Saturday, January 09, 2010


The Equal Rights Amendment
    Section 1. Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.
    Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
    Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Written in 1921 by suffragist Alice Paul, the Equal Rights Amendment has been introduced to the United States Congress every session since 1923. It was approved in 1972 but failed to be ratified by the deadline in July 1982. To become a constitutional amendment it would have required thirty-eight states, only thirty-five states would endorse it.

And God created woman

Historically and traditionally women have been considered inferior to men both physically and academically. Since antiquity, laws and religions have controlled their subjugation. Women could not own assets in their own names, keep a business, or be in control of their children or even of their own persons. Although Mary Astell and others had appealed previously for better opportunities for women, the first feminist manuscript appeared in 1792 titled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft. Women's republican clubs demanded that liberty, equality, and fraternity be applied regardless of sex during the French Revolution, but the Code Napoléon extinguished the movement.

Lady Finger

    In 1872 I received a request like this and I did register and vote, for which I was arrested, convicted and fined $100. Excuse me if I decline to repeat the experience.
    Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), U.S. suffragist, Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, (1908).

Three decades earlier suffragist Anthony had been fined $100 fine for voting. Because she did not recognize her action as properly illegal she refused to pay it. Susan penned her reply to a political committee in 1902 after she received a post card reminding her to register to vote. It had been addressed to S. B. Anthony under the mistaken assumption that, as head of household, "S. B." ought to be a man. Newspapers, one headlining its front-page story, broadly reprinted her letter: "Susan B. Anthony Scores One."

The feminist movement actually began around 1848 in North America with Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren when both advocated for the inclusion of women's emancipation in the US Constitution. By the 1847 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Brownell Anthony and Coffin Mott were leading a women's convention at Seneca Falls, New York. It was there The Seneca Falls Declaration on Woman's Right was issued that stipulated, 'full legal equality, full educational and commercial opportunity, equal compensation, the right to collect wages, and the right to vote." Soon after the convention the movement spread rapidly across America and quickly extended into Europe.

Eventually the demands of the women's suffrage for higher education, entrance into trades and professions, married women's rights to property, and the right to vote for women were conceded. Following the victory of 1920 women's suffrage in the United States, women still remained at odds on the issues of equal standing with men in opposition to a number of protective legislation that had been enacted in the 19th century. For example limiting the number of hours women could work a week and prohibiting women from certain high-risk careers. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women was established in 1946 to protect equal political, economic, and educational rights for women throughout the world. In the 1960's feminism experienced a renaissance, principally in the United States. The National Organization for Women (NOW) was established in 1966 and by the early 70's over 400 local chapters had been formed. As a result, a large number of women moved into the workplace with 59.8% of civilian women over age 16 employed in 1997, compared to 37.7% in 1960.

Oh, pretty women

    Feminism was recognized by the average man as a conflict in which it was impossible for a man, as a chivalrous gentleman, as a respecter of the rights of little nations (like little Belgium), as a highly evolved citizen of a highly civilized community, to refuse the claim of this better half to self-determination.
    Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), The Family and Feminism, The Art of Being Ruled (1926).

Women's rights issues vary from "access to employment, education, child care, contraception, and abortion, to equality in the workplace, changing family roles, redress for sexual harassment in the workplace, and the need for equal political representation." This faction for the political, social, and educational equality of women with men has occurred mainly in Europe and the United States with its heredity in the humanism of the 18th century and in the Industrial Revolution. Through the ages feminism has been a doctrine based on the view that women should be given the rights, opportunities and treatment accorded to men.

The noun feminism is derived from the Latin word femina meaning 'woman' and dates back to 1895 as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes." Today it may mean something as simple as "an organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests." Many seem to think that the acquired rights and privileges of men are being threatened by the demand for equal rights and privileges for women and men, feminism is perceived by a number of women and men as going further than equality and claiming superiority for women. Depending on the context it is used in it can mean a great variety of ideals since the definitions have changed over the years; feminism has been converted by differing concepts that derive from what the group objectives may be.

Two researchers, Baumgardner & Richards, recently detailed the existence of seventeen kinds of feminism based on identity, including womanism. Other terms are post-feminism, neo feminism, liberal feminism, socialist feminism, materialist feminism, cultural feminism, and postmodernist feminism. Lately girl is being redefined in the framework of feminism. Girlie feminists say that feminism and girlishness can coexist under the same roof. By reclaiming the long ago fashion of girl culture they cultivate the pinks, the knitting and the makeup classifying these as their hallmarks of their feminism.

What womyn want

Clearly the usage of the words feminism and feminist are precarious. Specialized terms like womyn and feminazi do lead many to assume that equality does not, in many ways, exist. The resulting perception inescapably engages a struggle-whether to reach it, to stop it, or to paraphrase George Orwell make women "more equal than men". Even though the majority of advocates for feminism display beliefs in the interest of equality of the sexes, nevertheless the wide variety of agendas projected under the banner of feminism, along with so many extreme champions and adversaries of the movement today both terms feminism and feminist have become pejoratives to the point that oftentimes they become stigmatizing and are no longer useful in many coherent discussions.

Intermittently some feminists agree or disagree on a given usage's fairness or utility, but in many instances bring editorial protests until no one will dare to define what anyone else means by feminism. Given the passion of the emotions the issues presently attract and because these terms are unusable in many contexts, including several euphemisms, it's not surprising to hear many saying:
"I favor the equality of the sexes on all issues, but I'm no feminist."


Equal Rights Amendment Alice Paul, 1921



feminism (n.), feminist (adj., n.)

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