Bell bottom jeans, flower power, “The Brady Bunch,” Lyndon B. Johnson’s great shame, free love and free flowing drugs changed an entire generation and represent the boisterous, explosive 1970s well. Young people were finding their voice, and women were not exempt, learning to use their new found power and boldness to control their own narrative, start the Reproductive Rights Movement and demand the recognition and justice they deserved.
There was a piece of legislation up for debate in the 1970s that could have changed the face of our country as we know it … if it had passed. I guess we can’t really blame those groovy 70s movers and shakers who were preoccupied … the amendment got killed due to its expiration in 1982 when, after 35 states decided to ratify and only three states were left to pass the amendment. It was a grave mistake.
Second chances don’t come very often, and when they do, I am under the impression that maybe we should thank our lucky stars (or send up a prayer of thanks if you’re the religious type), click our heels together, cry a few tears of joy and make the right choice. Our government, however, may fail to pass this amendment yet again, going against the tide of women whose voices cry out for justice.
Take it from a woman who has been told her whole life that her career might end once she is married and she shouldn’t dare dream of having a family and having a job because that’s just not the way the world works, we need this amendment. We need it for all the generations of women to come who would no longer be discriminated against because of their sex and who would be protected under the law to pursue a career and a family (or just one if they so desired). It would also require states to intervene in cases of gender violence, such as domestic violence and sexual harassment; it would guard against pregnancy and motherhood discrimination; and it would federally guarantee equal pay. It’s unironic. It’s simple. It’s stupid that it’s taken us this long to know that it’s necessary.
We are one of the only developed countries in the world that does not have gender equality enshrined in our Constitution. The United States has 48 countries ahead of it in closing the gender gap out of 114 countries measured, according to Time Magazine. Additionally, the U.S. ranks 98 in political empowerment of women and 19 in economic participation and opportunity, according to the World Economic Forum gender gap report.
Women make up half of the population of the U.S. We have toiled for years to achieve equality. The Women’s Suffrage Movement (celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year!), workplace equality during the World Wars, the Reproductive Rights Movement and, most recently, the #MeToo Movement are just a few of the major ways in which women have had to fight tooth and nail to receive recognition and achieve equal rights. Yet, it’s 2019, and most Western countries have hit a 50-50 split in the government, have pay equality and overall respect the women in their societies.
The ERA could change that. Thankfully, certain states have started taking it upon themselves to ratify this amendment. First, Nevada in 2017. Illinois followed suit in 2018. Virginia came close to ratifying it just before the bill got killed for a second time. Now, only one more state needs to ratify, as well as the 1982 deadline repealing in an effort to finish what we started. There is hope, and we are the generation to make this happen.
Men: be allies. Help women achieve what we have so long deserved. Think of your mothers, your sisters, your wives, your daughters, your friends and any women who have had any impact on you whatsoever.
Women: continue to rally, continue to call your state representatives and senators, continue to demand what we have demanded for years. You are tough as nails and I know we still have it in us to know our worth and fight until people value us as much as we value ourselves. Keep fighting, and one day women will look back and remember you as tools to achieve equality. If it isn’t for us, let it be for them.