Skip to main content

The motivation to write this comes out of the decidedly underwhelming response to my diary on the ERA's reintroduction to Congress this month. Now, before everyone clicks away again, this is not a pity party -- boo hoo, nobody reads my diaries!.

No, this is a rant. This is a bitch session. This is a plaint.

Question: Are women truly equal partners in progressive politics?

I'm sorry, boys, but sometimes it feels like we're invisible. Not only do we get the repetitive "Where are all the female bloggers?" nonsense, but we get this sense -- or at least I get this sense -- that unless we're talking about issues already important to men, we just are not heard.

Read on, but warning, I'm going to be bitching here.

It's not like we're mistreated, per se. I don't need to get into talk of quotas or whether women have been underrepresented here and elsewhere. I don't need to talk about how women's voices tend to be dismissed by others, men and women alike. I don't need to talk about the privilege claimed by men of all political stripes to take charge of any discussion, and judge the merits of contributions by any and all other participants -- especially the women.

No, we all are aware of those things, right? Right?

And we're all aware of the misogyny that permeates much of conservative rhetoric and policy, right? A lot of discussion has been devoted here to the conservative attacks on women, on Roe, on sex education, on birth control, on emergency contraception even for rape victims....And yet nobody (except the women) seems to be adding 2+2 and getting getting 4.

I'm suggesting that there is a women's issue that is right at the core of progressive thought that nobody seems to take too seriously.

Equality.

It seems to be the one issue that the right and left don't want to talk about. I'm talking about taking women's rights for granted. I'm talking about a blindness to the fact that women are one court case from becoming state-owned baby-birthing slaves.

"Oh, there's no need for the ERA these days," sigh self-satisfied liberal luminaries like Garry Wills, usually with an air of quiet exasperation. "Oh, ERA has been introduced every year, so who cares about this year?" groan others.

Oh, we can talk about this issue and that issue, and we can jump all over idiots like Lawrence Summers. We can point fingers at Bush's anti-woman policies. We can wring our hands over whether the fundamentalist mullahs will allow equal rights for women in Islamic countries.

But what about here? What about our ERA? We can talk about issues in piecemeal, but when it comes to the heavy lifting....what? Is it simply a case that, unless a frame has been offered, nobody knows how to even think about it?

Let me add it up for you:

  • When we talk about a woman's sovereignty over her own body, we're talking about equal rights.

  • When we talk about sex education for teenagers, we're talking about equal rights.

  • When we talk about the outrageous ways rape cases are "prosecuted," we're talking about equal rights.

  • When we talk about women in the higher reaches of business, government and academia, we're talking about equal rights.

  • When we talk about Medicare coverage for Viagra but not for birth control, we're talking about equal rights.

  • When we talk about women getting hired if they promise not to have children, we're talking about equal rights.

  • When we talk about government forcing women to stay pregnant, we're talking about equal rights.

  • When we talk about government blocking divorce from a convicted abuser because the woman is pregnant, we're talking about equal rights.

We ain't there yet, folks.

I expect to get apathy and indifference and dismissal from the Vichy Democrats on the Hill and in the DLC. I expect to get it from the jaded corporate media. I don't expect to get it from the passionate progressives online here and elsewhere.

What gives, people? Are women just irrelevant altogether? Are we to just put off our rights for another year while we fight for more important causes like learning how a gay prostitute got a press credential? Okay, that's unfair -- there are very important causes on just about every front, starting with a rise of fascism. The conservatives are in a frenzy like wolves in blood lust. And sure, it's not like women don't contribute to the general dialog with eloquence and passion and get heard. And it's pretty amazing that, just 20 years after Geraldine Ferraro scared the bejeezus out of misogynists and was seen as playing right into the GOP's framing of Democrats as too feminine, now a female president is not totally unthinkable.

So why the big yawn about the ERA? Is it really so radical?

The amendment goes like this:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

-ERA Campaign Network

And yet not even NOW has even a link to anything that says "Equal Rights Amendment." (They've ditched the "ERA" and now talk about the Constitutional Equality Amendment, which is much broader to cover all sorts of things. You can find the full text of the proposed CEA here. And yet not even that is linked on their front page!)

