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Why All the Quarreling Over Equal Rights?

Robert Franklin

Posted on January 15, 2020 20:51

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020 is a historic day. Lawmakers in Virginia voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, becoming the 38th state to do so, and thus, giving the bill the required number of state approvals to become the 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Maybe.

The addition of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution may have met all of its democratic requirements, but there are factors that might keep it from becoming codified. Passed in 1972, it had an original deadline for ratification of March 22, 1979, that was ultimately moved to June 30, 1982. Throughout the 1970s, 35 states ratified the ERA, then five voted to rescind their ratifications (which is a matter of legal debate).

Then, along came Phyllis Schlafly and an army of conservative women in opposition, for reasons ranging from continuing "dependent wife" benefits, gender-segregated public restrooms, and probably some other junk about destroying the moral fiber of the American family.

Phyllis Schlafly

 

And abortions, of course.

Ultimately, the ERA did not meet ratification requirements by its 1982 deadline, and kind of faded into legislative obscurity until recently, when another wave of feminism, notably the #MeToo Movement, brought it back into the mainstream.

But Reader's Digest history aside, the ERA remains controversial. It should be simple, right? Equal protections between the sexes under the law. I fail to see why such a concept could be contentious.

Unless some think women should not be equal to men?

Phyllis Schlafly's opposition to the ERA was, in part, driven by what she believed to be inherent differences between the sexes, that women, simply by virtue of being women, have more to lose being equal than they do legally separate. According to Schlafly and her cohorts, as an example, equal rights could imperil opportunities presented disproportionately to women, like child support and alimony in the event of divorce and could have lead to women being conscripted into military service (Vietnam was still pretty fresh).

She spoke about women losing their femininity as a possible consequence of the ERA, orating in 1972:

"Suddenly, everywhere we are afflicted with aggressive females on television talk shows yapping about how mistreated American women are, suggesting that marriage has put us in some kind of 'slavery,' that housework is menial and degrading, and -- perish the thought -- that women are discriminated against."

Though Schlafly "perished the thought" that women are subject to discrimination, the fact remains they were, and even in 2020, still are. There is no "equal pay for equal work," though women pay more for common goods like deodorant and razors. Women are more likely to be victims of sexual and domestic violence, and the justice system is cruelly lacking when it comes to ensuring justice for them. Women are less likely to climb up the workplace hierarchy than men, whether or not they are as, or more, qualified.

These are just a few examples, and ones that could see radical change with the codification of an Equal Rights Amendment. Maybe I'm too much of an idealist, but I seriously fail to see how paying women fairly, ensuring them legal protection, and other forms of social equitability harm anything, except maybe the sensibilities of men who believe in, or profit from, that inequality.

Robert Franklin

Posted on January 15, 2020 20:51

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Virginia became the 38th state Wednesday to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a constitutional change nearly a century in...

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