Dawning of a new ERA

States that have ratified ERA

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.

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2 thoughts on “Dawning of a new ERA

  1. (This is a comment that was left on this post before I switched domains, by a poster identifying as Clarence.)

    I don’t think you’ve thought this one through as to why many, if not most women might oppose this: the draft, and a whole crap load of special entitlements for women based on physical differences (particularly reproductive) between men and women. Lots of sexual harassment law, for one thing, would have to be thrown out. I would LOVE that as a man, the “reasonable person” (as contrasted with “reasonable woman” in current law) standard would be tne new law of the land, but you can bet your bottom dollar that many feminists lawyers would get into a tizzy over having their life’s work ruined.

    Also good luck getting the “pay disparity” remedied through the ERA since studies have consistently shown that most of it is based on women’s life choices and thus not something amenable to being legislated out of existence. Besides, you don’t seem to know that its already ILLEGAL to pay a woman less than a man for the same position -this was tacked onto the original 1964 CRA.

    In short, I think an ERA would benefit men much more than women – who currently enjoy rights without much responsibility- and so I’m all for it, but I don’t think it has a chance in heck in passing.

    • I have thought of the draft. While I don’t like the idea of anyone having to register to be drafted, I thoroughly believe that if men have ro register for it, so should women. As I’ve stated before, I’m a feminist by the true definition– that means equality between the sexes, not extra perks for women and man hating.

      Sexual harassment laws would not go out the window, but instead be more strictly upheld for male victims as well as female. Right now, many men who are victims of harassment or domestic violent don’t receive justice, because our current system fails to recognize them as the victims they are. Again, this is a step towards equality.

      And, finally, though corporations aren’t supposed to pay women less than men, many still do. Not necessarily out of maliciousness, but out of ignorance– or, the technical term, traditional bias. It means that employeers assume men will be the ones who have a family to support, so the end up getting more in their pay check than women– it was that statistic I refered to in this entry.

      I agree with you that ERA will greatly benefit men– one of the many reasons I want it to pass. As I pointed out in my blog, men are currently facing dire discrimination in areas such as custody trials, lack of paternity leave and, thank you for mentioning, having to be the only ones who register for the draft. That is wrong. It strikes me as funny that you seem to believe the fact that it has possibly more benefits for men than women would turn me off of the idea… again, I say that feminism isn’t just for women. The root word is female because originally they were the ones facing the most dire discrimination, but the definition is belief in sexual equality, and that’s what I stand for.

      So, aside from your misunderstandings, it seems we’re in agreement. Unlike you, though, I feel confident that we’ll both receive the object of our hopes and see ERA pass within the decade.

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