Let’s talk about equality.
I recently watched an hour long debate from the 70s about the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s always very interesting when you can look back in history at a moment in time and already know what the outcome is going to be. While I was watching and listening to the back and forth debate rage on and the talk about all the negative outcomes of the proposed Amendment I kept thinking: “if you only knew.”
We know today that most of the things the feminists wanted were achieved. Many of the “equal rights” that the ERA would have put into law at the federal level were achieved by the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause and there was nothing stopping states from changing their laws to abolish legal sex distinctions. The term “equal rights” is so common and ordinary today that many of us have probably never even given it a second thought. I know for most of my life I certainly never did.
I never gave equality a second though until becoming a mother. It was only then that I really appreciated that my biology as a female gave me roles and burdens in this life- something biology does not give to a man.
Our laws and customs have always dictated different obligations and expectations upon men and women. Since women’s liberation, we have come to see any different treatment based on sex as something so discriminatory we shouldn’t even entertain the thought. This is because we have a deeply ingrained belief in our society that anything but complete equality would do an injustice to women. However, when studying all the laws and customs that have changed since the time of women’s liberation, the ugly truth is that it is the very principle of equality that does an injustice to women, not the lack of it.
Because biology imposes burdens upon women and because we bear the physical consequences of sex (which has many times taken the very lives of women), it used to be the sole obligation of the man to provide support for his family-this included the support of his wife. The laws for receiving alimony, child support and social security benefits off of one’s spouse went one way; only women could receive theses benefits from men. No matter how well off the woman was or how capable she was to provide for herself or the family, it was still the obligation of husbands and fathers to provide the support and provide for themselves.
They say women’s liberation was all about choice, but the changing of state laws and Supreme Court decisions such as Orr vs. Orr made it to where men were no longer the sole party liable to support the family, mothers were no longer automatically granted custody of young children and the liberalization of divorce left society with many displaced homemakers and forced many women to have to work. Women no longer have the choice of whether or not to work because the law will force her just like a man to provide support for her family. Before women’s lib women had the choice whether or not to take paid work.
Many women do not take paid work now because they want to, but because they have to and it has nothing to do with a two-income necessity. Young women have been taught that they can have sex with no commitment and everything will be OK, but that is simply not reality. Many women wish to stay home to raise their children but find the men are not willing to support them and in many cases refuse to even marry them. Not only do the men expect them to work, many women have found the men wouldn’t mind just staying home themselves.
In conclusion, the main beneficiaries of equal rights are not women, but men. Equal rights only impose more burdens upon women and set men free from their traditional responsibilities. Taking away rights, benefits and exemptions from women in the name of equality was simply not the answer to address the grievances women had.