Equal means equal.
In 2013, my fierce young activist friend Madison Kimrey wrote this wonderful piece. Since we’re still waiting for an Equal Rights Amendment, I thought it would be a good idea to republish it and remind people that we’re still fighting. I’d like to add that if Hillary Clinton becomes the next president, she will not only represent the first woman to lead the country, she’ll be doing so without a constitutional guarantee of protection against gender discrimination. Please keep this in mind while reading Madison’s words.
It’s not uncommon for me to break out into some T Swizzle on my guitar. So, when I saw that Taylor Swift had talked about feminism in her interview with Maxim for making the top of their Hot 100 list, I jammed to “Style” just a little harder.
Part of what Taylor said in her interview included this: “Honestly, I didn’t have an accurate definition of feminism when I was younger. I didn’t quite see all the ways that feminism is vital to growing up in the world we live in.”
When celebrities who appeal to a young audience speak about the importance of feminism, they are helping to empower new generations of young men and women to work towards a more equal and just society.
On the heels of reading Taylor Swift’s interview, I read another interview from another celebrity, Jane Fonda. Jane also talked about feminism, but mentioned something very important and essential to achieving equality – the Equal Rights Amendment. Helen Hunt also did a recent interview where she mentioned the ERA.
I admire these women both as actresses and activists. But Jane Fonda is 77 years old and Helen Hunt is 51 years old. The women I work with in support of ERA are mostly quite a bit older than me. A lot of young women seem to want to talk about and support feminism, but not a lot of them know about or are talking about the Equal Rights Amendment. I think the reason for this is that a lot of young women don’t know about the ERA. It’s like Taylor Swift mentioned in her interview; she didn’t have the knowledge when she was younger.
So, here are a few facts on the ERA. It’s a proposed amendment to the Constitution that says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Note here that this applies to both women and men.
Alice Paul wrote the amendment in 1923. That’s right. People have been working to ensure that men and women have equal treatment under the law since 1923. The ERA has fallen just three states short of being ratified. There is a bill right now in Congress to extend the original deadline for ratification and bills in the states to get it ratified. In other words, this is doable. Constitutional gender equality is well within our reach.
72% of Americans think we’ve already passed the ERA. Some people think we don’t need an ERA because they think the 14th Amendment guarantees men and women equal rights. They are wrong. The 14th Amendment has indeed been applied in cases of sex discrimination but only provides for intermediate judicial review. The 14th amendment can apply in cases where the government has compelling interest to employ it, as in cases of government discrimination. In order for the courts to apply strict scrutiny that would guarantee protection against discrimination by businesses, for example, sex would need to be included in the Constitution as a protected class, just as the 15th amendment protects citizens based on race. That way, judges wouldn’t have to decide whether or not they think existing laws can be used to enforce equal treatment. It would be right there in the Constitution and there would be no question that equal rights could not be denied on account of sex.
I would love to see more young women talking about the ERA. I want to see more women in my online groups support ERA. I want to see more young women at the events I attend to support ERA. Other girls want to see more comic book characters who look like them. I want to see more women supporting one of the most important advances in equality for the sexes who look like me.
Taylor Swift said, “Feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it’s just basically another word for equality.” Alice Paul’s motto was, “deeds not words.”
Young celebrity women have the power to use their words as deeds to inspire, motivate, and educate other young women. If they would start using their words to support the Equal Rights Amendment, perhaps Constitutional gender equality won’t continue to be a “Blank Space” in our nation’s history.
*** The original title read “73%,” and that number has been updated to 72% in this post.