It seems to me there is lots of social upheaval. We hear a lot about this segment or that group of society saying they want to have equal rights, or to protect their rights. All I can say is good luck! Women have been seeking equal rights for years and we haven’t managed to constitutionally secure them.
The 19th amendment gave women the right to vote. Almost right on the heels of that Alice Paul (see the DVD Iron Jaws for more on Alice), tried secure an amendment that would make sure women had all the same rights as men. It never got anywhere near becoming law until 1972 when the Equal Rights Amendment passed and needed 38 states to ratify it to make a change to the constitution. This was never ratified. There is nothing that constitutionally protects the rights of women.
I am a woman and just old enough to remember separate help wanted woman and help wanted man classified ads. I can remember wanting to be a civil engineer and knowing that it was a barrier to break. Civil engineers were not women. I once applied to work in a traditional man’s job in the days of Ma Bell, I wasn’t particularly welcome. I remember a company I worked for used the Haye Point system to move toward equal pay for equal work, no more better pay just because you were a man.
In 1963 legislation was passed that declared equal pay for equal work. As a result of the civil rights act in 1964 I am protected from discrimination based on my gender. These two pieces of legislation would improve my life personally. I have had career opportunities that my mother could not have imagined, just one generation before. I would become a professional with a career making a salary that allowed financial independence.
In spite of these legislative changes and overall changes in our societal norms, I am old enough to know that we still have far to go as women. There is nothing constitutionally that protects all the rights for women. I like to think that if there were something tested in the courts today, they would interpret the “man” in the constitution to be all “humankind.” But as it stands today we would be dependent on Supreme Court.
I can still see that ERA cup on my desk in the 70’s; the the disappointment in 1982 when the time to ratify it expired. In spite of feeling equal, sometimes when I hear about this group or that group looking for changes to the law or constitution to protect their rights, I can’t help but feel skeptical. If we can’t protect the rights of half the people in this country, I don’t have high hopes for them.