As the 19th amendment nears it’s 100th birthday, the women’s vote is still a driving force in politics. Yet, we have failed for over 40 years to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Several states and cities have their own watered-down version of the ERA but the state by state campaign to forge a new US Constitutional amendment continues to struggle. Even in the #MeToo era, the ERA campaign will continue its battle as women and society are divided over their roles, ERA’s actual protections and amendment legalities. These road blocks, some created by ourselves, are stronger than our desires.
Cat Eat Cat
It appears that American women are submerged in the revitalized Women’s Movement while votes and statistics say otherwise. American women voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton except White women. That racial divide will seemingly continue as the ERA’s campaign is reignited. The Women’s Movement with a sub campaign for the ERA appears revitalized in the same places where the votes for Hillary were greatest-cities. It takes more effort than just urban women to influence their US representatives to pass a national amendment.
The MAGA movement is countering progress as people continue their desire for the old ways-traditional male and female social construction. If you are not familiar, think Ozzy and Harriet. The man works, and she stays home to raise the children and vacuum the house in high heels. She defers to all her husbands’ decisions and demands and so forth. A suppressive system of patriarchy? Well, studies are finding more women would like to stay home to be a Harriet-56% in 2015. A Pew Research study found men and women still describe characteristics of each gender in “traditional” ways such as strong men and caring women. Americans surveyed described powerful in a positive way for men and negative for women. Are these two short examples or an incisive indication that society not just women are not ready or willing to ready themselves for women’s leadership and equality? It’s a cat eat cat world for the women charging the ERA campaign as support is fickle.
What Protections Will Actually Be Received Under the ERA?
The ERA states that women must have equal rights in the US and every US jurisdiction and they shall be enforced by the federal and state governments. Sound familiar? Sure, it does because the Civil Rights Act passed over 50 years ago says the same thing. Laws are just paper unless you enforce them in your own lives. The above descriptions of society prove that we need a societal change not just a law. There have been and will always be ways to “get around” the law. A comparison of resumes when applying for jobs where the male may have taken more business classes than a woman is an example. As single motherhood rises, the responsibilities of management or law firm partner can be an impossible struggle. Unless, we as a nation pass an amendment that formally outlaws extra hours worked for leadership positions it is what it is. How about in the homes of American women? Can the ERA legitimately stop the second shift of motherhood, house cleaner and home nurse? If not, then we encounter the societal constructions that render equality dismissive at best. Equality is in lifestyle and advocacy for self. When the Civil Rights Act was passed the EEOC was inundated with cases-they still are-but did it change racism? No, again we need a change to our own thinking before any law can pass.
Women’s Progress Must Unite
As a lifelong feminist, this article should not be received as an ERA bash. It’s more of a call to individual action. Actions in your own homes, jobs and social life. If we want equality we must be the first to enforce it because our US government has already given us the rights. As we await the ERA’s amendment passage, 37 out of 38 states have ratified, we must be cognizant of our options to protect ourselves. Tell your husbands to do the laundry and sit down to read a book. Teach your kids to be responsible like adding chores to their calendar. Make a call to the EEOC if you have proof of discrimination and make your case. It is the collective action of individuals that create statistics that can be used as an influential test of our entire society and legal system. Today is the day you ratify your own ERA!