Equality these days seems a heavy, and almost dated word. It’s the 21st century, don’t we have equality already?
When I was growing I was taught in school that women achieved equality through the nineteenth amendment in 1920. It only makes sense right? A degree in History taught me something entirely different. All women federally have the right to vote, most didn’t get it in 1920, but by the late sixties all ethnicities of women had the right to vote federally protected.
But wait, there’s a whole slew of other rights given by the Constitution, right?
The hard truth is women are guaranteed the rights of the constitution on a federal level largely through case law (law created by precedent set through court case decisions). The kind of scary thing about case law is that history has taught us that one Supreme Court decision could change it. I’m not trying to say the Supreme Court is going to say that women don’t really have freedom of speech tomorrow, but isn’t it kind of disturbing that it could?
I did a lot of work in college on the proposed Equal Rights Amendment that started in the 1960s and 70s but was never fully ratified. It got my attention again last year when Virginia became the last state needed to push it into ratification. Some people say it doesn’t matter because it expired, except that the last amendment passed to our constitution was over two hundred years old when it was brought back to Congress’ attention and passed. The other thing I’ve heard is that it just isn’t necessary? What I can’t figure out is why not?
Why is adding an amendment to the constitution that guarantees by law rights for women a bad thing? Why is equality a bad thing? Why are rights a political thing?
Luckily for women like us, there are inspirational women who have dedicated their lives to the idea that women’s rights are human rights, and that rights for women enable everyone. Dr. Nora Comstock is one of those people. She founded Las Comadres Para Las Americas, an organization dedicated to promoting social justice, increasing opportunities for inclusion, and/or improving access to education. She is this year’s Distinguished Woman of the Year, and an absolute inspiration.
Rights in our country are precious things, and no matter your gender, you deserve to have those rights not only protected but established.
Women of all ethnicities deserve a seat at every table.
We truly belong in all places where decisions are being made. I say we celebrate the centennial of our first right with a guarantee of all the others.
Photography: Lauren Samuels Photography