Hey, you. American woman. Do you believe you are equal in the eyes of the law? If your answer is yes, you are WRONG! While American women enjoy many rights and freedoms, one important right we lack is recognized constitutional gender equality. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was never ratified.
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
An amendment to the Constitution requires thirty-eight states to ratify it. The ERA was ratified by thirty-five states in the 1970s. Everyone believed it would pass until Phyllis Schlafly essentially killed it with her Stop ERA campaign. She lied; people believed the lies and the amendment languished. Congress imposed a deadline and that deadline EXPIRED in 1982.
The one and only amendment that would make gender discrimination a federal offense expired.
Voting is not only important but it is vital to a thriving democracy. If you want a guarantee of equality, YOU have to vote. Otherwise, someone else will be deciding your fate. Don’t ask for equality. Demand it! Take it! It is your birthright!
You’re a woman in a modern world. You like to engage on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you’re married. Maybe you’re single. Maybe you’re a mom. Maybe you dream of having a family someday, or maybe you love being single. Basically, you’re the average American woman.
You post an article on Facebook about an abortion law you disagree with. In your post, you express outrage and your stance on abortion. Your employer feels differently and sees your post. You are called into the office and it is explained to you that your post is against your employer’s moral code and you are fired. You try to defend your position but it falls on deaf ears. You’re fired. No more paycheck. No more health benefits.
You’re angry. You can’t stop thinking about it. “They have NO RIGHT!!” You start researching and find you’re not alone. Other women who worked for the same company have been fired because of content on their personal Facebook pages.
You get an idea. You decide that you will organize a group of women and you will all gather on public property close to where you used to work and peacefully protest.
Five of you hold your signs. You’ve alerted some radio stations and local TV media with the hope they will pick up your story. Within minutes the police show up and tell you that you must leave. You argue that you are on public property and you are breaking no laws. Before you even know what’s happening, you are all being arrested and taken away in handcuffs.
You’re stripped of your clothing and treated like a criminal. They throw you into a cold, dank cell and leave you with nothing but your thoughts. You’re angry. You’re scared. You’re raging and you cannot BELIEVE the injustice! No one will listen to you and you haven’t even broken the law.
How can this be happening?
As a form of protest, you decide to go on a hunger strike. Days pass. You haven’t eaten anything. Prison doctors put you in a straitjacket and say you’re mentally ill. They restrain you and force a large, cold, metal contraption in your mouth to keep it open, making your mouth bleed, and then they stick a long tube down your throat and into your stomach where they pour raw eggs. They do this to you time and again until you vomit blood.
Does this sound extreme to you? Do you think it’s something that would never happen? It did happen to Alice Paul. In fact, worse things happened to Alice. She didn’t post anything on her Facebook page because she was not protesting about free speech; she was picketing President Woodrow Wilson in 1917 so that women would have the right to vote. She broke no laws. All she wanted was equality: a Constitutional mandate guaranteeing the women in the United States the right to vote.
Alice Paul endured physical torture so you can vote today. Think about that. In 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified into the Constitution, and because of Alice and her undying determination, women won the right to vote. There were many other women who fought alongside her and suffered greatly for your freedoms. Shouldn’t the right to vote be granted to every citizen? Why should anyone ever have to fight and bleed for the right to vote?
No teacher of mine taught me about women’s suffrage. I didn’t learn about it in school. Ever. Did you? Why? Why didn’t the schools I attended tell me about this? This is important history. The incredible and heroic efforts women made are by and large ignored. That’s a shame and it makes me sad. Voting is critically important and it is essential to a thriving democracy. Why else would men (and some women) fight so hard to keep women from doing it—even now? the struggles women have endured to secure the right of American women to vote.
I want you to vote. In every election. No exceptions. If there were a clear path to make everyone want to vote, someone would have already discovered it. All I can do is offer my suggestions and analysis. You don’t have to agree with me on every point, but I hope that it makes you want to learn more and get involved. This book is a combination of facts, events and my personal experiences. And a little bit of begging. Please vote! PLEASE?
1968 – 2012: My Political Evolution
A feminist raised me.
My parents separated when I was three. It was 1972 and a civil rights revolution was happening. Women were fighting for liberation, and the way women were being portrayed in society was changing. Women who were in the midst of redesigning the American landscape overshadowed the homemaker. I had no real idea about what was happening. I heard the term “women’s lib” and I saw commercials that said women were bringing home the bacon and frying it up in the pan, so in my mind, women were equal. My mother was a single mom who worked. She struggled but we always had dinner together in the evening and a very normal routine. When the sink was clogged, she fixed it. When the car needed oil, she replaced it. When we moved, and we moved a lot, she set up the television and stereo. When we needed more money, she worked extra hard or took a second job. She is a smart over-achiever, so we also experienced times where, as a single working mother, she earned a nice living and we lived well. My life experience exposed me to a strong woman who never relied on anyone but herself. She made sure to drive that message home so that it was ingrained. She succeeded.
