Repeat After Me: ERA

Repeat After Me: ERA.

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.

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About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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14 Responses to Repeat After Me: ERA

  1. Judithann says:

    Hello, Emma Wolf: you are correct in pointing out that women can be drafted without the ERA, but the ERA would mandate that women be drafted; it is true that drafting women wouldn’t necessarily mean putting them in combat, but over the past ten or fifteen years, feminists have been the main proponents of putting women in combat. I agree with you that during times of crises, we should all be willing to sacrifice our lives for our country; I can picture myself taking part in combat in extreme circumstances, but that isn’t what feminists are advocating. Feminists want to normalize the idea of women in combat in all circumstances, not just extreme circumstances.

    • emmawolf says:

      The ERA would make women be treated the same as men (aside from the strict scrutiny issue). Right now, men are not drafted, but it is mandatory that they sign up for selective service. If congress then imposes a draft, certain men may be required to serve unless they are a contentious objector. The ERA wouldn’t impose a greater burden on women.

      “Feminists want to normalize the idea of women in combat in all circumstances, not just extreme circumstances.”

      I don’t understand what you mean by this or its relevance. The draft (which is what I was talking about) is only for “extreme circumstances.” Women in combat should be allowed (not required) to the extent that a prohibition would pass strict scrutiny.

      • Judithann says:

        When I said extreme circumstances, I was picturing enemy soldiers marching down my street; every war is an extreme circumstance, so I should have said very extreme circumstances-as in, enemy soldiers landing on our shores.

        If woman are allowed but not required to be in combat, then they are being treated differently from men. That would seem to go against the ERA. If women can be just as effective as men in combat, then they should be required to be in combat; if they aren’t just as effective as men in combat, then unless there are enemy soldiers marching down the street, women should not be allowed in combat.

        • emmawolf says:

          “If woman are allowed but not required to be in combat, then they are being treated differently from men. ”

          What men are required to be in combat?

          “If women can be just as effective as men in combat, then they should be required to be in combat; if they aren’t just as effective as men in combat, then unless there are enemy soldiers marching down the street, women should not be allowed in combat.”

          This is pretty much what I mean with the strict scrutiny business. Even with the ERA, if there is a compelling reason to prevent women from serving in combat, government can make restrictions preventing women from serving in combat.

          • Judithann says:

            If there is a draft in effect, then virtually all men are required to serve in combat unless they are conscientious objectors.

            As it stands now, the government can draft women but is not required to. Under the ERA, the government would be required to draft women; it would also be required to put women in combat, unless it can present a compelling reason not to. The ERA would essentially put the military on trial; maybe most Americans don’t want that. Maybe that is why there isn’t enough support to get the ERA passed into law.

            First, you said that women should be allowed but not required to take part in combat; then, I think (am admittedly not sure) you agreed with me that if women can be just as effective as men in combat, they should be required to do combat. It seems as though you are contradicting yourself, or am I just not understanding what you said?

        • emmawolf says:

          So…if there is a draft in effect. Which there isn’t. So no men are required to be in combat.

          Really, the only different between passing the ERA and not passing the ERA is the level of scrutiny. And this would be applied on both the draft (which I don’t understand why it’s the only issue you care or why you place it above any other issue and why men can’t be everything they can be because of the draft) and everything else. Even if the ERA is passed, the government would not be required to draft women because the draft is not in effect. Should they initiate the draft, then unless there is a compelling reason to exclude women from the military, they would be drafted.

          Without the ERA, however, if there is a draft now and only men are drafted, someone could say that is discriminatory and the government would have to prove there is an important government interest in not drafting women and the that regulation is substantially related to the government interest. So already the military can be on trial, as you say, for this, just under a different level of scrutiny.

          I refuse to sell my everyday rights and equality for the low price of well, if god forbid there is a conflict of such significance that everyone is needed, at least I’ll be safe from having to defend my country in my little red tent. Especially considering that red tent is an illusion. The government already has every tool it needs to send me to the front lines. And the threat of the draft is (thankfully) pretty remote.

          “First, you said that women should be allowed but not required to take part in combat; then, I think (am admittedly not sure) you agreed with me that if women can be just as effective as men in combat, they should be required to do combat. It seems as though you are contradicting yourself, or am I just not understanding what you said?”

          Ok, I think the confusion comes from my disagreement with the idea of the draft generally, and I have a hard time talking about one without the other. I don’t think anyone should be required to join the military or serve in combat.

