By Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director
On Aug. 12, The New York Times published an op-ed by columnist Gail Collins. In “My Favorite August,” Collins celebrates U.S. women securing the right to vote 90 years ago this month. When Collins daydreams about time travel and the lack of surprise Susan B. Anthony might express upon learning “how well American women are doing in the 21st century,” she neglects to mention how far we still have to go. Collins fails to educate readers, for instance, that the Equal Rights Amendment, despite a similarly protracted struggle, has yet to pass.
Twiss Butler, NOW activist and ERA advocate, weighed in on The New York Times website with the following comment:
Like most Americans, Gail Collins seems unaware that, despite having their right to vote finally acknowledged by ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, American women are still denied the right to equal protection of the law that all men receive as a 14th Amendment constitutional birthright. In 1776, John Adams scornfully refused his wife’s demand that the new constitution “put it out of the power of the vicious and lawless to use us [women] with cruelty and indignity with impunity” by telling her “Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our Masculine Systems.” Those Masculine Systems prevail today in the U. S. Constitution.
The fact that sex discrimination against women (not men) is not unconstitutional and that statutes prohibiting it have no constitutional foundation remains the Great American Family Secret. Instead, chirpy accounts celebrating the long fight for suffrage wrongly imply that women now have constitutional equality and conceal the need for women to use their sole acknowledged constitutional right to secure a strong guarantee of equal protection of the law.
Women delegates to the 1848 Seneca Falls (NY) Meeting adopted the following no-nonsense resolution: “The women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want.”
It’s time to set aside the superficial happy talk about electing a woman president and get down to the serious business of women working together to build from the ground up a definition of what real equality for women would look like across racial and economic lines, uncompromised by academic and media censors, political gate-keepers, religious gotcha-crafters, and other enforcers of those Masculine Systems that the Founding Fathers first set in place. That is the real way to honor the Suffragist legacy.