I love North Carolina. I’ve lived here more than a decade, and the Tar Heel state feels like home in a way that my birth state, Florida, never did. I left Florida to get away from regressive politics and an environment that favored the rich and corrupt. (Also: Palmetto bugs)
Now it’s nearly 2016 and my beloved North Carolina kind of sucks in a lot of ways. It’s still beautiful, and the people are still amazing. But the politics? Pretty crappy. Especially if you are a woman.
This is a fact that was captured in a recent report card issued by the national organization, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The group gave us C’s and D’s for how we treat women in our state. Ranking factors from healthiness to economic security, this report is a good overview of outcomes by gender and race.
A few low-lights:
- NC gets a D+ for health and well being. We have one of the highest female diabetes rates in the country, and Native American women in NC report needing to take off work 6 days a month due to illness.
- Because we have no sick leave legislation, no statewide temporary disability insurance, and because unemployment insurance doesn’t cover family reasons, we get a D+ in work and family.
- Our reproductive rights earn us a solid C. Fifty-one percent of women live in counties without abortion providers, but the state requires sex ed in the public school curricula. Too bad that sex ed doesn’t have to be based in fact.
- We get a D+ in poverty. More than half of Latina women do not have health insurance, and more than a quarter of Black women in NC live below the poverty line. The racial disparity is stark: 84% of white women have health insurance and 12% of white women live below the poverty line.
If you’ve been paying attention, none of this is particularly news. We know women have it tough, especially women of color. However, it’s embarrassing when a national report sheds light on the problems in our state. We know there are plenty of good people with strong values here. Unfortunately our policies and lawmakers don’t reflect that reality.
That’s why we must take action. Complacency delivered us to where we are today. The report shows that 55% of registered women voted in the last major election. That’s a good start, but we need more women to turn out to the polls. Furthermore, we need more women to run for office. Only 21% of our legislators are women and 8% are women of color. If those making laws resemble us, then they will be more in touch with our needs.