As young girls, we are raised to believe that we are equal to men. We are taught that our voices are just as important as the voice of men. So why is it that our voices are ignored and our rights threatened in the Oval Office by a group of old men? The belief that our fight for equal rights is “over” is a misconception of which most are unaware.
It is undeniable that women in the United States have come a long way from where we used to be. But we shouldn’t forget that women haven’t had the right to vote for 100 years. The wage-gap wasn’t addressed in legislation until 1963. Rapists who target and violate vulnerable young women can and do serve as little as three months. The fear that our President instills in women is profound in the way it provoked protest on the very first day of his term. When we observe the struggles that women have gone through for us to attain the rights that we have in the eyes of the law, it is understandable and justified to harbor fear for those rights with a leader so outwardly chauvinistic.
Speaking of the rights we have in the eyes of the law, technically they’re not equal. The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in 1923 and continued to be introduced until 1970. It was passed in the House and Senate, but was not ratified by the states, as it was still three states short of the 38 votes needed. The amendment reads, “Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by 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.” America is the only developed nation not to have the equal rights of the sexes written into federal legislation.
We are also one of the seven United Nations countries not to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (an international treaty somewhat like a bill of rights for women adopted by the United Nations in 1979) along with Palau, Somalia, Iran, Holy See, Sudan, and Tonga. To say that women in the United States truly have equal rights under the law is debatable as we don’t actually have a piece of legislation that says we do, and because of that human rights groups (not just groups of angry feminists) are still pushing for the ERA to become the law.
While the mission to attain equal rights lies mostly in the need for it to be written into our Constitution, the struggle has a lot to do with social inequalities. Women are raised and taught to aspire to marriage, and for some reason this isn’t an emphasis in raising males. With this mindset, it’s not surprising that so many women abandon their careers for motherhood. And this sacrifice should be respected greatly. But perhaps if girls were raised to understand that they can have careers and be good wives and mothers or if it were more acceptable for men to be stay-at-home caretakers, we would see more women in positions of power and influence within our government.
While women make up over 50 percent of the U.S. population, only 20 percent of Congress seats are women. It is unfair that so few women are able to represent the interests and rights of women in Congress. The disproportionate representation approaches injustice when men begin to try and legislate a woman’s right to her own reproductive choices while few women have the ability to defend those rights.
I am grateful for the rights and privileges that I have as a citizen of the United States, but my rights and representation are not equitable. Anything less than equality is not to be accepted, and it’s necessary that we continue to demand equality more than ever as the new administration begins to challenge the rights we have. As citizens and witnesses of inequality we owe it to ourselves, the heroic suffragettes who started this fight, and our society to increase women’s representation in government. By encouraging more women to run for office, protest peacefully, make calls and write letters to legislators, advocate and inform people on issues, and push ourselves to take action against the inequalities we face we can and will accomplish the equality we deserve.