I am extremely fortunate that my father is also pro-women’s rights. He eventually remarried and my stepmother, Roz, is also a feminist. She believes in equality and is an Emmy award-winning editor in the news business. She kicks ass in her chosen profession.
In 1979, my father, who was a cameraman for a local television news station in Philadelphia, got the opportunity to move up to network news. This meant he would live abroad for several years. He wound up living in Moscow, Russia. The Cold War was on and communism was going strong. My father asked if I would be interested in living with him in Russia for a year. I didn’t want to. I was afraid and would have said no, but my mother and my aunt basically insisted. I am so glad they did because it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I got to see with my own eyes what it’s like to live in a communist country. It totally pisses me off when Democrats are accused of being communist. It only illustrates that those who make that argument have no idea what they are talking about, so they just make stuff up, or they parrot what they’ve heard without investigating for themselves.
When I lived in Russia, I was twelve. My only experience was being a citizen of the United States. I remember taking on an arrogant attitude about the Russian people. They didn’t have the freedom to decide where they would work. They didn’t know about supermarkets that sold thousands of products. There was the bread store and the open-air market where farmers sold vegetables and meat. People were oppressed and depressed. It showed on their solemn faces and the long, cold, gray winters magnified the oppressive mood of the big communist country. As I lived there and learned about what communism really is, I understood that my attitude and my view of Russians was not accurate and I was judging them unfairly. But I digress.
I have always been very vocal about my opinion, and I enjoy a good debate. In my high school speech class, most of my classmates would roll their eyes when it was time for me to speak, and say “Oh no, here she goes…”
I did well in speech class and my teacher loved me because I challenged the other students. I loved being part of a discussion and even though I have strong opinions and a great big mouth, I invite new ideas and ways of thinking about things. That class made me aware of this and showed me that, as a young woman, my ideas and opinions had value.
Turning twenty-one was exciting for me. I was an adult in the eyes of the law and it was my time to figure out who I would be in the world. I didn’t give much thought to the enormous fight that had taken place to legally secure my rights as a woman. I knew women fought for the rights and freedoms I enjoyed, and I knew that we had come a long way from the 1950s way of life. I took it all for granted. I felt like a powerful badass woman who could do anything. My mother’s strength as a woman served me well. I chose how I wanted to earn a living, and I usually negotiated an above average wage. I never had any real reason to believe my rights would be repealed or restricted. If anything, I assumed they would expand.
In the 1980s we had conservative presidents for the entire decade. Ronald Reagan was president until 1988, and then conservative George H. W. Bush took over until 1992. At the time, I was not politically aware. I was a young adult and what I experienced was the American dream. I didn’t become wealthy but I had opportunity and I knew it. The world was my oyster. I do remember hearing about the abortion issue now and then. Occasionally some anti-choice group made the news but it wasn’t plastered all over the media like it is today. I lived in a very liberal state and utilized Planned Parenthood clinics when I didn’t have insurance. Birth control was always extremely easy to acquire and there were a few different times in my life that I was on it. I felt free. I felt equal. I considered myself to be a proud American patriot. I mistook being comfortable for being equal.
In the 1990s it was more of the same. Life was good and I decided to pursue an acting career. My best friend at the time followed politics and I remember her going on about some politician named Bill Clinton. My father was working for the news division of a major American television network on Clinton’s presidential campaign and he invited my friend and me out for dinner one evening when the campaign stopped in Los Angeles. We drove to the hotel in Santa Monica and happened to run into Bill Clinton while on the way to meeting my father. He came over to us to say hi and shook our hands and of course, he asked for our vote. I was impressed for about five minutes and then I was back to not giving a shit about any of it. I believe I was still a registered Republican. I honestly didn’t even know what that meant and I didn’t care. As mentioned, my girlfriend was a lot more politically aware than I was and she helped to convince me I was a Democrat. I eventually changed my political affiliation and have voted in every election since I cast my first vote for William Jefferson Clinton.
