Recently, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). People rejoiced and slapped one another on the back, forgetting that when the provision was introduced in the 1970s, it had a 7-year expiration date. No matter how good it felt, the ratification of ERA in 2020 was a Pyrrhic victory.
With or without its passage, the struggle for women’s rights is far from complete in this country as it faces opposition from women who would like to carry Phyllis Schlafly’s baton. What’s more, in the upcoming election women may be running for President of the United States, but far too many people continue to wonder if a woman is electable? Bernie Sanders denies he ever uttered any doubts, but his campaign literature expresses them all the same, arguing that Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy lacks broad appeal. He’s not alone. The Washington Post reports 1 in 5 women think a female would lose to Donald Trump.
Given the prevalence of this mindset in the United States, it’s no wonder women living in countries outside the sphere of western thought lag so far behind. While there’s been a slight wind of change in Somalia, it’s far too fragile to be counted upon. Turkey, meanwhile, may seek western alliances but it is hearkening to the dark ages where women’s rights are concerned. Pending legislation in that country would force a woman to marry her rapist.
No one should be surprised by this turn of events. Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogon openly states a woman cannot be on an equal footing with a man. It is, he says, “against nature.” Frankly, no evidence in nature supports his edict. The notion of equal and unequal is a human concept, a patriarchal stench that has polluted human history.
Sadly, women’s rights have always been the pawn of cultural necessity. In the 19th century, women counted as a man’s equal for one purpose–during a census when she provided a tax advantage. Similarly, those who manned the factories in World War 11 had to step aside when the men returned from the battlefields. Once again a woman was confined to homemaking.
Empathy requires that one person walk in another’s shoes. Unfortunately, I am dubious a man could ever manage a complete understanding of a woman’s world. He may appreciate the injustice of slavery when it is a consequence of skin color. But he can fully comprehend slavery as it attends to being a woman, including dictates on her manner of dress, how she comports herself, confronts glass ceilings and is subjected to government intrusion regarding her most personal decisions about pregnancy?
Until a feminist finds her way to the presidency, women will always be treated as bargaining chips, their rights advanced or denied depending upon the political winds. Until a feminist resides in the White House, the dream of freeing women from the boot of patriarchy will be uncertain. Until a feminist sits in the Oval Office, females will continue to be brides of rape.