Equal Rights Amendment: A Blast from the Past or a Gift for Our Children?

suffrage photoWhen I was a young and naive high school student (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I was very excited that the Equal Rights Amendment was, it seemed, well on its way to becoming the law of the land.  After all, how could anyone in the 1970s believe that ensuring that women would have the same rights as men be anything but good common sense?

As a political science major in college a few year later, I came to learn about the power of Phyllis Schlafly and others like her who claimed traditional womanhood and motherhood would be undermined with such a Constitutional amendment (notwithstanding the fact that she and others like her had multiple college degrees and careers,in addition to their marriages and children).  With just a few states to go before the ERA became part of the Constitution, they  ere able to stop it in its tracks.  Since then, conservatives have upped their opposition to the ERA for fear that it could be construed to offer gay marriage protections.

At least one woman on Capitol Hill isn’t afraid to try again.  Today, New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is reintroducing the Equal Rights Amendment.  Maloney believes that with Barack Obama as President, if she can get it to the House floor, the ERA will pass easily.

While that may be true, the rub isn’t with Congress, it’s with the required ratification by 38 states.  Last time, it wasn’t getting the needed votes to approve it in Congress that killed it — it was the work of conservatives like Schlafly that undermined state ratification and made the ERA a minor historical footnote of the women’s movement.  As my friend Linda Lowen points out at her blog, many of us are still smarting from the comments at Sonia Sotomayor hearings or having men put down women who want to take positions of power and ask them to go iron their shirts.  It’s clear from those few examples that women being treated equally in terms of political power is something that needs a little help.

I know Digitalsista will be at the news conference today, so I can’t wait to hear her reports and see what she has to say on Twitter.

But it’s refreshing to know that at least one woman in Washington, D.C. is trying to look out for us and our daughters.  I’ve been having some interesting conversations with nine-year-old PunditGirl recently, and I know she’s already getting ticked off because boys and girls aren’t completely on equal footing.

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8 Responses to “Equal Rights Amendment: A Blast from the Past or a Gift for Our Children?”

  1. Daisy Says:

    Will the new version of the amendment read the same as it did in the 70s? That is, will it say “Not” or will it be reworded in a more positive and (dare I use the word) affirmative manner? That may make a difference in its perception.

  2. Marion Says:

    Oh, this is welcome news to spread. When my favorite woman died, now 20 years ago, among the treasures I inherited was her ERA pin, a limited-edition from Tiffany of all places, that she wore everywhere, and I wear everywhere. People always ask about it, which always gives me the provocation to tell this the terrible fall of the ERA. Thanks for the new twist. Pin firmly in my lapel, I’m telling a new tale of hope.

  3. Chris Wysocki Says:

    The 14th Amendment already guarantees that all citizens are equal under the law. The ERA is a stalking horse for the chimera of “equal pay for equal work” as well as even more vigorous use of Title IX to completely dismantle men’s sports programs.

  4. Melody Yoder Meyer Says:

    Chris Wysocki you can’t possibly really believe that men’s sports programs were dismantled or even fell apart as a result of Title IX. That sounds like sour grapes not a plausible argument. While the 14th Amendment does guarantee that all citizens are equal under the law That doesn’t mean it is followed. Why else did we need additional legislation passed to guarantee women’s right to vote, the Civil Rights Voting Act, Roe vs Wade, Brown vs the Board of Education, Title IX, the Americans With Disabilities Act, etc. shall I go on?

    I was 12 when I first really delved into the Equal Rights Amendment and I sobbed when it didn’t pass. I think it is time to revisit the issue and I hope we make headway this time around….if not for my sake then for the sake of my daughter and grand-daughters.

  5. Chris Wysocki Says:

    @Melody Yoder Meyer – Yes indeed, mens sports programs were decimated as a result of Title IX. Wrestling in particular. Crew, and shooting sports too. Read Tilting the Playing Field by Jessica Gavora. I did. It’ll blow your mind. The goal of Title IX may be noble, but the implementation most certainly was not.

    The ERA represents a feminism that seeks not to obtain equality with men but to elevate women (er “womyn”) over men (“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”).

    Our constitution guarantees equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Some people will succeed where others fail. Some people will have to overcome more obstacles than others. That’s life. No amount of legislation can change that simple fact. You cite the ADA. Ugh. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare and a license for abuse by unscrupulous lawyers. And yet lots of places are still not accessible to the handicapped.

    My daughter will succeed because she is a good person and an American and I’ll instill in her the core values of hard work and a quality education. She’s not a “victim” of anything (discrimination, sexism, etc). She doesn’t need the government trying to “help” her. She, like all the rest of us, needs the government to get the hell out of the way.

    And really, you sobbed when the ERA didn’t pass? Was your life ruined? I heard a motivational speaker once who said we only need to remember 4 words to succeed. Those 4 words? Get. Off. Your. Ass. The implication is, nobody will do it for you; you have to do it for yourself. You. You are in charge of your own destiny. Instead of looking for excuses for why you didn’t succeed (Mommy, the big bad men won’t let me succeed!) just pick yourself up and try again.

    There are places in the world where women are oppressed. Saudi Arabia for instance. Ask me sometime about my buddy who took a 3 year assignment there and the hell they put his wife through. We treat our dogs better than they treat women.

  6. PunditMom Says:

    To elevate women above men? All I can say is, WHAT? As if that could ever happen — if we ever get equal treatment it will be a miracle. And in any event, maybe it would be good for men to see what it feels like not to be in charge of everything once in a while!

  7. Paula Says:

    I agree with Chris regarding the fact that the 14th amendment already legislated equality. I don’t believe that additional legislation is the answer. As is the case with so many issues it should be more a matter of enforcing existing laws rather than piling on new laws.

  8. Ashley Says:

    I support feminism and equal rights for women, but I think that the ERA is, unfortunately, a lost cause. The paradigm of the amendment has been ruined by decades of activist/interest group-centered conflict, and I think that legislators might be tempted to turn their head to the issue now, dismissing it as a retro, petty political battle – a conflict that they do not what to get the middle of. Perhaps a more effective plan would be to make different laws or amendments that would change specific sex-discriminating acts. I think the public and politicians would turn a more open ear to that. A lot of people are skeptical about all that the vague wording of the ERA implies (some think it will prevent single-sex bathrooms, sports teams, and girl scout/boy scout troops, etc., as well as give rights to lesbians, and support abortion). Both of these two things were well addressed by Paul Freund (constitutional law expert at Harvard Law School), when he said that the difference between a constitutional amendment and writing laws that eliminate sexist practices “…resembles that in medicine between a single braod-spectrum drug with uncertain and unwanted side effects and a selection of specific pills for specific ills.”
    All that said, I am a supporter of women and their rights, and even the ERA. If it passes, and it has positive effects, then it will be a victorious day for women.


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