While Clinton was president, the economy soared, life was great, and the biggest scandal was about his extramarital dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. I am certainly not advocating marital infidelity, but while conservatives were in a tizzy about his sex life, the country as a whole was doing well, so most people, at least most liberals, didn’t really care. His private life was not negatively affecting the personal lives of citizens. As time progressed and we headed into the year 2000, Clinton was finishing up his second term. Vice President Al Gore was the Democratic nominee and George W. Bush was the Republican candidate. I was thirty-two and knew my choice was Gore. I remember feeling worried when the race wasn’t in the bag for my candidate. I didn’t like what I was hearing from and about Bush, but I did give him the benefit of the doubt. My mother, who is very informed about politics, predicted almost everything that happened economically after Bush became president, and she was extremely worried as Election Day approached.
Election night was tense—very tense. Initially, the media called Gore as the winner. We all went to bed and woke up the next morning to a different story. They were saying Bush, not Gore, won Florida, and that changed the results. It quickly became evident that something wasn’t right and the Florida hanging chad fiasco was the talk of the world. The little pieces of perforated paper that were hanging on to ballots after they were cast made the final count confusing and unclear. It was “too close to call” and came down to that one state—Florida—where George W. Bush’s younger brother, Jeb, was the governor. Hmmmm…. Recounts started and stopped as the two parties argued about what standards applied. The nation was frozen. The world watched in anticipation for weeks. It felt like it was taking forever and nerves were wearing thin. The conservative Supreme Court stepped in and decided the election. Five of the nine justices decided the fate of this country. They decided in favor of Bush, and despite winning the popular vote, Gore conceded. He was worn out and wanted very much to pursue educating the world about climate change.
In its unsigned opinion, the Court explained that it had voted 5-4 to halt the Florida recount. The Court’s reasoning was that continuing with the vote count would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and pose the threat of irreparable harm to the petitioner, George W. Bush. The Court stipulated their decision regarding the 2000 election could not be cited as precedent.1 To me, that says they knew what they were doing was political activism and not upholding the Constitution.
In April 2013, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor admitted she felt leaving the decision to the Supreme Court was a mistake. In an interview, she told the Chicago Tribune editorial department: “It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue. Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.'” And she added, “Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision. It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”
It’s a little late now!
The decision made by our highest court was the start of my political awareness. I knew my mother was right when she talked about what was to come of a Bush presidency, but I secretly hoped she was being overly dramatic in her dire warnings about the economy. Not only was she accurate, it was worse than she predicted. We had a long ride before the shit started hitting the fan in a way that I would feel in my wallet. Bill Clinton, while not perfect, left the United States with a balanced budget and a surplus.2 We were in excellent standing with the rest of the world, so the unraveling didn’t happen overnight.
On September 10, 2001, I was in Manhattan visiting a friend and it was the last day of my vacation. My flight home departed from Newark airport in the late afternoon. I remember arriving at the airport and hearing about a fire in the terminal. My understanding was the fire was not threatening and was under control. I boarded the plane and we sat there for at least three hours. I was so pissed. Everyone was. The captain announced that anyone wishing to get off of the plane would be able to catch a flight the following day, September 11, at no charge. I seriously considered it. I weighed the options and decided I would wait it out. Not long after, we got clearance and I arrived home safe and sound.
I was awakened the following morning by a phone call from a friend who wasn’t sure what day I was supposed to fly home. She saw the attacks on television and was worried I was still in New York. I happened to be spending the night at my mother’s house, and my mom and I watched with the rest of the world as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center burned and collapsed and changed America forever.
Within two years, the United States invaded Iraq. The Bush administration was busy at work convincing Americans that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It has since been proven there were no weapons, but an agenda was being played out at the cost of the American taxpayer and, most importantly, American troops. FOX “News” was growing in popularity. Conservative politicians and pundits used fear to justify the wars and the spending. We were often on high terrorist alert—interestingly, the terrorist alerts would coincide with events that certain politicians didn’t want the American people to focus on. For example, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge claimed in his book, The Test Of Our Times, that he was pressured to raise the terrorist alert right before the 2004 election. Democrats accused Republicans of using terrorist alerts as distractions. Republicans deny it. But answer this question: How many terror alerts have you witnessed since 2009?
The housing market crashed in September 2008 and took the economy with it. It was bad. Banks had been lending money left and right to homebuyers, and mortgage bankers were making a financial killing—and killing the middle class in the process. To this day, these predatory lenders have not been held accountable. I had a friend who was just starting to earn upwards of $50 thousand a month as a mortgage banker in 2007 after only being in the business for less than a year. That speaks volumes.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was elected in 2012, is fighting like crazy to bring the architects of the financial collapse to justice. She is a refreshing voice of reason in a sea of corrupt, lazy lawmakers.
