Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican, joins Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, in a Washington Post op-ed urging adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment.
I know. I’m
The Constitution, as Justice Antonin Scalia once made clear, does not prohibit discrimination against women. Many men like it that way.
Some patchwork statutory protection for women does not get the job of equal rights done (and male resentment runs high — see Title IX). You need only look at the corporate boards, executive ranks and most powerful state commissions in Arkansas to understand that bedrock sexism is still a way of life here.
Wake me when a woman gets appointed to the state Highway Commission, state Game and Fish Commission or similar.
Just last night, a variety of Repubs were bragging on Twitter about attending the “political event of the season” — the Knights of Columbus’ Slovak Oyster Supper. Women don’t attend. I think gutsy Blanche Lincoln once stood outside to shake hands with the menfolk in line.
The men-only “tradition” was explained this way in the Arkansas Catholic in 2010:
Just as the tradition of the oyster dinner began, so did the tradition of it being a men-only event.
“We’ve never said only men can come, but we don’t usually have that many women,” [raffle chairman Paul] Hook said. “We have had women show up one year, but not come the next year.”
This sounds at least a bit like the circumstances that attend many jobs and state commissions. Women get the drift that they aren’t welcome and don’t bother to apply. (If you want an oyster supper that welcomes all, McGehee has one the first Friday in February, Kat Robinson says, sponsored by the local men’s club.)
You may think I’m swatting at gnats. But there’s a larger point: work gets done in clubs and informal gatherings. When people are excluded by gender, they are being held back and being sent a clear message about stature.
Stipulated: Hiring and advancing women is no guarantee of better results. See the woman-majority Arkansas Supreme Court.
Murkowski and Cardin address time limits on getting states to ratify the ERA, now approved by 37 states, one short. The Constitution has no time limit and Congress could lift its limit so the effort to get the final state would have clear sailing, they write. They conclude:
Women should not be held back or provided less opportunity, respect or protections under the law because of their gender. This is not a partisan issue but one of universal human rights. Gender equality should be an explicit, basic principle of our society.