We have the right to vote. We can go to college and earn degrees. We can get jobs and make as much or more than some men. We can decide the direction of our own lives, whether we choose to be working women or stay at home wives. We really do have choices and we are fortunate.
It’s important to note that all of these rights were not automatically ours. Women throughout history fought hard so that women today would be able to make these choices, earn enough money to be self-sufficient and have a voice with our vote. They suffered violence, imprisonment, criticism and have been shunned by their peers. The word feminist carries with it a negative connotation. We are called man-haters, baby killers, sluts and worse. Why are we met with such disdain when our goal is for all women to enjoy complete equality secured in the Constitution, including those who criticize us and work against our efforts?
Despite the noise coming from the right claiming there is no War On Women, events have shown the opposite is true. We are seeing lawmakers doing their utmost to turn back the clock on women’s rights. In the name of pro-life, clinics providing young and impoverished women with cancer screenings, pap smears, STI testing and treatment have been or are at risk of being de-funded and shut down. Roe v. Wade is the legal right to a safe abortion, yet the last clinic in Mississippi providing abortions is very close to being shut down by extremists. If the extremists are successful, women in Mississippi, and other states with only one remaining clinic, will be denied their legal rights as granted by the Supreme Court ruling in 1973.
Republicans in Congress voted no on the Violence Against Women Act and they blocked the Equal Pay bill. We see story after story of Republican legislators introducing extreme abortion ban bills and making birth control harder to acquire. It has become so normal to see extreme legislation that when satire articles about the GOP are circulated on social media, people believe them to be true.
The conservatives and the members of the Tea Party argue that all that feminists want is free birth control. They are wrong. They are willfully ignorant and have allowed the likes of Rush Limbaugh to influence and dictate how they think. It’s a sad thing but it is a reality. The best news I can offer is the party is falling apart and it’s only a matter of time before the pendulum swings away from obstruction and in the direction of progress. It won’t be automatic. It will be because women and men have realized that we must work to make America a better country and catch up to all the other countries who’ve have already recognized women as equal.
Throughout history, women have had to fight tooth and nail for what should already be theirs. We represent 51% of the electorate yet we are still battling misogyny and attempted subjugation. The most egregious is from other women who claim this “War On Women” is a liberal tactic and their best argument against us is that they “feel free.”
My question to them is how free would you feel if you had the terrible misfortune of being raped, and during the trial the jury blamed you for dressing too provocatively. It’s not a fun thought but it happens all the time. Rape victims are blamed. My guess is that the women who claim they feel free wouldn’t be feeling so free if they were the ones being blamed because they decided to wear a shirt that showed a little cleavage or a tight pair of jeans.
There is a solution for this, as well as for fair pay and sexual discrimination.
Something amazing happened on February 6, 2013. A White House petition to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution, created by Tammy Simkins and Luanne J. Smith, reached its goal of 25,000 signatures and now President Obama will be forced to address equal rights for women—not just liberal women—all women.
There are still those who feel that the 14th Amendment addresses the issue of equality for women and there is no need to fight. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the most conservative member of the Court, acknowledged in a 2011 interview with California Lawyer that the 14th Amendment does NOT prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex:
“Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box.”
The 14th Amendment didn’t protect the rights of blacks and women to vote—that’s why the 15th and 19th Amendments were needed. So why would anyone reasonably assume that the 14th Amendment would adequately protect women against discrimination? Answer: a reasonable person wouldn’t. Just because the 14th Amendment has been cited as supporting equal protection for women doesn’t mean it GUARANTEES it.
It would be great if it did, but it doesn’t.
Unfortunately, we still have a fight on our hands. We must work hard to make sure the E.R.A. passes and it won’t be easy. The “other side” will scream and holler and call us names. They will create more legislation with the intent to strip women of more rights and it will all be wrapped up in a veil of patriotism. Make no mistake, the only patriotism is the idea that America can always work to be a better country—a country where women are equal and treated with respect. It’s something the women who came before us had to fight for and we will carry on with this fight until we claim victory. I am proud and honored to be working with other strong women in the fight for equal rights. We are not going to stop. We have come too far.