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Late last month, Illinois became the 37th and most recent state to ratify the amendment, spurring renewed conversation about the ostensible need for the ERA. But its proponents are missing the point when they suggest the lives of American women would tangibly change should the amendment be added to the Constitution.
Activists like David Hogg, one of the Parkland High School shooting survivors, and celebrities like Alyssa Milano have latched on to a recent surge in momentum for the amendment, using their platforms to convey the idea that the ERA is an absolutely necessary amendment to the Constitution.
But might there be negative consequences for women? And how can we even begin to have that kind of national conversation if we are incapable of speaking of the differences between the sexes?
During the last major push for the ERA, conservatives pointed out that should it pass, women would most likely be included in any future military draft. Women would also have fewer advantages in legal disputes surrounding alimony, or custody.
It might not be woke to acknowledge that there are differences between men and women, but this is fact of life. Given that reality, I’m not entirely positive it is in the best interests of women to advocate for a universally gender-neutral approach to anything and everything. It may be. But there doesn’t seem to be meaningful dialogue on whether that is the case.
Beyond the potential consequences lies a question about potential gains. The idea that this amendment would usher in a new reality of equality or legal protections for women is unfounded, as is the contention that this is an urgent or critical issue. Women are already equal under the law.
The most articulate argument advanced by those who support the amendment is this: Without it, they say, the “statutes and case law that have produced major advances in women’s rights since the middle of the last century are vulnerable to being ignored, weakened, or even reversed.”
That may very well be true. At the same time, that line of reasoning acknowledges that women already have equal rights in this country. At most the ERA is, therefore, another layer for those protections. That’s not a small goal, and it’s not an unimportant one. But it should be put in proper perspective.
We are no longer living in a time in which women don’t have the right to vote or own property. The status of women in the United States could not be more different now than it was in the 1920s when the ERA was first written.
Expending political capital on a fight to pass an amendment that would result in no tangible gains for the allegedly oppressed party seems to be the height of privilege. Enough of America has real battles to fight. This is not one of them.