The 51% Minority

E-mail Lis

Quick quiz:

• Who are the most Googled women in America at the moment?

• What word has become a term of endearment amongst an increasing number of teen-age girls?

• What has the 5'10, 161-pound former supermodel Tyra Banks recently been labeled?

If you guessed the late Anna Nicole Smith and former pop princess Britney Spears, you would sadly be right … and that “loving” term, believe it or not, is "slut." And, as far as the former model goes, she is now being labeled, of all things, "fat."

Discouraging? You bet — but the news isn't all bad.

To borrow from Dickens, with respect to women's rights and place in society, we really are living in the best of times and the worst of times.

For the first time in our nation's history, we have a woman speaker of the house and a woman with a serious chance at becoming the next president of the United States. For the first time in its 371-year history, Harvard has appointed a female president; and of course, we have Oprah — one of the most powerful and beloved entrepreneurs in the world today.

But it is also the worst of times: women are still making just 73 cents for every dollar men make; we have only one woman sitting among eight others on the country's highest court; and domestic violence statistics have been reaching all-time highs. All this, despite the fact that women account for 51 percent — a clear majority — of the general populace.

Needless to say, with a gender landscape so seemingly backwards, difficult questions can arise. What can women do when they know their male counterparts are making 25 percent more, for doing substantially the same work? How should women go about negotiating time off from work to deal with their pregnancy? What should women do about a male boss who never says anything overtly sexual, but who tends to give unsolicited back rubs or pats on the knee?

Regardless of your income level, political persuasion, or your personal and professional ambitions, these are the types of challenges that everyday women continue to face — and these are the kinds of questions I address in my new book, the 51% Minority.

Of course, whenever there's a discussion about "women's issues," a danger exists that the conversation will turn dour and humorless and chase all the men from the room — but I can assure you, that is not my agenda. In essence, the 51% Minority is a handbook for the everyday women. Yes, it includes some stats and figures, but it wasn't written in some ivory tower or special-interest think tank. It is much more a book to be dog-eared, highlighted and used as the need arises.

If you notice that women over 40 are being systematically replaced by 20-year-olds in your workplace, or that women who get pregnant are effectively demoted when they return to work (or worse, are regularly laid-off due to so-called "budgetary cut-backs"), or if you notice that your auto-mechanic/financial advisor/medical doctor never seem to give you straight answers, knowing your rights is essential to getting the treatment you deserve. The 51% Minority will help you do that by giving you practical, real world advice.

At the same time, I am hoping 51% Minority can be something of a catalyst for positive change, encouraging women to envision a world where pregnancy is no longer viewed as a disability under the law, but as a "super-ability". Where women are no longer routinely let go because their employers deem them to be too fat or too old to do their jobs. Where health insurance plans cover contraception for women, just as often as Viagra is covered for men. Where women account for more than just one third of the federal judiciary. And where rape shield laws and protective orders are more consistently enforced, so that victims of crime don't continue to be victimized by our criminal justice system.

The Virginia Slims ad campaign may have instilled in us the mantra, "You've come a long way baby," and it's important to acknowledge that we have. But we still have a lot of important work to do — and making the law work for us will be essential in meeting the challenges ahead.

That may sound a bit like an old-fashioned call to arms, but it's really more a call for common sense-a commodity far too often lacking from the "most Googled" stories of the day. Although women continue to be saddled with charges of being too fat, too ambitious, too angry, or too unstable, we are in fact the 51% majority and we have the power to transform that dialogue into something more constructive — not because of some "angry feminist" agenda, but because the world is finally beginning to wake up and realize that women have a genuine contribution to make — and we have never been in a better position to make it.

51% Minority Sources

1) Anna Nicole and Britney most googled.

2) Teen-Age Girls Calling Each Other Slut

3) Tyra Banks Called "Fat"

4) Tyra Banks is 161-pounds, 5'10

5) Dickens Quote

6 Female Speaker of the House

7) Hillary Clinton, First female presidential candidate with a chance to win

8) First Female Harvard President in 371-year history

9) Oprah

10) 73 cent wage gap

11) Supreme Court-1 woman

12) Domestic Violence Statistics

13) Women 51% of the population-new book, 51% Minority

• E-mail Lis With Your Legal Questions!

Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. She is currently a professor of law at the New York Law School. Wiehl received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College in 1983 and received her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland in 1985. In addition, she earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1987. Lis is also the author of The 51% Minority — How Women Still Are Not Equal and What You Can Do About It. To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.