          • Judithann says:

            I am also against drafting either men or women; an all volunteer military is the best thing for everyone. While a return of the draft doesn’t seem likely in the near future, we have no idea what the world will be like 100 or 200 years from now; I am too old to be drafted anyway, so it’s not my own safety I am concerned about. I am very concerned about the fate of the young women who will come after us; it is true that the government can put women in combat even without the ERA, but the ERA makes it far more likely to happen. And feminists are the ones who will sue for discrimination if a draft is ever reinstated and women aren’t included. You seem to have contempt for women who don’t want to take part in combat, and who oppose the ERA on those grounds; showing contempt for women who oppose the ERA and dismissing their concerns probably isn’t the best way to gain support.

            We are kind of going around and around here, and it can’t go on forever, so this will be my last comment; it’s your blog, you can have the last word. 🙂

        • emmawolf says:

          “an all volunteer military is the best thing for everyone.”
          I agree.

          “and feminists are the ones who will sue for discrimination if a draft is ever reinstated and women aren’t included. ”

          I’m sorry this will be your last comment, because I would like you read your description of what such a suit would look like. My guess is that this suit will happen (if the draft is reinstated) whether the ERA is passed or not (the only different would be the standard under which it will be evaluated). Who are these feminists that you think would bring suit? It’s more likely to be brought by men who think they were discriminated against: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=11850647464775402615&q=453+U.S.+57&hl=en&as_sdt=2,21 (not saying men can’t be feminists)

          I don’t have contempt for women who don’t take part in combat or the military generally. That would be pretty hypocritical of me, seeing as how I never joined the armed forces. I have contempt for holding men to one standard and women to another.

          I think educating people (trying to erase the harm Schafly did) is the way to gain support. I’m sorry that my attempts to educate people about the implications of the ERA made you think I had contempt for you. I liked that you were forcing me to think about things I had never thought about before. But ultimately, if you oppose equal rights for something that probably won’t happen or could happen anyway even without equal rights and is in no one’s best interest, yes, I think you’re argument is weak.

          • Judithann says:

            If you would like to continue this conversation, I would be glad to; I was just trying to avoid being a nuisance. I’m not totally clear on what an Internet troll is, but I don’t want to be one. I can talk about this stuff forever; when you get sick of it, just let me know. I realize that most people don’t want to talk about this stuff forever 🙂

            You say that you have contempt for holding men and women to a different standard, but that is exactly what the military is doing right now. Very few if any women can meet the physical requirements that male soldiers are expected to meet, so standards have been lowered for women. If women who are held to a lower standard are put in combat, they will obviously be at a disadvantage, and the men serving with them will be at a disadvantage too. I said earlier that I was concerned about the fate of young women, but I am also worried about young men; if I had a son, I wouldn’t want him fighting alongside women who were held to a lower standard: such a policy is bound to result in unnecessary casualties and deaths. Feminists have advocated the double standard that exists in the military right now.

            As for the discrimination lawsuit, maybe you are right: feminists might not actually file the suit, but they wouldn’t object to it.

        • emmawolf says:

          No, you are not a troll or a nuisance.

          “You say that you have contempt for holding men and women to a different standard, but that is exactly what the military is doing right now. Very few if any women can meet the physical requirements that male soldiers are expected to meet, so standards have been lowered for women. If women who are held to a lower standard are put in combat, they will obviously be at a disadvantage, and the men serving with them will be at a disadvantage too. I said earlier that I was concerned about the fate of young women, but I am also worried about young men; if I had a son, I wouldn’t want him fighting alongside women who were held to a lower standard: such a policy is bound to result in unnecessary casualties and deaths. Feminists have advocated the double standard that exists in the military right now.”

          You have so many good points in here. I feel almost like we followed the same logic but came to opposite conclusions.

          Re. the military holding men and women to a different standard (you’re assuming I don’t have contempt for the military….) you said: “Very few if any women can meet the physical requirements that male soldiers are expected to meet, so standards have been lowered for women.”

          First (and forgive me if I’m pointing out the obvious): about few women being able to meet the physical requirements, this is exactly what I mean about the compelling or important interest. If the military sets the standard for a position at requiring some physical strength, and women are more likely to not be physically able to meet that goal, this requirement may pass strict scrutiny (with ERA) or intermediate scrutiny (without ERA) even though it has the effect of keeping out all or most women.

          Second: about standards being lowered for women, I don’t have a broad background in gender discrimination as applied to the military or military practices or qualifications. You linked to a LA Times article a while ago (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-women-combat-20121012,0,7079144.story?track=rss) . This article says instead that women are “being held to standards that most men can’t meet” (I don’t know if this is hyperbole or if she means that women are being held to higher standards than men?). It doesn’t suggest to me that the standards of combat are being set at a lower bar for women. If I understand correctly, the combat exclusion policy prevents women being in combat (I am not voicing an opinion on that) irrespective of their physical strength. Could you point me to something showing the different standards for men and women in combat?