Hoping against hope, and at the risk of boring you to tears with a long quote, I offer the reasons why the ERA (or some such amendment that guarantees equal protection for women) is needed now:

The Equal Rights Amendment -- Still Needed, and Now Achievable

Why Is It that Equal Rights for Women Are Still Not Guaranteed by Our Constitution?

The simple answer is that the founding fathers, in creating and interpreting the Constitution, chose to apply citizens' rights only to property-owning white males. Over the years, constitutional amendments gradually extended citizens' rights to others, including, after the Civil War, to formerly enslaved people -- but still only to the male half of the population. All women continued to be assumed "taken care of" by their fathers and then by their husbands, and not suited, by their very nature, for independent decision-making and participation as citizens.

The 14th Amendment (1868) states: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." However, the term "person" was clearly not intended to equally include women, since, later in the amendment, the allocation of elected representatives was specified to be based on the number of the state's voting males. This, together with the 15th Amendment (1870) outlawing the denial of the vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude" --  with the fully intentional omission of "sex," was the "justification" given when in 1873 Susan B. Anthony was tried, declared guilty, and fined, for the "illegal" act of a woman casting a vote.

The Unfinished Struggle for Women's Constitutionally Guaranteed Equal Rights

After the 1868 enactment of the 14th Amendment, it took 52 more years of struggle before women finally, in 1920, won the right to vote. But that was not enough. For women were still treated, under the law, as second-class citizens in numerous and vital ways: Unlike men, they still had to fight for their right to be treated as equal citizens under the law.

Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party, in 1923, therefore proposed The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which by 1943 was worded as follows:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Thanks to strong women's rights efforts, the "Alice Paul" ERA was finally passed by Congress in 1972, and sent to the states for ratification. Powerful opposition soon arose, from economic and other interests that profited mightily from discriminating against women and treating them as second-class citizens, and from people convinced that male domination of women was justified and should remain embedded in society and its laws. In spite of a 3-year extension to the original 7-year ratification time limit, the ERA was ratified by only 35 states -- three short of the required 38. Thus it appeared that women's struggle for constitutionally guaranteed equal rights would have to start all over again, getting the ERA or something similar passed by two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress (preferably without a ratification time limit) and then ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Women and their male supporters continued -- and still continue today -- to be forced to toil, issue by issue, law by law, often state by state, to persuade legislators and courts to affirm that women's rights should be equal to those of men. Even when those efforts are successful (as many have been), all such gains remain vulnerable and reversible.

Women have to struggle continually merely to maintain their patchwork of hard-won gains, let alone to make further progress toward what most believe should be their birthright: fully equal rights with men. The ERA could make that birthright explicit.

Since the 1982 expiration of the congressionally imposed and later extended ratification time limit, the ERA has been reintroduced in every session of both houses Congress, to start the ERA amending process over from the beginning. Each time thus far, the resolutions have been stalled without action.

New Hope: The "Three-State" Strategy

In the 1990's, a promising new strategy for achieving the ERA began to arise. The "Madison" Amendment, concerning congressional pay raises, became the 27th Amendment to the Constitution after a ratification period of 203 years. This established a precedent such that the Alice Paul ERA's ratification period, currently just three decades, could hardly be considered unacceptably long.

Also, Congress, when it first passed the ERA in 1972, chose to impose a time limit. Later, a different session of Congress extended that time limit, thus establishing the precedent that it has the power to do so. A strong argument can therefore be made that any session of Congress could, by a simple majority in both houses, extend (or eliminate) the currently expired ratification time limit on the ERA, such that just three more state ratifications would then add the ERA to the Constitution. Note: The 35 existing state ratifications, should stand, because, under Article V of the Constitution and confirmed by precedent, states that have once ratified an amendment do not have the power to rescind that ratification. (The 15 not-yet-ratified states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.)

Thus the "3-state strategy" was launched, recognizing the likelihood of opposition from those who still oppose equal rights for women, but buoyed by authoritative analyses supporting its legal validity. Today, the 3-state strategy is gaining more and more attention, and a major new activist push for the ERA is growing rapidly.

