Workingwomen: Obstacles and Notions by Loleï Brenot

1920 marked a turning point for women in the United States. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and too many other women to name were finally heard and granted the right to vote. However, while women then had the same rights for the most part as a man in the eyes of the federal government, people did not become gender blind. Only 11 years after the 19th Amendment was passed, Virginia Woolf penned a powerful piece on society and its expectations of women in the workforce. Woolf commented, “Even when the path is nominally open—when there is nothing to prevent a woman from being a doctor, a lawyer, a civil servant—there are many phantoms and obstacles, as I believe, looming in her way,” showing that preconceived notions about women being the weaker sex still ran rampant. This is still true today.

Despite being legally recognized as fully equal to men, women still face numerous obstacles in their careers today due to unfair perceptions regarding women, or familial duties many women feel responsible for, similar to what Virginia Woolf observed and wrote about in the early the 20th century.

Double standards and unfair expectations when hiring or evaluating women at work must still be overcome by teaching children from a young age that all people are equal and that; in general, standards and expectations for all should be the same. While there is American legislation ensuring equal opportunity and pay for women in the workplace, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Department of Labor’s Women Bureau, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there are still structural biases in the system. Under the seams of the corporate world, there is the dark underbelly of discrimination. In a 2014 study by the Australian Human Rights Organization, countless biases were uncovered in the Australian workforce. The results of this study reflect similar conditions in the United States and Western world and are depicted in the pictograph above. Additionally, other statistics on the subject of gender inequality in the workplace were covered in Sheryl Sandberg’s 2010 TED talk. According Sandberg’s TED talk, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” only nine out of 190 heads of state globally are women. No more than 16% of women in the corporate business world hold high-level positions. These statistics show just how grave the subject of gender inequality is and just how important it is to overcome.

Women are not only held back by others, but are also held back by self-made perceptions and by their own personal sense of need to personally care more for their families, which in most women is greater than in men. Although this is certainly not the case for some, men are seen as prestigious when they accept more demanding work commitments, whereas a woman who accepts a demanding commitment is often looked down upon for sacrificing her family life for her career.

Working women are currently in a career limbo, where women who elect not to have children are judged, working mothers are gossiped about for not keeping their families in mind, and non-working mothers are seen as antifeminist women with no ambition.

Women face more difficulty in being hired and promoted, as seen in a 2016 Women in the Workplace study, which shows that for every 100 female promotions, 130 men are promoted. This provides great insight into the hiring process. As is supported by other research as well, employers are less likely to promote women because women are less likely than their male colleagues to push for a promotion or even accept one when offered due to their familial sense of duty. These commonly held perceptions make it nearly impossible for one to find a correct balance in society’s eyes. On top of drastically holding fewer top company job positions, per the statistics mentioned before, the few high-achieving women who do make it to the top are often then judged harshly, being held to different and more judgmental standards than their male counterparts. Often labeled as “aggressive,” “bossy,” or even “bitchy” for simply doing their job and trying to push past gender discrimination barriers. Women naturally and unintentionally do not always put themselves out there or first in the workplace. 57% of men negotiate for their salary in their first entry-level job, while only 7% of women do so. This double standard that forces women to prove themselves by working harder than men is a key barrier to equality in the workplace and is a “phantom [or] obstacle” as Virginia Woolf would say.

Workplace and hiring discrimination against women, whether purposeful or unintentional, must be ended, as these are what prevent full gender equality from being reached. According to a 2014 PEW Research Center survey, a large reason why women are held back from “top jobs” is that females are held to a higher standard than men. The survey also shows data that supports the fact that women are held back because of employers who are unwilling to hire females, female family responsibilities, the perception that women are not “tough enough” or good managers. These perceptions are the ones that must be overcome in order to achieve full workplace equality and are precisely what Virginia Woolf spoke about in her essay. These hidden biases are the roadblocks that have been present since the early 20th century when women began to enter the workforce.

Virginia Woolf’s words from 1932 still pertain to the world today, as women work to overcome both outside and personally imposed workplace and familial expectations and perceptions. Pre-conceived notions of workingwomen color their ability to succeed in business and the corporate world; however, these can be overcome through thoughtful education and professional conduct. Although Virginia Woolf’s words, “there are many phantoms and obstacles . . . looming in [a woman’s] way,” still ring true today, there is a bright future ahead for women in the workplace and in the world.




US-Chinese Power Relations and Threats: Moving Forward by Loleï Brenot

China does clearly pose a threat, not yet major, to the United States, due to this rising power. To manage this and keep civil relations between the two countries, our President-elect must practice great caution and respect moving forward in economic and political dealings with China.

