I didn't plan on writing another column about feminism, but I keep discovering more examples of pernicious ideas the so-called "women's rights activists" are pushing on society. Last week, the Democrat-controlled Congress reintroduced the long-dead Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which gained popular support in the 1970s but died when Americans found out what it actually entailed. Thirty years later, feminists in Congress seem to think we've forgotten.
The language of the ERA, now renamed the Women's Equality Amendment, is deceptively simple: "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." But the WEA has nothing to do with equality or rights. It is the tool radical feminists will use to make America a society that does not acknowledge gender.
Americans learned this in the 1970s from Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the successful STOP ERA campaign. Although feminists have spent the last three decades sneering at Schlafly for being a dumb housewife, they've been unable to disprove her main point: the WEA would revoke protections and privileges that women enjoy while granting them no new rights.
The WEA would end the military draft exemption for women, regardless of whether they are single mothers or have recently given birth. It will also lift the restriction on women in ground combat. Sending young women and mothers to die in the place of men is universally recognized as morally repellent, which is why no army in the world has ever experimented with it. But the WEA would place women on the front lines of war, where they can be shot at and taken prisoner by the enemy. We've already witnessed the ordeals of the few women seized in Iraq, who reported being beaten and sexually assaulted by their captors. Are Americans willing to tolerate the torture of female soldiers on a much larger scale?
The WEA would likely lead to gender quotas and affirmative action for women in the military as well as police and fire departments – occupations where most women don't belong. A 1982 review by the New York Fire Department found that the vast majority of women were unable to pass basic strength tests crucial to firefighting, such as carrying a 145-pound victim over their shoulders. If America ever experiences another Sept. 11-style attack, are we going to rely on affirmative-action women to evacuate burning buildings? (Incidentally, despite years of feminist mischief in the NYFD, New York wisely abandoned political correctness on Sept. 11. All 343 firefighters dispatched to the World Trade Center that day were men.)
The WEA would render unconstitutional any organization or institution that is all-male or all-female. It would spell the end of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Boys' Clubs and Girls' Clubs of America, fraternities and sororities, and countless other single-sex organizations that are congressionally chartered or operate on school campuses. How many men and women want to abolish organizations that have benefited them?
WEA will also revoke protections women have traditionally enjoyed. It will overturn state laws that exempt a woman from paying her husband's debts if he dies or abandons her. It will also take away a widow's right to collect her husband's social security benefits. When are feminists going to tell abandoned wives and elderly widows that they intend to repeal laws that protect them?
If you don't believe that the WEA will lead to radical social changes, pick up a copy of the book "Sex Bias in the U.S. Code." Written by two prominent ERA lawyers, Brenda Feigen-Fasteau and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (now a Supreme Court justice), this book confirms that everything Phyllis Schlafly said about the ERA was true.
Of drafting women into the military, the authors write: "Equal rights and responsibilities for men and women implies that women must be subject to draft registration if men are" (page 202).
Of gender quotas in armed services and law enforcement, they write: "The need for affirmative action…is particularly strong in the uniformed services" (page 218).
Of forcing integration of all single-sex organizations, they write: "The purpose would be best served by immediately extending membership to both sexes in a single organization" (pages 219-220).
Americans had the good sense to reject the Equal Rights Amendment over twenty years ago. Now, we can only hope that American women are smart enough not to be fooled by phony promises of "equality."