ingredients up online for some of the items. The type was nearly invisible on some of the containers, and some descriptions were downright misleading. It should not have to take a five to ten minute internet search to find the ingredients of something I absorb into my body. 
   Looking at the ingredients, I knew, was an incomplete resource, because cosmetic companies don’t have to list ingredients considered “trade secrets,”–which leaves a gaping loophole for cosmetic companies to use cheap, harmful ingredients in their products. Nevertheless, I did very basic research, and here are some of the things I found:
   Eyeshadow: Every one of my eyeshadows (brands like Maybelline, Too Faced, and Clinique) listed Talc as the main ingredient. If Talc is inhaled or ingested at all, it is a highly harmful carcinogen, and has been directly linked to ovarian cancer.
   Foundation: My foundation, Too Faced “Magic Wand” Illuminating Foundation/Cashmere Finish (“achieve complexion perfection from one wave of a wand!”) is filled with parabens. Parabens are artificial preservatives that I found in almost every skincare product I own. They have been proven to enter the bloodstream through skin absorption, and they have been consistently linked to breast cancer. Parabens are also toxic for the reproductive system. Keep in mind, the skin absorbs 60% of what is applied to it.
   Powder: My powder (directions: smooth all over face…starting from center and blending outwards) Neutrogena Mineral Sheers in Classic Ivory also has parabens in it. Fortunately no talc, though. Mica, the main ingredient, is not absorbed onto the skin and is therefore not a carcinogen. Overall my Neutrogena minerally makeup was beginning to look less shady than others, until I found that the third ingredient, zinc stearate, was not only a carcinogen, but a carcinogen that had appeared on several citizen-filed petitions for causing medical problems as a carcinogen.
   Blush: Whoa mama! My Nars blush (shade: “Deep Throat”) had several carcinogens, such as talc, zinc stearate, manganese, a boatload of parabens, and lanolin. Lanolin is fine on its own, but cosmetic-grade lanolin is often contaminated with carcinogenic pesticides such as DDT, dieldrin, and lindane, in addition to other neurotoxic pesticides.
   Lipstick/Balm: Clinique is the best lipstick brand, since they are unscented, and therefore contain no phthalates (carcinogens used in perfume and nail polish, among other things). However, Clinique still uses aluminum in some shades, as well as petrochemicals and sunscreens containing zinc oxide. Unfortunately, every other lipstick and lip balm I own contained parabens upon parabens upon parabens.  And we EAT lipstick and lip balm.
   Not only are most lip products chock full of parabens and harmful sunscreens, there are also copious amounts of lead in many top lipstick brands. “Lipstick is a product intended for topical use, and is only ingested incidentally and in very small quantities,” said FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek in September. “FDA does not consider the lead levels that it found in lipsticks to be a safety concern.” The FDA blatantly ignored the simple fact that women ingest lipstick through absorption and eating. Unless it is wiped off, lipstick is ingested into the body. And yet, dangerous levels of lead are “not a concern.”
   According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the average level of lead found in the lipsticks — 1.7 parts per million — is more than 10 times higher than the standard imposed on candy.
   These carcinogens and chemicals are like ticking time bombs. They don’t necessarily have an immediate effect, but constant intake of small doses builds up in the body. I will never believe that the chemical build up from cosmetics doesn’t have a detrimental effect.
   The crazy thing is, in Europe, cosmetic ingredients are tested BEFORE consumers can get to them. Here, however, the FDA only tests cosmetic ingredients AFTER they have harmed someone. In other words, the big cosmetic companies’ ability to earn a profit is prioritized above the safety of the women they manipulate. Cosmetics are the least regulated product under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  Motivated by a media-catalyzed sense of inadequacy, American women pay to have their bodies contaminated by harmful chemicals and carcinogens. The worst part is, they don’t even know it, and as far as the US government is concerned, it doesn’t matter.
   As I looked at my cosmetics strewn on the floor, I felt tricked. I also felt like my government had failed me…which it has.
   To the girls out there: Check your cosmetics for harmful ingredients, such as parabens, talc, zinc stearate, etc. In the meantime, there are plenty of options for paraben-free makeup. Don’t be fooled by brands like The Body Shop that claim to be “all-natural” or high-end brands like Chanel. Their products are just as filled with the bad stuff as cheaper drugstore  brands, like Revlon.
Some tips:
1. Wear less makeup. We need to stop the perfection obsession, anyway.
2. Use perfume oil instead of phthalate-loaded perfume, or spray perfume on clothing and not directly on the skin.
3. Go out right now and buy Burt’s Bee’s or Alba lip balms, so you can stop eating carcinogens.
Brands that are safe-ish: Urban Decay, Clinique (for unscented products free of phthalates)
Brands that are safe: Alba, Burt’s Bee’s, Zuzu, Dr. Hauschka
If anyone has any suggestions for safe cosmetic brands, I’d love to receive them and update this post!
For more information:
http://thegreenbeautyguide.com/ (updates about cosmetic safety)
http://www.safecosmetics.org/ (for lists of harmful ingredients, as well as an index of safe cosmetic brands)