Nearly all American women agree the pandemic changed their lives, but their experiences vary drastically. Here’s why.

A recent poll by CNN As Equals revealed how the virus affected women’s lives across G7 countries. Digging deeper into the US results highlights the complicated demographic and partisan divides that shaped the pandemic’s impact across America.

According to CNN’s poll, a 54% majority of women in the US said they faced a major disruption to at least one of eight aspects of their everyday life due to the coronavirus — and 94% said they faced at least a minor disruption in one of those areas. About three-quarters of women said they faced at least a minor disruption in their relationship with close friends or family (77%), their plans for the future (74%), or their mental health (72%).

Seventy percent of working women said their jobs saw some level of disruption (major or minor,) and 59% of all women reported disruptions to their financial stability. About half, 51%, said they faced a disruption to their access to health care, and 49% of women with children younger than 18 said they saw disruptions to their childcare situations. Just 34% of women who are married or living with a partner said their relationship with their partner was disrupted in some way.

When it came to what people thought about their government’s response to the pandemic, the survey, which was conducted in late February, found that women across the G7 countries, on average, were unhappier than men with their government’s response to the pandemic. Women whose lives had been disrupted were less likely than men to say their local and national governments had provided the needed level of support. However, that trend wasn’t present in the US. Here, women dealing with the changes wrought by Covid were a few percentage points likelier than men facing the same issues to say they’d received at least a good amount of governmental support. That’s likely affected in part by partisanship — in the survey, women were, as a group, more Democratic-leaning than men, and Democrats were significantly likelier than Republicans to say they felt supported by the government.

Overall, an 80% majority of Americans said they feel the pandemic has been equally difficult for men and women in the US, with 18% saying it was more difficult for women and 2% saying that it was more difficult for men. About one-fifth of US women, 22%, said women in the country were more adversely affected, while just 12% of men said the same. Women in the US were also 12 percentage points likelier than men to report at least minor disruptions to their mental health.

American women with children younger than 18 were more likely than those without to say the pandemic had caused major changes to their life (58% to 43%) and that it seriously disrupted their mental health (32% to 16%) and their relationships with close friends or family (42% to 18%). Half of those mothers who were married or living with a partner said their romantic relationship had been at least somewhat disrupted, compared with 27% of married or partnered women who didn’t have minor children.

Women younger than 45 were also likelier than older women to report major disruptions to their mental health (30% to 14%).

Women of color in the US were more likely than white women to say the pandemic had affected their financial stability (68% compared to 52%), although those whose lives were changed by the pandemic were also more likely to say the change had been generally positive (38% to 26%). And those in households making less than $50,000 annually were likelier than those in wealthier households to say the pandemic had major repercussions for their financial stability (29% to 11%).

Women were also divided along established partisan lines, especially regarding the government response to the pandemic. Democratic and Democratic-leaning women were 10 percentage points likelier than Republican and Republican-leaning women to report that the pandemic had a major effect on their own life. And, with a Democratic president currently in office, Democratic-affiliated women were 33 points likelier than Republican-affiliated women to approve of the US government’s response to the pandemic, and, among those whose lives were changed by the pandemic, 32 points likelier to say the federal government had provided at least a good amount of support in dealing with those changes.

Overall, a near-universal 92% of US adults say the pandemic caused at least minor changes to their life over the past two years, including broad majorities across gender and partisan lines. Nearly half, 47%, said it caused major changes and two-thirds said that it brought changes that were mostly or nearly all negative. Americans broadly disapproved of the way the US government handled the coronavirus pandemic: 62% disapproved, with just 38% approving.

Three-quarters of all Americans said the pandemic caused at least a minor disruption to their plans for the future, with an equal number saying it had disrupted their relationships with close friends or family. Two-thirds said it disrupted their mental health, 59% their financial stability, and 55% their access to health care. Among those with jobs, 71% said their work was disrupted as well. Relatively fewer saw disruptions to their childcare (45% of those with children under age 18) or to their romantic relationship (35% of those with a spouse or partner).

When it came to major disruptions, these figures were lower. Roughly one in four saw major disruptions to their plans for the future, with similar numbers experiencing major disruptions to their relationship with close friends and family, and — among those currently employed — their jobs. Smaller percentages felt major disruptions to their financial stability (20%), mental health (19%), childcare situation (17% among those with children under 18), access to health care (15%), or romantic relationship (8% among married or partnered Americans).

For those who were severely affected by the pandemic, its repercussions often echoed through multiple parts of their lives.

Nearly half of those who experienced major disruptions to their access to health care, for instance, also said their mental health was significantly affected; 43% of those who faced a major work disruption also faced major challenges to their financial stability.

The results highlight how even a crisis as global as the pandemic can be asymmetrically felt, with some experiencing only modest effects, and others bearing disproportionate impacts that resonate across their entire lives.

The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS February 23-26 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults surveyed online after being recruited using probability-based methods. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. It is larger for subgroups.

CNN’s Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this story.

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Women Behaving Badly: Laure Moghaizel (1929-1997)

Laure Moghaizel believed human rights and women's rights are intertwined.
Today, Lebanese women can travel without written consent from husbands, participate in politics, have the right to vote and use contraceptives without being punished. This is largely because Laure Moghaizel dedicated her life to ensure women in the Middle Eastern country have equal rights to men, successfully petitioning to amend several Lebanese laws to advance women’s rights.
An attorney, with degrees in philosophy and law from Saint Joseph University in Beirut, Moghaizel made her position clear on the battles she chose to fight. She believed human rights and women’s rights are intertwined and should be fought for with utmost conviction. A 1998 tribute to Moghaizel in feminist journal Al-Raida quoted her as saying previously how, for her, there “cannot be human rights without women’s rights, nor can there be women’s rights outside the framework of human rights.”
In 1996, Moghaizel, along with her lawyer husband Joseph, who she met during a student demonstration, pressured the Lebanese government to ink and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination of Women.
Moghaizel, an ardent anti-war activist who lost her daughter in the Lebanese Civil War, promoted Lebanese women’s rights on international forums and was awarded the National Order of Cedar, the highest state honor in Lebanon for her years of public service. When writing about what her legacy means, Lebanese academic and feminist writer Samira Aghacy maintained that the woman who wanted “love, equality, solidarity and mutual respect” to be the ruling factors in her society “deserve a special pledge from all of us to follow in her footsteps and carry on where she had left.”

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“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

American writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde

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