Andrea Chacos: The road to constitutional equity
Women in our country have been lobbying, challenging, rallying, and fighting for civil rights since the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788. “We’ve come a long way, baby,” as the saying goes, yet a woman is nowhere close to having constitutional equality with men. The fight is painstakingly long, riddled with many setbacks, and it’s made more challenging when we fight a system designed to keep us marginalized.
To understand what women are up against and the length of time it takes to move the needle, you need to look no further than the century-long battle by the suffragists to pass the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
Regardless of its eventual ratification by a two-thirds majority, 13 states continued to argue that women lacked the mental capacity, expertise and useful opinions about political issues to vote in elections, according to the National Women’s History Museum.
Mississippi finally became the last state to officially ratify the 19th Amendment in 1984. By then, Susan B. Anthony, a leader of the women’s rights movement, had been dead for 78 years.
Not surprising, many who fought against the 19th Amendment were part of societal structures of wealth, privilege and political power, encouraging them to keep things status quo.
One anti-suffragist was Josephine Jewell Dodge, who was a founder and president of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. She argued that, if women became enfranchised, they would become uglier, less feminine and less desirable to men. She considered suffrage unnecessary because women already had some civil rights.
Suffragists were made out to be demonized, unattractive man-haters, like the propaganda facing modern-day feminists — and, obviously so, because no one takes kindly to agitators.
The next major milestone for women I never learned about in school was the eventual passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Labor activists lobbied for decades to end wage discrimination and fight for equal pay for equal work.
However, 60 years after the law passed, women continue to earn only 84% of what men do, according to the latest data from the Pew Research Center. Closing the loopholes that make it hard to narrow the gender wage gap is harder than explaining to a Proud Boy how women are kept marginalized in society.
Women reluctantly understand inevitable setbacks when it comes to fighting for their rights, and there’s no better reminder than the rolling back of Roe v. Wade on June 24. The historic 1973 Supreme Court ruling stated that women had the constitutional right to a safe, legal abortion.
Now, the court voted 6-3 to overturn a precedent because Justice Samuel Alito stated for the majority opinion that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak.”
Regardless of your personal convictions, this is a devastating blow to women everywhere. We will undoubtedly spend years arguing fetal viability, the will of G-d and why a woman should or shouldn’t have control of her own body without ever talking about the real issue: constitutional equity and the semantics routinely used against women.
It’s like the “medical issue” men successfully argue when they need Viagra at 80. Women aren’t afforded that language because intercourse is a “lifestyle choice”, and contraception is not protected the same way as an octogenarian’s hard penis.
Roe v. Wade is no longer about abortion rights but has become another way to keep women farther from control of their own self. We’ve collectively dismantled what we’ve been working centuries to attain. And, that’s equal support under the law.
Reversing Roe v. Wade put a woman’s right to choose back in state control, and, if history is any indicator, it may take 100 or more years to get it back.
We must vow to stay the course and chip away at the system cleverly designed to reinforce a woman’s unequal footing. And, if you don’t see that women are struggling under the current laws that have benefited men first and foremost, I’m not too threatened by you in the long run. We’ve got this, no matter how long it takes.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair. She can be reached at http://www.andreachacos.com.