I was three years old when I learned that my gender was a liability. I received this special education on the playground while attempting to play with three little boys, one of them named Tom. I’d played with Tom many times before. On the swings. On the slide. Building cities in the sandbox. Though Tom had a debilitating lisp and really needed a belt for his pants, I never held that against him. We’d always managed to have fun. But that day, Tom and his two male mates informed me that I could no longer play with him or them because I was a girl.
“Girls don’t sweat,” he spat more than he said. I remember looking at him and wondering what sweat had to do with my ability to run a foot race. I was pretty sure that I could run just as fast as him and the other boys. But I did not argue. Instead, I stood there and watched Tom and his buddies scatter away from me, Tom grabbing at the waist of his pants with every footfall. I’m pretty sure that was the last time I even considered playing with Tom again. I’m not, nor have I ever been, a big fan of stupidity.
Later on in my elementary education, I recalled that playground moment in particular when I first heard of the ERA or the Equal Rights Amendment. Initially introduced in Congress in 1921, the ERA would amend the U.S. Constitution 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.
Why is this amendment important and necessary? Because gender-based discrimination isn’t specifically outlawed or prohibited in the Constitution. And if you don’t believe that women suffer discrimination simply because they have a vagina, then you’re trippin’.
Ever go on a job interview while visibly pregnant?
Ever wonder why the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was necessary?
Ever heard of the #MeToo movement at all?
As per the following excerpt from Cosmopolitan.com (and this article came out on 3/1/19):
The ERA would protect women against pregnancy or motherhood discrimination, federally guarantee equal pay, and recognize that gender-based violence like sexual assault or rape is a form of sex discrimination, according to Lenora Lapidus, director of the Women’s Right’s Project at the ACLU. “The ERA would make it clear once and for all there can be no discrimination on the basis of sex,” Lapidus says. “There can be no differential treatment of individuals based on their gender.”
But going back to that initial introduction of the ERA and the campaign to make it a reality, I was very dismayed to learn about the campaign against it—and the fact that that campaign was led by a woman! Her name was Phyllis Schlafly and she literally just died in 2016. I’m not trying to shame this woman, but we all need to understand our power and make sure we are using it properly. The consequences of misusing our power are dire and far-reaching.
The fight for the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment has been a long one. By 1972, women, and their male allies, had already spent 124 years publicly advocating for women’s suffrage and equality between the sexes under the law. Its fiercest and most prominent proponents prior to the Civil War included Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. After these activists passed away, the movement carried on it fits and starts—very much spurred and inspired by concurrent activities and issues surrounding the civil rights movement. And those women’s equality efforts were actually pretty successful. Per Winston.com:
The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification. Only 35 of the necessary 38 states ratified it before the deadline passed in 1982. In March 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. On April 11, 2018, the Illinois Senate voted to ratify the ERA, and on May 30, 2018, the Illinois House joined the Senate and made Illinois the 37th state to ratify the amendment. After the 38th ratification, the ERA can go back to Congress to remove, extend, or waive the deadline Congress placed on ratification in the 1970s. At least one such bill had already been introduced.
That’s right. TODAY we are on the verge of ratifying the ERA to amend the Constitution. But why the hell didn’t it happen already? Again, Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly was a wife and mother and six. After receiving her juris doctorate from Washington University Law School and Masters in Political Science from Harvard University, she became a lawyer who served on the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. She had a very cozy relationship with Ronald Reagan and would testify more than 50 times before congressional and state legislative committees.
Late in March of 1973, the ERA was a mere 8 states shy of 38 ratifications, and then Schlafly happened as NewYorkTimes.com explained:
In that environment, Mrs. Schlafly stepped up — a self-described housewife commanding a network of like-minded conservatives and possessing an unfailing assurance in her righteousness. “I think she’s probably the best political organizer we’ve seen in American history,” Rick Perlstein, an author who has chronicled the American right, told Retro Report.
Vigorously, she mobilized her forces to block what had seemed a sure thing. In short order, state approvals of the E.R.A. slowed, peaking at 35 in January 1977. Several legislatures even rescinded their endorsements. In 1982, despite an extension of the deadline, the clock ran out and the amendment died.
To put it bluntly, Schlafly talked a whole lot of BS which she had the ability to broadcast far and wide as she wrote several books, had a weekly talk radio show, and did weekly commentaries on CBS Morning News. She was Ann Coulter and Tomi Lahren before there was Ann Coulter and Tomi Lahren. Here are examples of the madness she was talking:
“Feminism is doomed to failure because it is based on an attempt to repeal and restructure human nature.”
“The feminist movement taught women to see themselves as victims of an oppressive patriarchy…. Self-imposed victimhood is not a recipe for happiness.”
“The Women’s Lib movement has sealed its own doom by deliberately hanging around its own neck the albatross of abortion, lesbianism, pornography and Federal control.”
“Men should stop treating feminists like ladies, and instead treat them like the men they say they want to be.”
Now frankly, I have to give credit where it is due. This woman was married with six children, well-educated, prolific in her writings and was able to single-handedly defeat a sensible, reasonable and logical Constitutional amendment with her speech. THAT IS POWER. Why she would use that power to deny basic rights to fellow women is crazy.
Phyllis Schlafly reminds me to stop and consider the implications of my words and what I broadcast. I know my talent for writing is a gift. I know that when I am moved to stand before an audience and give an impassioned speech, I change minds and inspire hearts. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried not to immediately react but instead to slow down, think critically and gain as much perspective as possible. Phyliss Schlafly is a cautionary tale that urges me to hold fast to the fact that my view is not the only view and my experience isn’t the only experience. I say to you now what I often say to myself, “Lady, you are powerful. You are imbued with the life-affirming might of a creator. Use it wisely.”
Look at the number of women in Congress now. We are on the cusp of making the ERA a reality and have the potential to become one of the top nations in the world that promotes gender equality. (BTW, those top nations are Iceland, Norway, Finland, RWANDA, Sweden, Nicaragua, Slovenia, Ireland, New Zealand and the Philippines according to this 2017 article.) We only need ONE more state to ratify the ERA so that we can move on to the next step of amending the Constitution. Can you guess who the holdout states are?
Alabama (Call your senators: Doug Jones 202.224.3121, Richard Shelby 202.224.5744)
Arizona (Call your senators: Kyrsten Sinema 202.224.4521, Martha McSally 202. 224.2235)
Florida (Call your senators: Bill Nelson 202.224.5274, Marco Rubio 202.224.3041)
Georgia (Call your senators: Johhny Isakson 202.224.3643, David Perdue 202.224.3521)
Louisiana (Call your senators: Bill Cassidy 202.224.5824, John Kennedy 202.224.4623)
Mississippi (Call your senators: Cindy Hyde-Smith 202.224.5054, Roger Wicker 202.224.6253)
North Carolina (Call your senators: Richard Burr 202.224.3154, Thom Tillis 202.224.6342)
Oklahoma (Call your senators: Jim Inhofe 202.224.4721, James Lankford 202.224.5754)
South Carolina (Call your senators: Lindsey Graham 202.224.5972, Tim Scott 202.224.6121)
Utah (Call your senators: Mitt Romney 801.524.4380, Mike Lee 202.224.5444)
Virginia (Call your senators: Tim Kaine 202.224.4024, Mark Warner 202.224.2023)
Virginia alone should want to do the right thing considering their current state of tomfoolery.
Anyway, it’s going to be a long Women’s History Month, Y’all. And I’m going DEEP.
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Empowering. We know you will keep writing. Yes.