July 3, 2017

Why We Still Need The ERA

By Rachel Mellicker

Most people don’t know that the Equal Rights Amendment (giving women equal rights) was never ratified and thus is not actually in effect. They assume it passed because obviously gender equality must be in our Constitution, right?

I realized the problem was not the students. It was our society that is trying to erase this issue. The Equal Rights Amendment should be talked about all the time. It should be featured in books, magazines, movies, art, and social media.  It should be trending on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

It would only be common sense that we should have legal equality in our society since we profess to care about human rights. It particularly disturbs me that a lot of other teenagers don’t know this, because as a generation committed to advocating against inequality we need to do something about it.

Some people believe that the ERA is not necessary because there are already laws that exist that protect the rights of women.  It’s true that there are laws that were intended to protect the rights of women, but they have been gutted by court decisions, which means that when a court decides a law is not relevant, and rules contrary to its language and spirit, the law is basically rendered useless for the future.

An amendment to the constitution would provide much more powerful protection of the legal rights of women that would extend from one generation to the next.  Though the Supreme Court has come to interpret the 14th amendment as including gender, recent cases, along with what some Justices themselves have said, prove otherwise.  We need an explicit amendment protecting women and girls from discrimination. 

A couple of years ago, as a 10th grader, I had the opportunity to take a class called “feminisms” where we learned about the history of the feminist movement and discussed current issues of gender equality.  Every student in the class had the chance to choose any subject related to feminism and teach a class on it.  I decided to do my class on the Equal Rights Amendment.  The only problem was that it was supposed to be a group project and nobody else in the class was interested in the ERA. One person told me it was not relevant anymore.  I did the class by myself and was happily surprised by the other students’ reactions to it.  People were engaged and no longer questioned its importance. I realized the problem was not the students. It was our society that is trying to erase this issue.

The ERA has been ignored to the point that, at best, there are five minutes spent on it in a high school history class.  This is not enough. I talked about it in my eleventh grade history class, and then this year, in twelfth grade, I realized that other students in my class still didn’t know that it hadn’t passed. A clear understanding of history is imperative in understanding where we must create change in today’s society.

The Equal Rights Amendment should be talked about all the time. It should be featured in books, magazines, movies, art, and social media.  It should be trending on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Everyone should be calling their elected officials angrily if those politicians do not support the ERA. I have experienced very little of this.  There is so little discussion of the ERA that I am so excited to see one post on social media about it.

The ERA will never have the momentum it needs to pass if we leave this task to someone else.  It is our job to advocate for this now, and DEMAND equal rights.  I have been inspired by the recent surge of activism in this country and if we channel that inspiration and persistence into the ERA, we will be able to pass a momentous piece of legislation. So many laws seem fleeting and precarious right now in our political climate.  This is why we need a law guaranteeing gender equality set in stone.