Interview with Selena Fox on challenges ahead for gender equality

The Wild Hunt is exclusively supported by readers like you. No advertising. No corporate sponsors. Your support helps us pay our writers and editors, as well as cover the bills the keep the lights on. We cover the community because of your generosity. Consider making a one-time donation – or become a monthly sustainer. Every amount helps. Thank you for reading The Wild Hunt!



This is the conclusion of a two-part interview with Selena Fox on gender equality and women’s rights. Rev. Selena Fox, Selena is senior minister of Circle Sanctuary which has been serving Pagans of many paths worldwide with publications, events, networking, civil rights activism, and other services since 1974. Click here for part one.

TWH – Even though the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote, has been in place now for 100 years, gender equality is still an issue in some areas of society. And numerous bills have been introduced over the past decade that specifically seek to limit the choices available to women, especially when it comes to body autonomy.

Rev. Selena Fox with Suffragists Statue DC – courtesy

 

We asked Selena Fox if she felt things were moving backward.

Fox said, “It is essential that women have control over their own bodies, health choices, and reproductive rights. I have been on the front lines of this quest for more than fifty years. I have been appalled at legislative, judicial, and other attempts to restrict women’s reproductive choices and access to health care.”

She also pointed out, “Although there are many different religious viewpoints regarding birth control and abortion, some public officials are attempting to legislate and implement their particular sectarian religious worldviews for everyone. This is wrong and must be stopped in every instance.  It is essential that women’s right to choose be upheld as well as the separation of church and state.”

The work for equality continues and does not end just with body autonomy. We asked Fox about the challenges that lie ahead and where the push for equality has fall short.

“It is important to be vigilant to uphold rights that have already been won and to continue the quest for equal rights for women – and for those of all gender identities.  There is still much to be done,” Fox said.

She went on to outline some of the basic facts that illustrate how women are under-represented in government.

“In the United States, 51% of our population is female, but this proportion is not yet reflected in the percentage of women elected to public office. According to statistics compiled by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) that is part of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, the proportion of women serving in state legislatures is 29.2%.

“Federally, there are 101 women out of 435 in the US House of Representatives and 26 women out of 100 in the US Senate. In the 100 years since women won the right to vote, no woman has yet been elected as US President or US Vice President,” Fox explained.

And in the private sector, those percentages are even less.

Fox continued, “In addition, more women business leaders are needed, including those in top positions in corporate America.  In 2020, the number of women heading Fortune 500 companies reached a new high of 37, but that is still only 7.4%.”

She also points out how on average, women are still paid 20% less than a man doing similar work. According to Fox, “There continues to be a need to have equal pay for equal work. According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), women who work full time in the US are paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to men.”

She also stressed the need for education and support, “There also is an on-going need to encourage and support education and career opportunities to bring about increased numbers of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).”

A recent study from the American Association of University Women cited that women only make up an overall 28% of the workforce in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The low numbers of women in these fields are not due to a lack of interest or aptitude for STEM fields, but rather girls and young women being steered away from those fields by teachers, and advisors, and even their own parents.

Fox rightly points out that women’s issues when it comes to health are not just a problem in the U.S., but around the world. And she reminded us of yet another way to support all of these issues, “Participation in International Women’s Day, March 8, every year is a good opportunity to join with others to learn about the progress that has been made and ways to work to further Gender Equality around the World.”

Harriet Tubman at Tubman Museum – Image credit: Selena Fox

 

One thing that has made a lot of waves since it was announced last week was the presidential pardon of Susan B. Anthony. For anyone on social media or who follows regular commentators in the mainstream media, there was a lot of debate going on about the pardon.

Here’s what Fox had to say about it,

The 144-year long quest for national Women’s Suffrage in the USA (1776-1920) succeeded in part because it had support of those with diverse political affiliations. This year’s celebrations of the 19th Amendment Centennial also have diverse support.

In April 2017, the US Congress passed legislation that created the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC). This legislation, envisioned and sponsored by Wisconsin’s first woman US Senator, Senator Tammy Baldwin, was co-sponsored by the twenty other female members of the US Senate, Democrats and Republicans. Part of the work of WSCC included having a presidential proclamation celebrating the Centennial.  Therefore, WSCC Commissioners were at the White House on Tuesday, August 18, 2020 for the ceremony of signing of the presidential proclamation commemorating the 100th anniversary of the completion of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

However, the adding of the Anthony “pardon” to the proclamation-signing ceremony has injected complexity and controversy into this year’s 19th Amendment Centennial celebrations.  Some historians, political leaders, and others are calling for the rescinding of this pardon due to it being contrary to Anthony’s own stance regarding the charges of voting illegally and the trial that followed.

Deborah Hughes, president of the Susan B. Anthony and House in Rochester, New York, is among those objecting to the pardon. Hughes stated that Anthony knew about the legalities of the pardon process and would not have wanted it.Because Anthony was a woman, she was not allowed to speak in her own defense.  Furthermore, Anthony also was denied a trial by jury.  The judge in her “trial” pronounced her guilty, but Anthony refused to pay any of $100 penalty because in doing so, it would validate the unjust proceedings.Although Anthony secured pardons for election inspectors who aided her in voting in 1872, she never sought a pardon for herself.

The controversy over the Anthony “pardon” has served to further spotlight the long, convoluted quest for Women’s Suffrage and Gender Equality. Regardless of what one’s opinion is about this particular pardon and what its underlying political goal may have been, it is my hope that it will be an opportunity to expand awareness not only about the history of Women’s Suffrage, but also about Susan B. Anthony and her works.

Abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth – Image credit: Selena Fox

 

Too often when it comes to Women’s Suffrage and Gender Equality women of color like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth are left off the list or only nominally mentioned. While Tubman is best known for the work she did as abolitionist with the Underground Railroad, after the civil war she continued her activism and worked with  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

While the 19th amendment was signed into law in 1920, it would be another 45 years before the Voting Rights Act would be passed, and women of color could vote without facing considerable obstacles to voting.

The fight for true gender equality will likely continue until some measure of an Equal Rights Amendment is eventually passed.