“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
–The Equal Rights Amendment
Did you know that women have no protections guaranteed to them by the US Constitution?
In fact, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia explained it very simply:
Interviewer: In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?
Justice Scalia: Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. 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.
That means discrimination based on race is held to a different, higher standard than discrimination against women. In a case involving sex discrimination, a woman has to prove not just harm, but also deliberate intent.
In our society, women are not valued as highly as men. We are paid less for the same work, promoted less often, even when we are as competent — or even more so — as any man we compete with.
We are prosecuted unequally — women who kill their abusive intimate partners are far, far more likely to be sentenced to life in prison than abusive partners are when they kill the women in their lives.
Studies show that orders of protection against intimate partners are either ignored by many local law enforcement agencies, or complaints of violations are responded to more slowly than are other calls. So, if you are a woman whose ex-boyfriend is banging down your door, call 9-1-1 and tell them someone is using drugs in your front yard. You’ll get a better response in many cases.
In cases of rape, the successful conviction rate is just 2 percent. Do you really believe 98 percent of women are lying? I don’t. But crimes against women are held to a higher standard of proof.
Instead of seeing the criminal as being at fault, women are grilled about what they were wearing, where they were walking, why they went on a date with someone who they didn’t know would rape them …
I have been very open in recent weeks about the abuse that has happened to me. But last night, following a screening of the new film, “Equal Means Equal,” I stood and asked the 75 or so people in attendance how many of them had been molested, raped, sexually assaulted or abused by an intimate partner. Almost every woman there raised her hand.
Think about that for a moment. In a room full of women gathered to see a documentary about the Equal Rights Amendment, almost every one of them has suffered a form of physical abuse at the hands of a man (or men).
And I didn’t ask about harassment at work, unequal pay, lack of access to reproductive health services or other forms of discrimination against women.
I didn’t ask about women who want to breast feed their babies being told they’re somehow dirty and should take the baby into a bathroom stall. I responded to that once by inviting the person making the suggestion to bring her lunch in and eat it while sitting on the toilet. She thought that sounded absurd, and she was right. It is.
I didn’t ask about women who can’t afford to take unpaid family leave when their children are born, or about how they manage to afford the average $1,700 a month in child care costs.
More women live in poverty than men. More women are single head of household than men.
Women are not equal to men in this society, and it’s time we stood up and demanded that equality be put into the Constitution.
Only three more states are needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. We almost got it done in the 1970s, but we fell short because of arguments against men and women being “forced” to use the same bathrooms.
In 1974, when my then-husband railed against the ERA and used the bathroom argument, I reminded him that we were living in a one-bathroom apartment and that didn’t seem to bother him. He retorted, “That’s different!”
Right now, it looks like our best chances for ratification are in North Carolina, Illinois and Virginia. If you live one one of these states, you need to start talking to legislators about getting it done.
Giving women equal rights as human beings is not some left-wing, radical, militant feminist idea; it is something we should have done long, long ago.
Let’s get it done.
To learn more about the documentary, “Equal Means Equal,” visit www.equalmeansequal.com.