When Ronald Reagan was president, he ended the New Deal restrictions on mortgage lending3, making it easier for families to purchase homes with little money down. When George W. Bush was in office, the greedy mortgage bankers lent money to people who were unable to pay back loans and we saw the housing bubble burst.
September 2008 also introduced the world to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin—cue the dramatic nightmare music. I was absolutely not voting for McCain. I understood that he was a rogue Republican and had been admired for standing up for his beliefs, even if it went against his own party. That is admirable, but I still didn’t want him to be president. He wasn’t doing well in the polls and needed a surge of excitement. An online search provided what the Republican strategists thought was their golden ticket. Sarah Palin is an attractive, conservative woman who was never fully vetted: a charismatic woman who captivated the world—for about thirty minutes. I knew from the moment she stepped onto the stage of the Republican National Convention that she was trouble. I felt a knot in my stomach as she outshined McCain and took America by storm. I immediately went online and started searching for more information about her and it didn’t take long for the skeletons to come bursting out of her closet. The first story I remember reading had to do with her pregnant teenage daughter, Bristol. I don’t judge Sarah for this. Teens have sex and get pregnant. But I knew it would be scandalous, and it was. That was just the tip of the iceberg. It became one scandal after another. I remember thinking that Americans love to put celebrities—and she was one—on pedestals, only to swiftly knock them off, but was there enough time? Would she be a heartbeat away from the presidency before Americans saw how dangerous she is? I was very worried. She scared the shit out of me. Would she mess up so drastically that the voters would make the best choice? In the end, she did. She was a train wreck that veered off the tracks in the nick of time.
Sarah Palin is an empty dress who was and is after fame and fortune. It was evident in her demeanor. A number of mainstream media interviews revealed that the governor, who eventually quit halfway through her term, didn’t have the intelligence to effectively serve as vice president of the United States of America. She has proven to be an extremist nut-job who claims she’s the real deal when it comes to patriotism, and us city folk are nothing but a bunch of freeloading moochers. Yeah, I kinda can’t stand her. But Lord knows, I’m not alone.
I live in California, a Democratic (blue) state. It’s pretty much a given that California will always vote blue. This makes no difference to me when I vote. I knew my state would go for Obama, but my vote is my voice and my voice was screaming NOOOOOOO SARAH PALIN.
Barack Obama won the election and the ugly underbelly of racism in this country was quickly exposed. Just like we rode the wave of good fortune with Clinton’s surplus, we entered the Obama presidency in the toughest financial times America has seen since the Great Depression. We are seeing a slow recovery but it’s taking a very long time. Republicans don’t like Obama and they absolutely will not cooperate. They fight against everything Democrats introduce. They have refused to bring the jobs bill up for a vote, voted no on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and have wasted taxpayer money by voting more than fifty times to repeal it. They voted to stop unemployment benefit extensions for Americans who have lost their jobs and desperately need help. This is money that flows back into, and helps to stimulate, the economy. They have made deep cuts to food stamp programs and school lunch programs. They complain about President Obama’s “out of control spending”—which is not even true (the spending has gone up far less rapidly under Obama than under Bush4)—and they cost American taxpayers $24 billion when they shut down the government in another ill-fated attempt to repeal the ACA. They have blocked progress on every front without offering any kind of plan of their own. The country is divided and the Tea Party has taken over the Republican Party.
Despite the fact that President Obama told everyone when he was elected in 2008 that it might take more than two terms to get the economy back on track, impatient Americans grew disenchanted and the 2010 midterm voter turnout was poor. Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives and Tea Party politicians immediately started going apeshit on women’s rights. Apeshit! We are seeing the erosion of women’s rights due to the passage of TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) throughout the country, including extreme abortion bans and unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound probes. The worst part of it is that Republicans are refusing to debate with Democrats and are restricting access to women’s health care. And even more unbelievable, in 2014, GOP politicians are attacking birth control. In fact, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said that Democrats are forcing women to be dependent on “Uncle Sugar” for birth control because they are unable to control their libidos.
In 2011 I was politically aware, but not acutely aware, of what was actually happening with women’s rights. For the first year, much of what the Tea Party politicians were doing flew under the radar for people like me who weren’t following the minute details. Slowly but surely, Planned Parenthood was losing funding. The chatter about the Susan B. Komen Foundation receiving pressure from Republican politicians to stop funding Planned Parenthood was getting louder in the first three months of 2012. Mainstream media was reporting more and more stories about how birth control was becoming increasingly difficult to acquire and women’s clinics were unable to keep their doors open.
And then Rush Limbaugh opened his big, fat mouth.