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16% Think It's OK for a Man to Hit His Wife? 5 Shocking Facts About Gender in America

A new report reveals that some Americans still think it’s okay for a man to hit his wife, the insane wage gap between women of color and white men, and other disturbing trends.

With the GOP-waged wars on women, middle-class workers and poor families in full swing and steadily whittling away at women’s status in the US, it’s obvious that we have a long way to go in terms of equality of all kinds. But a new report sheds light on some surprising numbers highlighting that imbalance.

Without the right to abortion, or the ability to prevent and prosecute rape, or the ability to support one’s family, a woman cannot be a full human being, a citizen exercising her rights. This is a given. But did you know that many Americans--16 percent--still think it’s okay for a man to hit his wife? And did you know just how massive the wage gap remains between black and Latina women and white men? What about the fact that until recently, it was almost impossible for native American women to file rape charges if they were assaulted on reservations or that we’re positively the worst “developed” country on parental leave, bar none?

The list goes on, thanks to a recently released global report,  “Progress of the World’s Women.(pdf), which focuses on the access to justice of women worldwide. The report comes from the dynamic new group,  UN Women. Headed by Michele Bachelet, former president of Chile, the group is hopefully a nascent force for accelerating global gender equity. UN Women has released individualized information on all regions, and the North American fact-sheet (pdf link) highlights some fascinating, surprising and disturbing statistics that background our current climate. 

Most importantly, when stacked up to other countries worldwide, the facts show that we’re not some pillar of opportunity for women compared to other countries and regions, but rather saddled with our own major problems. As Flavia Dzodan wrote for Tiger Beatdown, “I think this report does a good job at showing that inequalities and injustices are a global problem and that each region faces a unique set of issues, defined by their socio-political and cultural region in the world is without serious troubles.” Dzodan also makes the apt point that 
LGBT issues are absent from the report, which is unfortunate given their frequent close link with gender, race and class inequity. Abortion and reproductive health issues are not included in the US fact sheet, either.

Still, there’s a lot to learn about ourselves here.

Here are five of the most shocking facts from the "Progress Women" report pertaining to the USA, and the way they affect the current climate that can only be described as bleak. Read to the bottom for a few slightly more positive trends.

1. Dogged by Violence. This pervasive inequality extends far beyond the pay gap, threatening the physical and legal safety of women of color, and indeed, all women.

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn case has brought the economic, racial and sexual bias that informs the pursuit of justice in rape and domestic violence cases to the fore. And the numbers found by UN Women back up the way the press has reacted to this high-profile case: “Evidence shows that jurors in the USA are especially likely to question the credibility of African American and Latina female witnesses in rape cases.”

One of the most shocking statistics in the report? The public perception of gender violence as sometimes acceptable, within the context of marriage. This is from the report’s language: “In the USA, 16 percent of women and men agree that it is sometimes justifiable for a man to beat his wife.”

Sure, 16 percent is a fairly standard number for representing the lunatic fringe of American culture, but the fact that these respondents willingly admit they think it’s okay certainly sheds a disturbing light on why violence against women remains widespread: “Prevalence surveys in the USA show that 22 percent of women have experienced physical violence, and 8 percent have been targeted for sexual violence in their lifetimes.”

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