5th Period: Social Studies
"Why We Need the ERA"
by Kaye Faulkner
"I am Woman, hear me roar/
In numbers too big to ignore...
If I have to, I can do anything/
I am strong, I am invincible..."
-Helen Reddy, 1972
When I graduate from high school and enter college, studies have proven
that I'll be discriminated against in the classroom. When I get a job, I won't be
paid as much as a man holding the same position. There is only a slim
chance that I'll get to the top of my profession; most likely I'll be making
coffee for my male superiors. If I decide to be a housewife and mother, society
won't value the work that I do as much as it will my husband's. If I become
pregnant while I'm employed, instead of being allowed to take a leave of
absence, I may be fired. In short, I am a second class citizen.
The Declaration of Independence declares that the citizens of the United
States are guaranteed freedom and equality. Still, women, who comprise more
than 50% of the population, have not enjoyed equal rights, but have lived under
the unjust authority of men. These men, in their ignorance and greed for power,
have come up with numerous arguments to deny women liberty. In the past,
women were often not allowed to get an education, own land, or even be
respected as full partners in marriage. They weren't allowed to practice law and
were not permitted to vote until 1920. Amazingly enough, this obsolete sexism
still affects us every day because, though the 14th Amendment guarantees that
no state shall deny "to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of
these laws," women living two hundred years after the signing of the
Declaration of Independence are still not guaranteed protection from
We need the Equal Rights Amendment. It simply states, "Equality of rights
under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any
state on account of sex." In short, it will finally make discrimation illegal, and
guarantee that men and women are treated equally. It will force lawmakers to
change unfair existing laws and prevent discriminatory ones from being enacted.
It will ensure that women receive equal opportunaties and pay, and that they are
viewed as equal partners in marriage, entitled to the same privileges and
responsibilities. The ERA is endorsed by President Carter (as well as former
Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford), both the Democratic and Republican
parties, the National Organization for Women, and many other organizations.
The status quo fights the passage of the ERA. Groups have formed especially to
oppose it, arguing that it will weaken morals in this country, draft mothers
during wartime, and force us to use co-ed bathrooms. The most well-known
opponent of the ERA is Phyllis Schlafly, who claims that if the bill is passed,
women will lose the right to be "provided with a home" or stay home to be a wife
and mother if they choose. Recognize this opposing force for what it is: a
display of pitiful cowardice and hypocrisy in the face of change. The ERA will
change the law. It will give value to women's roles. It will not force men and
women to change their personal dealings with one another.
The ERA has been stalled since 1948. Finally, in 1970, a petition to pass the
amendment succeeded in the House of Representatives, but was defeated in the
Senate. It must be ratified by three-fourths (38) of the states by March 22, 1979.
So far, thirty-five states have ratified. If only three more states ratify the ERA,
women in this country will finally receive the freedom and equality guaranteed
them. Then we will all be first class citizens.
- from Dazed and Confused (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1993).
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