In 1923, three years after women were granted the right to vote, someone had an idea, and it was this: well, both men and women can vote, so that must mean they’re equal– let’s clarify that in the constitution. And so the equal rights amendment (ERA) was born! Seems logical enough, yes? Well, obviously not, because nearly 100 years later, it’s still not part of the constitution. That’s right, ladies and gents! I bet most of you weren’t even aware that your country refuses to acknowledge you as equal–sucks, huh? And not just for women. See, while discrimination is traditionally against women-folk, the great thing about the constitution is that, not only will it not let the sexes be equal, but it doesn’t clarify which sex is better. That means that companies, individuals, churches and what have you can discriminate against the sex of their choosing and back it up with our very own American constitution. Cool, huh?
But more on that later. The point is, two law makers from Florida are attempting to get their state (one of the 15 that has yet to ratify the amendment) to reconsider– if they succeed, only two more additional states would be needed to pass this amendment. Which is fantastic! Law-mandated equality at last! And yet, some people aren’t so excited– and I don’t just mean people who don’t believe in equality between the sexes.
Unfortunately, all of the progress that has been made over the last few decades, has made younger generations lazy and apathetic. The women coming into voting age don’t feel the need to make the final push for this amendment, because many of them haven’t had to deal with the oppression of their mothers and grandmothers, and many men haven’t seen their sisters and daughters treated as sub-human. So if things are equalizing without the amendment, why bother passing it, right? That would require effort. That mind set is not only ignorant, but dangerous, and I’ll tell you why. For one, even under the (probably false) assumption that matters will eventually equalize eventually, there are going to be a lot of people between now and eventually, and they deserve the same rights as the heirs of said equality. Secondly, if we don’t set it in stone, the inequalities that still exist aren’t safe– they can be violated at any time, because they have no constitutional backing. And finally, though certain inequalities have lessened over the years, others reamain and, in fact, continue to worsen– and this affects everyone, because the victim of many of these inequalities are not women, but men.
Those who believe that the wage gap between men and women no longer exists are sorely misinformed, or else wilfully ignorant. According to Time magazine, the last census shows that women are still only making $0.77 for every $1.00 earned by men. That doesn’t like a huge gap, but look at it this way; when man makes $100, a woman has only made $77; when a man makes $1,000 a woman has only made $770. This kind of difference between two people who are identical in every area aside from genitalia is absolutely outrageous.
Gentlemen, you may be feeling a little smug right now, or perhaps just indifferent. Sure, it’s a shame that these inequalities exist, but it doesn’t really hurt you, so why waste precious time and energy trying to push for the revival ERA? The fact is, men face just as much sexual discrimination, if not more, than women do in today’s society. Don’t believe me? Well, good luck finding a company that’s willing to give a man paternity leave without penalty, even if he’s a recent divorcee with full custody of a new born. Likewise, a company or judge that will take sexual harassment complaints filed by male victims seriously. Just as much as women are expected to lay down, roll over and accept the dominance of men, men are expected to buck up and take whatever punch is thrown at them– where a woman would receive shelter and compensation for harassment and abuse, a man would receive nothing. 835,000 men a year are victims of domestic abuse, and yet shelters that exist to protect battered spouses and get them safely on their feet still reject males at the door. If that’s not inequality between the sexes, I don’t know what else is.
There’s also an appalling amount of inequality in parental rights. In custody battles, women are granted the right to their children almost by default– even if they happen to be less qualified and enthusiastic than the father of the children. Men have as much right to their children as women, and as much right to take time from work to enjoy the first few months of their child’s life. As the ERA amendment doesn’t once use the word “woman,” clearly it extends equal protection to both sexes, so it would be invaluable to men as well as women.
Unless this amendment is ratified, sexual discrimination will continue to be battled without specific constitutional backing. Right now, baseless stereotypes actually hold clout in the court room; gross generalizations such as women don’t have families to support, or all women are better parents than all men, and a man would never need protection from a woman… people suffer because of these falsehoods. It’s time to shrug off willful ignorance, and say goodbye to apathy. Our culture has evolved passed the point of shoving men and women into boxes– let’s let our constitution evolve, too.