The Economist article entitled “The Dangers of a Rising China” aptly points out, “Chinese leaders’ history lesson will have told them [that] the relationship that determines whether the world is at peace or at war is that between pairs of great powers. Sometimes . . . it goes well. Sometimes . . . it does not.” Currently, many are concerned about American relations with the world at large, particularly China, due to the recent presidential election. The recent resurgence of Chinese economic and trade power due to a rapidly rising population has led to predictions pointing to China soon overtaking the US in terms of economic power. What this means for the United States is yet to be seen; however, China does clearly pose a threat, not yet major, to the United States, due to this rising power. To manage this and keep civil relations between the two countries, our President-elect must practice great caution and respect moving forward in economic and political dealings with China.

Chinese manufacturing and production has a current, crushing hold over the entire world that would be difficult to overcome, should Chinese global relations sour. As was pointed out in the Economist article entitled “Made in China,” Chinese global manufacturing, currently at nearly 25%, has risen dramatically since 1990, when it made up under 3% of global manufacturing output. This very rise in production is what has catapulted China to the top of the power spectrum, as the world relies on Chinese products, with China supplying nearly half of the world’s products. This hold over the world is why US-Chinese relations must remain strong, as China has an extreme power hold on the United States in terms of manufactured goods, similar to the leverage of oil-supplying countries. However, it must be kept in mind that while China’s economy as a whole may overtake the United States’, the country’s prosperity will likely not be as widely shared as it has been in the United States, with many Chinese citizens still living in rural poverty. This is a possible major threat to United States power, although not a direct one, as complete reliance on the Chinese can lead to extreme problems if a disagreement were to occur.

Already since the election of President-elect Donald Trump, waves have been made in regards to Chinese-US relations.

Already since the election of President-elect Donald Trump, waves have been made in regards to Chinese-US relations. Although a phone call may seem trivial, a call between Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen reported by The New York Times has had the world on the edge of its seat, as Trump hints about recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign state, rejecting the decades-long “One China” White House policy, in efforts to make trade and other agreements. This American threat to Chinese power and sovereignty could possibly lead to China becoming a greater threat to the US, if it exerts its extreme power over America more fully. Trump’s already bold moves have threatened to send the world into a tailspin of anxiety, speculating as to what will come next. Professor Wenran Jiang of the University of Alberta points out in a Globe and Mail piece that “Mr. Trump has again demonstrated that he is perfectly willing to disregard traditional foreign-policy norms in Washington, even with a country that has enough military and economic might to challenge U.S. global supremacy.” The Obama Administration has also spoken out against Trump’s actions, noting that the decades-long, bipartisan-supported “One China” policy should not be used a a “bargaining chip” in American-Chinese relations, as reported by the States News Service. Additionally, the Chinese government’s response to Trump’s phone call with Taiwan was not one of ease, as the government stated that it is “seriously concerned,” as The Independent reports.

These actions of President Trump are only a taste of what is to come from his administration in the next four to eight years. While such an extreme statement is a bold way to begin the period immediately after his election, one should expect nothing less from a figure like him. But whatever the shock value of moves like the Taiwan call, there is likely definite forethought and an agenda behind any such action on President Trump’s part. CBC News reported International Studies Professor Wang Dong of Peking University pointing out, “‘This is a very deliberate move, calculated to test China. If China reacts strongly, then he might back off a bit. But if he perceives China to be soft, he will become bolder.’” While the President’s actions may appear to be brash and uncalculated, if Professor Wang Dong is correct, Trump’s dealing with China in the coming years may adapt and be influenced greatly, being less black and white than it appears, and making the threat of future relations souring quickly perhaps less immediate.

Nonetheless, moving forward, it is likely that President-elect Trump will continue to uphold his appearance of dealing with foreign policy in a manner similar to his business dealings, in hard-hitting and direct ways. This can be viewed both positively and negatively, as, while more may be done, the reactions of other countries cannot be gauged completely prior to these actions, and one can only hope that our future president does not ruin relations that have been carefully constructed. However, it must be kept in mind that China is a soft but rising threat facing the United States, as its power continues to grow, and great caution will be required in dealings with it.

The Greater Good by Loleï Brenot


Since the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States has declared a “War on Terror.” While this war on terror has led to positive outcomes, such as the death of Osama bin Laden and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, other actions have led to questioning of the government’s and the president’s true constitutional powers. The actions taken by the Bush Administration in response to these attacks, chiefly the creation of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorists (USA PATRIOT) Act led to a questioning of the legality of mass public surveillance. Although one’s individual and constitutional rights are infringed upon with these governmental security measures, one must consider the grand scheme of things and the future generations of our world. The Western way of life and continuation of the growing of terrorism at an unprecedented scale are not conducive for a successful future world. Thus, the United State’s government and the National Security Agency do have the authority to surveil the residents of the United States of America, as this is a protective and offensive action done to protect the United States and its citizens from the ever growing and prevalent threats of both domestic and international terrorism.

