To the dismay of conservatives everywhere, the Illinois state legislature has put a rather old bill back on the agenda:The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA, which was first proposed in 1923, failed in the 1970s, due to a determined effort from the far- Right. The amendment ended up with 35 states ratifying – three short of becoming a part of the Constitution. With the ERA back in front of the

By Gus Bode

To hear the Right tell it, the ERA would force all women to wear pants (rather then skirts), divorce their husbands, and pee standing up. The nefarious amendment that causes so much consternation on the part of conservatives stated simply, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” and gave Congress the power to enforce the new amendment. The ERA merely eliminates legal differences between the sexes, guaranteeing women the same rights as men. Yet for some, the ERA comes with a ‘destroy America’ clause.

The resurrection of the ERA has led opponents to trot out the same old criticisms. American families will be destroyed as women become free to abandon their men. This argument sounds suspiciously similar to the worries of slaveholders:if you give our slaves (wives) equal rights, who will tend our fields (cook) for us? This is not to say that all partnerships between men and women take on an ‘oppressor-oppressed’ configuration, but perhaps conservative men have a point. After all, their fears may be justified.

The ERA may prove so liberating to the wives who are treated like live-in housemaids by their conservative husbands, that they may summon the courage to strive for their own happiness, rather than living vicariously through their husbands. This could lead to the pleasing sight of a conservative man in a business suit with an apron draped over it, frantically trying to shave on his way to drop of the kids at soccer practice. Beautiful.


Of course, this “liberation” would produce more of the type of woman that makes conservatives fly into a blind rage of blustering inadequacy:The successful, independent woman. This woman may have a male “partner” (or, gasp, girlfriend,) or may even live alone without the guidance of a male!

She holds a job, she may be educated (and not in home economics,) she has ideas, and thinks for herself. She enjoys sex (how unladylike,) and uses birth control. If you have fainted while reading the previous sentences, you just might be a conservative.

Right-wingers also tell us that the ERA will result in females being drafted for war. Daughters, sisters, girlfriends, wives and mothers all could be sent to serve in the trenches if the ERA were ratified. Men, you don’t want your MOTHERS drafted do you?!? What kind of an ungrateful monster are you?

Come to think of it, who among us wants our brothers, friends, fathers, or even ourselves to be conscripted? Perhaps the conservatives are on to something here. If you wouldn’t draft your mother, how can you draft someone’s son? The conservatives are right. Women shouldn’t be drafted, as they would be subjected to the horror that is war. If the draft is so inhuman however, then it certainly shouldn’t apply to any humans, male or female. Now that’s equality.

The ERA will cause divorces to skyrocket, families to crumble, soldiers to have separate barracks, and, of course, the complete collapse of Western Civilization. Conservatives love to point out that men and women are different, not the same, and thus should not be viewed as equal. They have a point:Men and women are different, as a quick trip to the underwear department of any clothing store will demonstrate. This is not a bad thing.

Differences are to be celebrated, not hidden with shame. The goal of the ERA is not to create a society where men and women are the same; it’s to create a society where everyone has equal opportunity and equal rights. The ERA will not force women to abandon men, skirts or seated urination.

It will not divest women of their right to any of these things, but it will gain them rights that they do not currently have. They will be allowed equal pay, equal access to promotions, and all other rights due to United States citizens under the law. And that’s what it really comes down to. Are women first or second-class citizens? Careful with your answer, your mother might be listening!