Equal-ish in the Constitution
When my parents, my sister, and I moved to the United States from Iran in the mid-1980s, I knew my life had changed for the better. In my adopted country, I wouldn’t need permission from my father or my husband to travel; my inheritance wouldn’t be a fraction of a male heir, and there wouldn’t be a “hijab” police censoriously watching me ensure that the cloth on my head covered a sufficient amount of hair.
My adopted country afforded me opportunities that would have been unimaginable in my homeland. But the standard for my rights shouldn’t be the low expectations of what they could have been having I continued to live in an authoritarian regime. America is exceptional precisely because we can embody and challenge the American promise!
Over 100 years after the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, we are still quibbling over constitutional equality — if or how women should be explicitly included in the constitution! It’s 2021, and we’re in the U.S. Yes, women should be included in the highest law of the land.
Ironically, women have been both the loudest proponents and opponents of adding the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the constitution.
Alice Paul, who introduced the ERA in 1923 in Seneca Falls, said, “If we keep on this way, they will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1848 Convention without being much further advanced in equal rights than we are… We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.”
Phyllis Schlafly, over seven decades after Paul proposed the amendment, said, “ERA means abortion funding, means homosexual privileges, means whatever else.” And only six years ago, on the gender pay gap, Schlafly said, “News flash: one reason a woman gets married is to be supported by her husband while caring for her children at home. So long as her husband earns a good income, she doesn’t care about the pay gap between them.”
We don’t know how the ERA will touch our everyday lives, but to explicitly grant us “equality of rights under the law” provides us equal protection — whether it be of our reproductive health (because it’s really not about our privacy), our bread-making, or our bread-winning.
The ask is the institutionalization of gender equality, because the patchwork of the 14th and 19th amendments, along with the Civil Rights Act or Title IX doesn’t suffice. The U.S. is one of only 28 countries that doesn’t explicitly guarantee equality based on sex or gender. Let 2021 be the year we add the 28th Amendment to the constitution. Our daughters belong in the sequel!
Please see parts one and two of a three-part series article: Post-pandemic Recovery Plan Must Include Women and Pay Women — Especially Mothers — Their Fair Share