Zelda in her blog calls for feminists to write, call their congresspersons, and speak out about the ERA. So here I go.
What is the ERA? It’s the Equal Rights Amendment. It was written in 1923 and it still hasn’t passed. What does this practically ancient proposed amendment say? It 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.” Wow. Weren’t people backwards in the 1920s? (sarcasm…I think…I don’t even know anymore.)
This proposed amendment, one of others saying that we need to treat people equally, was too controversial to pass ratification by the state legislatures of Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Utah, and Virginia. The legislature of these states wanted one rule to apply to men and one rule to apply to women.
Thanks to the lovely Phyllis Schafly (again, sarcasm. Definitely this time), a lot of misinformation or misinterpreted or misunderstood information was spread about the ERA. She argued that the ERA would mean that women would be drafted into the military. This post on Why I am Not a Feminist (though it appears from this post that she is and just swallowed Schafly’s kool-aid) explains this paranoia very well.
Guess what. Even without the ERA congress has the power to draft women into the military. Article I, Section 8 gives congress the power “To raise and support armies” irrespective of gender. Which means that they can draft men and women into said armies.
Additionally, if women are drafted, this does not mean they will be placed in combat positions. Passage of the ERA does not mean that there can be no distinction between the roles of men and women but that this distinction will only be legal if the government has a compelling interest and the means the government took are narrowly tailored and the least restrictive means to serve that interest. If the government can present a compelling interest for keeping women from combat, they may be able to do so even if they are forced to treat men and women equally otherwise.
Finally, Why I am not a Feminist writes “The ERA has nothing whatsoever to do with letting women be whoever they want to be.” This argument is predicated on the notion that the ERA would send women into combat. This is illogical is because the statement means that men are currently not allowed to be whoever they want to be because of the threat of being sent into combat. Perhaps that is true. I think that our army should be all volunteer, so I disagree with the draft. I really don’t see this preventing men from being all they can be, but I’d be willing to entertain the argument. But ultimately how I look at it, if there is a situation requiring me to serve in combat, chances are the situation is pretty desperate and I wouldn’t be able to be all I could be anyway. And as much as I complain about my country, if we are in such a desperate situation that I would be required to take up arms, I think the least of my worries would be me not being able to be all I could be.
Maybe this is naive. I don’t think the country was in such jeopardy during the Vietnam war that it justified sending unwilling participants to fight. But the country and our feelings of war and the draft have changed a lot seen then (but if the Bush-era chicken hawks get back in the White House, who knows).
To conclude, when it comes to fighting for the country, it doesn’t matter whether the ERA is passed or not. So why not get the benefit of being treated equally in this country if the possibility exists that we would be asked to die for it?
So repeat after me: “ERA.” Tell us your thoughts.