In an individual’s life in a democratic republic like the USA, we can understand independence as the freedom and ability to exercise autonomy, make choices, and pursue one’s goals and interests without undue external constraints. It encompasses various key aspects that are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. In most, if not all of these areas, women still do not experience the fulfillment of the promise we celebrate every 4th of July.
Political independence is crucial in a democracy, as it allows individuals to participate fully in the political process. This includes the right to vote, engage in political discussions, and express opinions without fear of reprisal. By actively participating in civic life, individuals can shape public policies and contribute to the decision-making processes that affect their lives. Despite recent gains, women still hold less than 35% of the seats of political power in the US. Yet, research proves that women build coalitions and reach consensus more effectively than men do.
Economic independence is closely tied to political independence. It refers to the ability of individuals to support themselves financially, pursue their desired livelihoods, and access equal opportunities in the economic sphere. Economic independence involves fair employment opportunities, the freedom to choose and negotiate employment terms, and protection against discrimination or exploitation in the workplace. It also includes the ability to accumulate wealth, make financial decisions, and pursue economic aspirations without undue barriers. Women occupy only 10.4% of executive leadership roles in US Fortune 500 companies. Career experts at ZIPPIA say, “companies with women executives are 30% more likely to outperform other companies.”
Social independence is another vital aspect of individual independence in a democratic society. It relates to an individual’s freedom to live according to their values, beliefs, and identity, without facing discrimination or marginalization. Social independence encompasses the right to express oneself, to access education, healthcare, and social services, and to participate fully in public life, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or other personal characteristics. Breaking free from societal expectations, stereotypes, and prejudices that limit individual choices and opportunities is crucial for social independence. Systemic barriers, deeply ingrained gender biases, and remnants of patriarchal norms compromise women’s options. Socially independent women are more likely to preserve their autonomy and value themselves above the opinions of others.
Personal independence, closely connected to social independence, refers to the freedom to make decisions about one’s own life, body, and personal relationships. It includes the right to marry or not, have children or not, and engage in consensual sexual relationships. Personal independence also encompasses the ability to access reproductive healthcare, make choices regarding healthcare and medical treatments, and control one’s bodily autonomy. Reproductive rights – crucial to every aspect of women’s independence – are under attack at the federal and state level across the US. According to evidence exposed by the Brennan Center for Justice, the government has a history that contiues today. One in which “outlawing abortion isn’t the only end game. Control over women is.”
The intertwining and inseparability of these dimensions of independence are obvious. Political independence allows individuals to advocate for their economic, social, and personal rights. Economic independence provides individuals with the resources and opportunities to participate in political and social life fully. Social and personal independence create an inclusive and supportive environment that respects and protects the autonomy and dignity of all individuals.
It is essential to recognize that independence does not mean isolation or complete self-reliance. Rather, it acknowledges the interconnectedness of individuals within a society and the importance of collective well-being. Sustainable independence respects the rights and freedoms of others and promotes a just and equitable society. By striving for and promoting independence across these interconnected dimensions, we can foster a culture that values and upholds the autonomy, agency, and equality of all individuals—even women!
The image below is of a reproduction offered by the US National Park Service. The content comes from “The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen,” published in 1791 by Olympe de Gouges, a French playwright and political activist whose feminist and abolitionist writings reached large audiences.
Here are a few steps we can take toward a more equitably independent future:
- Please VOTE! Support, volunteer, and campaign for candidates who will implement policies that promote gender equity, including equal pay, reproductive rights, and comprehensive anti-discrimination measures. It is imperative to address existing gender gaps, to stop regressive policies, and to ensure that women have equal opportunities to thrive.
- Participate in your community in ways that encourage and support women’s active involvement in political, social, and economic arenas. This includes creating platforms–like TROUBLE–for more voices to be heard, appointing women to positions of power, and actively seeking diverse perspectives.
- Foster a culture of inclusivity and gender sensitivity through education. Teach young minds about gender equity, consent, and the importance of challenging societal norms that perpetuate gender biases.
- Advocate for media and entertainment industries to promote more diverse and realistic representations of women. Encourage media outlets to prioritize gender equity and amplify women’s voices and achievements.
- Take a strong stand against gender-based violence.
Become a full-time TroubleMaker who expresses fearlessness with clarity, compassion, and conviction that cannot be ignored. Don’t just break glass ceilings, but work to expose those invisible, persistent, and insidious barriers blocking our rise to gender equity!
Stay tuned for more insights and inspiration.
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SPEAK UP – SPEAK OUT. THIS REALLY MATTERS.