Why Now?

A great many of the "reasons" motivating anti-ERA forces in the 1970s, and the arguments they used, have now lost much or even all of their "punch." The formerly very high degree to which corporations and other institutions based their profits and economic survival on vastly underpaid female employees arbitrarily restricted to low level jobs has been greatly reduced. The old trumpeted fears of having women fighting in wars, "unisex" bathrooms, women "bosses" over men, women in the pulpit, women acting and making major decisions in high level business, political, and judicial positions, have lost almost all their sting. After all, women are already there, and succeeding, in numbers far too great to ignore. And arguments about "the death of the family" and "destruction of morality" if women were to be -- horrors! -- allowed equal rights with men, now sound absurd.

The changes since the 1970's are underscored by a recent professionally conducted nationwide survey, commissioned by the ERA Campaign Network. It shows that 96% of American adults believe that men and women should have equal rights, and 88% believe that those equal rights should be guaranteed to them by the US Constitution. These views are so widely held by both men and women and across all segments of our society, that most Americans (72%) mistakenly think the Constitution already specifies that male and female citizens are entitled to equal rights. (For a full 14-page report on the survey, e-mail ERACampaign@aol.com; a one dollar or more contribution is requested.)

Thus it is more and more clear that the time has definitely come, now, to achieve the addition of the Equal Rights Amendment to our Constitution. And just one more timely point: With the growing attention to the worldwide importance of equal rights and opportunities for women, it is increasingly embarrassing (and an invitation to accusations of US hypocrisy) that unlike the constitutions of almost all other democratically inclined nations, the US Constitution still does not guarantee its female citizens equal rights with men.

So, re the ERA: If not now, when? And if WE don't make it happen, who will?

The New ERA Campaign

The current nationwide campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment has growing numbers of women's rights activists all around the nation, in ratified as well as not-yet-ratified states, hard at work to achieve this vitally needed constitutional guarantee for women. Nearly 200 women's organizations, with a total membership of over ten million, belong to the National Council of Women's Organizations (NCWO), which strongly supports ratification of the ERA. Vigorous ratification drives are well underway in ILLINOIS (where ERA supporters are working for the completion of ratification by the end of the current legislature's term in January 2005), FLORIDA and MISSOURI.

Other states, including Georgia, Louisiana and Oklahoma, are actively building support for their own ratification drives.

In addition, growing numbers of ERA proponents in Congress are taking action. In the current (108th) Congress, Rep. Carolyn Maloney reintroduced the ERA in the House (H.J.Res.37), with an impressive 203 cosponsors thus far; and Sen. Edward Kennedy reintroduced the ERA in the Senate (H.J.Res.11), with 20 cosponsors thus far. Both are "startover" resolutions, with no time limit for completion of ratification. In addition, Rep. Robert Andrews reintroduced his resolution (H.Res.38), which would require the House to take any legislative action necessary to verify that the addition of three more state ratifications will fulfill the requirement to add the ERA to the U.S. Constitution; there are 36 cosponsors at this writing, with efforts underway to sign on additional cosponsors.

In the summer of 2000, the ERA Campaign Network was formed, with a website and an e-mail newsletter, The ERA Campaigner, to help connect all the many elements and supporters of the ERA Campaign. The ERA Campaigner now reaches thousands, all around the country. To get connected with the ERA Campaign Network, and/or to add your name to the e-mail newsletter distribution list, click below to go to the growing list of Coordinators in many states around the country.

I don't know. Either you see it or you don't. But I suspect that as long as it's left up to men to decide, it will never happen.

To the men here: You guys aren't bad guys. But there's this big huge pink elephant in the room, and it's about damn time that we all started to pay attention and do something about it!

Then again, having joined DKos only a few months ago, I'm a relative n00b here. So what the fuck do I know? Just disregard this as a crank diary. It means nothing. What could I know? I'm just a chick, right?

Originally posted to media girl on Sat Mar 05, 2005 at 12:28 AM PST.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Click here for the mobile view of the site