Bridging the Divided

I Am Woman…..

Over the Christmas break, I watched several movies and started a few Netflix series. My brain needed the break from my job and COVID; currently, they are one and the same. 

One day I watched I Am Woman, about Helen Reddy. Helen Reddy is famous for her song of the same name that became the unofficial anthem of the Women’s Rights Movement during the ’70s. We all knew the lyrics by heart. It was and is to this day, quite empowering. Remember NOW? The National Organization for Women? The battle cry of women for equality, the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), burning bras, although I was never quite clear on that except the bra had been invented by a man. Was that the connection? 

Did you know the ERA has never been ratified? Who knew? I didn’t. Neither do 80% of Americans. 38 states are required to ratify the amendment per the 5th Article of the Constitution but that has never happened. Why? In part because of Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative activist, and lawyer who opposed the ERA. Mrs. Schalfly believed the ERA would prevent women from receiving alimony, child support, protection from the draft, and that gay men and women would be given the same ‘dignity’ as husbands and wives. She also believed the most important role of women was to be homemakers and mothers. Even though the amendment has never been ratified, I did not receive alimony or child support when I divorced. I take offense at the statements about gay individuals and the ‘most important’ role of women. I am a wife and mother and consider my children the greatest gifts in my life but motherhood isn’t for everyone.

Mrs. Schalfly was also a conservative Christian and based her beliefs on the Bible. I find Mrs. Schalfly to be a contradiction, however. The Bible does not advocate independence for women. In fact, during Biblical times and beyond, women were not seen as equal to men, nor were they encouraged to pursue careers dominated by men, and yet Mrs. Schalfly was a lawyer and activist. Wasn’t she fighting against the very amendment that advocated and applauded her decision to be a lawyer and activist? She was also raised by a mother who supported the family by working outside the home, however, when Mrs. Schalfly wanted to attend law school, she sought her husband’s permission. Permission? Discuss it as a couple, weigh the pro’s and con’s but seek permission? 

Before anyone comments on the highly controversial subject of abortion, I am fully aware Mrs.Schalfly believed the ERA would encourage government-sponsored abortions. I am not an advocate for abortions of convenience, however, I do believe it an individual’s right to choose even though I believe we are aware a pregnancy may occur before consenting adults consummate their relationship. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but I will not judge another. Right or wrong, the legislative process in our country requires give and take. 

So the question is why hasn’t the ERA been ratified? Women have made incredible strides in the past thirty-plus years. We aren’t there yet, but we are closer. Today, there are many prominent women in formerly male-dominated positions, thanks to the work and sacrifices of women who stood up with Helen Reddy to declare, I am woman, hear me roar…..

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