A friend alerted me to a social media uproar currently ongoing. Apparently, Connie Britton wore a sweater embroidered with the words Poverty is Sexist to the Golden Globes.
Backlash immediately ensued when viewers found out the sweater costs $380.
Some people argued on social media that a family could eat a lot of dinners for $380, maybe pay some utility bills, maybe buy some books.
Britton defended herself, and the sweater's designer jumped into the mix addressing issues of ethically made clothing and announcing the contribution of $100 for every sweater sold to a fund to support women.
No matter what I think about Britton's decision to wear a hand-embroidered cashmere sweater to the Golden Globes, there is truth in the statement that poverty is indeed sexist.
There's a policy term for the reality of this: Feminization of Poverty.
Women are disproportionally affected by push/pull factors leading to poverty including lack of education, limited legal rights and representation, gender biases in the workplace, and disproportionate responsibility for childcare, to name a few.
For example, the Word Economic Forum reports that women own less than 20% of the world's land.
According to this UNESCO report, two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female. According to the report, educating girls impacts society in the following ways:
- educated women are less likely to die in childbirth
- mother's education improves child nutrition
- girls with higher education are less likely to marry and/or have children at earlier ages
- education narrows the pay gap
- educated women are more likely to find work
The United States Agency for International Development released this infographic related to the benefits of educating girls:
There is no dearth of information on this topic, and for anyone interested, I'll include a list of 10 articles to explore (certainly not exhaustive) if you'd like to dig deeper (I'll be digging all day).
At the end of the day, I think $380 for a cashmere embroidered sweater may have missed the mark, ever-so-slightly, and perhaps celebrities (good intentions aside) aren't always the best ambassadors for understanding/addressing social issues. But....at least people are talking.
Gender & Extreme Poverty (USAID)
Straight Facts on Women & Poverty (Center for American Progress)
The World's Women 2015 (chapter excerpt from full report/United Nations)
Poverty, gender and intersecting inequalities in the EU: Report (link to PDF/European Institute for Gender Equality)
Gender Inequality and Poverty: Trends, Linkage, Analysis and Policy Implications (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency/SIDA)
Feminized Poverty in the US (Mount Holyoke College)
Women and Poverty, State by State (National Women's Law Center)