It may come as a surprise to you that the United States actually does not have an Equal Rights Amendment. Or maybe it won't, given who currently occupies the White House. But either way, there are a million reasons why the ERA really needs to be ratified, and it goes much deeper than the fact that Trump is president.
Women make up half the country, and yet they've had to fight tooth and nail to achieve the rights they enjoy today. A whole lot of the battles — those that got women the right to vote, for example, or those that made it normal for women to join the workforce — were fought well before I was born, and I've only ever appreciated the results. Other fights, like those for equal pay and full reproductive rights, are still ongoing.
While passing the ERA would certainly be no walk in the park, this step would make a huge difference for all of those other ongoing fights. It would have real, concrete effects for women across the country. And once all the dust settles, then American women could finally enjoy equal constitutional protection with men. At this moment in time, it may feel like a far off dream — but here are 15 reasons why we need to fight to make this a reality in our lifetimes.
1It's Been In The National Consciousness Since 1923
Alice Paul and Crystam Eastman were feminists well before you had presidents also claiming the title. They submitted the original Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 — but it didn't go anywhere for half a century.
2Congress First Passed It In 1972
There were enough people in power in favor of the amendment for it to get through Congress, which says something about the level of popularity it had then. It wasn't political suicide to vote for it then, and it wouldn't be now.
335 States Ratified It
The majority of states ratified the ERA before the 1979 deadline, but it needed 38 states — or three-fourths of the union — in order to pass. Although five of the states that originally ratified it eventually rescinded their ratifications, that still leaves a majority of the American people in support of it — which means that it's due for another try.
4The Reason It Failed Is Terrible
Phyllis Schlafly spent much of her long life fighting against women's rights — and she pretty much single-handedly brought down the ERA. She ran a campaign called "STOP ERA", claiming that the amendment would somehow force women to leave the homes and go directly into combat. Or something like that. "STOP", in case you're curious, stood for “stop taking our privileges”.
5Opposition To It Rests On Traditional Gender Roles
The STOP ERA campaign rested on traditional gender roles — men are the protectors, women belong in the house, and god forbid they be sent to serve their country at the front lines. This was already somewhat outdated in the 1970s, and it's definitely outdated now.
6Countries With Better Gender Equality Do Better Overall
If you look at the list of the most equal countries by gender in the world, it's no surprise that the first four are all Nordic countries — Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. Those countries also rank towards the top of a multitude of other indices, including the world happiness rankings, the best countries for business, and the list of the least corrupt countries. Think these things aren't connected? Think again.
7The Pay Gap Is Getting Really Tiresome
Despite all the talk, women still earn less than 80 cents to every dollar that a man makes on average, and it's worse for women of color. Want to hear something even worse? After becoming parents, fathers earn more — and mothers earn less.
8It's Attracted Some Celebrity Attention
When a celebrity picks up a cause, it gains awareness — and that's exactly what the ERA needs. Patricia Arquette, starting with her 2015 Oscar acceptance speech, has begun calling for it vocally in numerous outlets. This sort of attention is a good sign that the ratification process is ready to start again.
9Abused Women Need More Legal Protection
Under current law, female victims of abuse can't take their cases to federal court, and the Violence Against Women Act isn't exactly on the strongest legal footing. The most vulnerable women need the Constitution to stand up for them when no one else will.
10Some People In Power Actually Voted Against The Violence Against Women Act
Going on that same theme, current U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions voted against VAWA, and there are few people higher than him when it comes to enforcing the law. Gender equality and equal protection under the law needs to go beyond laws that can be rescinded or not defended by misogynists in office.
11A Revised Version Could Protect Transgender Women
Transgender women, while rapidly gaining acceptance at a societal level, are still frequent targets of violence. Slightly revised wording in a new version of the ERA could provide much-needed protections for them too.
12Most People Are In Favor Of It
Polls have shown that upwards of 90 percent of the American public is in favor of men and women having equal rights under the law. Shouldn't be a hard sell, right?
13We Need To Be Done With The War On Women
The war against women and their reproductive rights is a real thing, and it's been going on for far too long. With equal protection under the law, women would have more room to fight back against asinine decisions like the Hobby Lobby case, which ruled that companies could decide whether or not to give their female employees birth control. Why should the rights of religious people be prioritized over a woman's right to control her body?
14Trump Is In The White House
Millions of women — myself included — were devastated on election night not merely because of the election of a Republican or an inexperienced candidate. Trump is so much worse than that, and his documented treatment of women is a big part of that. His bragging about being able to grab a woman by the genitals without her permission (though he denied ever acting on it) speaks for itself.
15The Constitution Doesn't Adequately Protect Women's Rights
The best reason why we need to pass the ERA as soon as humanly possible is that as things stand now, the Constitution does not guarantee equal rights for women. Antonin Scalia, the originalist saint, even said it himself. The 14th Amendment, which many opponents of the ERA point to, simply does not guarantee the same level of "strict" legal protection that the ERA would. The ERA isn't redundant; that's why 35 states passed in in the first place. There is no better reason than this: we don't have the ERA yet, and we need it.
This is a ready solution to a huge problem, and the country needs to move forward with it now. 45 years of waiting is enough. It's time to join the rest of the world, and enshrine the equal position of women into the country's founding document.