          “If women who are held to a lower standard are put in combat, they will obviously be at a disadvantage, and the men serving with them will be at a disadvantage too. I said earlier that I was concerned about the fate of young women, but I am also worried about young men; if I had a son, I wouldn’t want him fighting alongside women who were held to a lower standard: such a policy is bound to result in unnecessary casualties and deaths.”

          I think this would be exactly the military’s argument on why the standard is the way it is or why there is a complete prohibition on women in combat. Under the ERA, they would have to show they have a compelling interest, etc., and without the ERA, they would have to show they have an important interest, etc. Since I don’t know a lot about this, I don’t have an opinion on who would succeed.

          A final note, I just want to reiterate something you said on your blog about not all feminists wanting the same policies (though you said we all want to pass the ERA). In my opinion, I think feminists would not all be on the same page regarding women in combat.

          • Judithann says:

            I haven’t figured out yet how to provide links ( I am sorry), but when I googled “physical requirements for Army”, an article from a website called military.com came up. According to this article, men aged 17-21 are expected to to do 35 pushups; women the same age only have to do 13. Men aged 17-21 must run 2 miles in 16:36 minutes; women the same age must run 2 miles in 19:42 minutes. Interestingly, the sit up requirements for men and women are the same. Apparently, women are just as good as men at doing sit ups. 🙂

            The thing about the Pentagon requiring soldiers to be able to carry a 200 pound man: I didn’t find much information about this, but did learn a little. Apparently, what they are talking about is called a fireman’s carry. It seems to be fairly routine; one military blog I encountered featured commenters who were skeptical of the husband and son who said that they would not be able to carry a 200 pound man, but that is all that I could really find. The name of the that blog is This Ain’t Hell, But You Can See It From Here. The blog entry is titled “Female Colonel Sues Military to include women in Combat” I realize that particular source is kind of lame, but it was all I could find: there are plenty of sources that explain how to perform a fireman’s carry, but none that I could find indicated how much an average man or woman could be expected to lift.

            Putting women in combat doesn’t seem to be a goal for the feminist bloggers I have encountered so far, but it is a goal for many feminists; there seems to be a school of thought within feminism which says that men and women will never be equal until we are exactly the same. Such feminists tend to ignore things like physical differences, because facts interfere with the goal of total equality.

  2. Judithann says:

    For instance, virtually all if not all feminist politicians seem to be strong advocates of putting women in combat; the fact that women are virtually never as strong as men doesn’t seem to matter to feminist politicians. They are so determined to see women in combat, and they won’t let facts get in the way. That scares me.

    • emmawolf says:

      To do a link, just copy and paste it. WordPress does the rest of the magic.

      The requirements you found, is that for the army generally, or just combat?

      Ugh. I started to say that I am an advocate for putting women in the combat if they want to go there (no draft) and are physically able to meet the requirements. But there are so many other issues with the military (like how our military likes to rape its own and then blame them: http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/14/health/military-sexual-assaults-personality-disorder/index.html) and rampant sexism of an non-rape nature that we haven’t even gotten into yet. Of course, I don’t want to put anyone in a dangerous situation (anti draft). An issue with lack of respect for women (and worse) will (hopefully) improve if we see more women in the military and have the backing of the ERA, which would make it easier to bring challenges to sexism based on something other than physical strength.

      As for putting women in combat, as I understand it now, women are in combat under loopholes to the exclusion policy, but just not receiving the credit for it (because of the policy, so it looks more like sexism than a real attempt to keep everyone safe) and is preventing them from getting promoted because even though the have the combat experience, they don’t get to put it on their resume (simplification of the problem). If it’s a real physical issue, the ERA would probably not effect the outcome. If it’s not, then it would.

  3. Judithann says:

    Thank you for teaching me how to do links! But I usually write on an IPad, and as far as I can tell, it isn’t possible to cut and paste on an IPad, otherwise, I would provide the links.

    The physical requirements are for Army basic training.

    I totally agree with you that keeping people as safe as possible isn’t a priority for the top brass, nor was it a priority for the Bush chicken hawks who started putting women in combat. I have tremendous respect for the men and women who serve, but the generals and politicians don’t seem to care about anything other than their careers. The leaders of our country are putting both female and male soldiers in more danger than is necessary because they don’t want to take flak from feminist politicians; conservatives will do anything to stop abortion, but they don’t seem to care much about our troops: one of the reasons why I am not a conservative.

    Strength is definitely an issue, but most of our leaders, especially feminist leaders, like to pretend that it isn’t. Our soldiers are being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness; of course, all of this is happening without the ERA, but the ERA would accelerate the process.

    You mentioned rape: something to consider is the fact that female POWs could be raped. Male POWs can be raped too, but only women get pregnant. What happens if a woman ends up in the Hanoi Hilton for five years? What if she is raped and gets pregnant? What if her captors force her to have the child? What happens to the child?

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