Since knowledge of the National Security Agency’s surveillance came to light, first in 2005 by the New York Times, and then again in 2013 through Edward Snowden, there has been a national outbreak of outrage directed towards the PATRIOT Act. Many Americans have spoken out about the unconstitutionality of it as well as the severity of the government’s infringement upon individual rights. The Bush administration was immediately attacked, as President Bush had seemingly gone over the checks-and-balances of the American system and executively ordered the unconstitutional surveillance of the American people. As reported by Risen and Lichtblau in the 2005 New York Times article, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” government officials said, “Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an nsa-spy-machineeffort to track possible ‘dirty numbers’ linked to Al Qaeda.” Despite the NSA releasing information following this regarding how communications are used. The NSA info graphic on the right shows how one’s communications that re run through the government’s surveillance program. This, along with outside information regarding how one’s data is processed, clearly shows that the NSA internet surveillance program, PRISM, processes the information and only sends it on to another round of deeper examination if something troubling is flagged. However, despite this, apprehension and distrust still remains, mostly due to the government’s lack of clarity on the issue at the beginning of its creation and use. Furthermore, this secretive spying on Americans has faced strong opposition by both major political parties. Even with past measures put into place to prevent such infringement upon one’s rights, chiefly The National Security Act of 1947, which specifically prohibits domestic intelligence operations, actions contrasting these laws were nonetheless taken. However, though this surveillance, dozens of terrorist attacks, both international and domestic, have been thwarted, as testified by NSA Director General Keith B. Alexander at the June 18, 2013 House Intelligence Committee hearing.

While many believe that the government has taken unconstitutional actions, many instead believe that the world has come to a place where some sacrifices must be made for the greater good. Citing the “Country Before Self” argument, the belief is that citizens must be willing to part with their own rights that their predecessors fought for long before them in order to ensure the safety and security of their country.

As President Kennedy stated in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This concept of country first is a value instilled in the spirit of Americans of all color and creed and thus, these government actions were taken in order to ensure the safety of the United States and its citizens.

Particularly because in the United States, with the mantra and mentality of “country before self” being so strong and prevalent throughout much of the population, surveillance is seen as a small sacrifice to ensure the safety of the American dream.

Individual rights are among the utmost important rights for American citizens, as the individual rights of man are what spurred the birth of the United States in the first place, over 200 years ago. Apart from infringement upon individual rights, other damages have caused by the surveillance, such economic loss due to tax dollars being funneled into the NSA and a lack of trust in the US government. While these are further costs of surveillance, they are minimal in the long run if they lead to a safer world. Furthermore, often cited in the argument against surveillance is Benjamin Franklin’s statement, “Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” While this quote can be effective in touting the belief that the Founding Fathers would have strenuously disagreed with this surveillance, Franklin does specify “temporary safety.” In the case of terrorism, however, the world is not fighting for temporary safety but rather to ensure the blessed continuation of life as it is currently known for generations in the future.

While mass surveillance raises the issue of the ever-growing power of the federal government, if people are truly concerned with keeping with the Founding Fathers’ ideals of a balanced, centralized government, the president and their power must be kept in check. In this day, civil rights must be more clearly defined, as the world has changed so rapidly and drastically in the past 200 years since our country’s birth. The Founding Fathers could never have thought to take something such as mass surveillance into account, and thus, suitable government actions must be more clearly outlined for the world to see. As Alexander Hamilton did specify in Article 23 of the Federalist Papers that “it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them,” arguments can be made that in the case of the War on Terror, actions taken by the Bush administration were within reason of America’s founding ideals.
In the great words of President Reagan, “there should be no place on earth where terrorists can rest and train and perfect their deadly skills. I meant it. I said that we would act with others if possible to ensure that terrorists have no sanctuary anywhere.” The deadly poison that is terrorism has not yet been stamped out, but the government of America has a duty to continue on with all efforts to do so. Over the past eight years, with an overly politically correct and dodging approach to the prevalent issue, the American public has lacked a strong leader willing to stand up and condemn these horrifying actions. Thus, the lack of faith creeping in at the end of President George W. Bush’s term on the War on Terror has only continued to grow. Ultimately, until the threat of terrorism is under control, faith and trust must be placed into the hands of the government.

The threat of domestic and international terrorism has driven the United States’ government to take drastic actions in the war on terror, but to take drastic actions with cause.

The fighting for the survival of the American ideal and dream in the long term is one that must be upheld, even if it means compromising certain values in the short term.