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Equal Means Equal: Fight for Women's Rights

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I was acutely aware that yesterday was International Women's Day, and having been a feminist for many decades, I intended to write an essay here about IWD, but my mind would not stop buzzing nor my heart stop pounding from what happened the day before.

How fitting it was that the day before IWD, I had the privilege to be at the filming of the brave and fabulous film "Equal Means Equal," which Kamala Lopez of Heroica Films (heroicafilms.com -- read about this woman, whom you have probably seen in films and on television) conceived to fill a massive void. Lopez has courage, which is essential to do what she is doing, because her film is an Everywoman's journey from realm to realm as she discovers the myriad of ways that girls and women continue to be demeaned, discounted, oppressed, and attacked. It takes great courage to go up against the backlash, namecalling, reviling, and shunning that come forth when those who hoard inordinate amounts of power and wealth and cause harm with it are asked to share their resources and do what is fair and just.

Nothing seems to stop Lopez, who is warm, engaging, smart as a whip, and perceptive as all get-out. She speaks to you at http://eraeducationproject.com/about/ Her fearlessness is reflected in the list of realms of inequality to be covered in "Equal Means Equal" -- https://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=9940 --  including culture, immigration, politics, religion, the military, the law, children (foster care, juvenile justice system, child sex trafficking, family court), domestic violence, economic inequality (gender pay gap, women and poverty), fathers' and men's rights, female incarceration, global women's issues, reproductive rights, healthcare, mental health, and sexual violence (campus rape, rape in the military).

In the one-hour interview Lopez and I shot yesterday, we addressed many of these subjects, because as I always say, "In a sexist society, anything that can be used against women will be used against women," and since the early 1970s, I have learned about inequalities in each of the above realms and done some research of my own in many. But I have to tell you: It's one thing to immerse oneself in one of these subjects at a time -- upsetting though it is to discover the depth and the devastation caused by neglect and mistreatment of girls and women in each one; it is close to unbearable to address so many in a brief period of time. Lopez and I spoke about data and research and human stories and kept our composure during most of the filming, aware that we had little time to cover a lot of material. But for each of us, there came a point when the reality of the destruction of girls' and women's bodies and spirits overcame the exigencies of the film shoot, and we wept.

When you look at so much harm and consider for how many eons it has been inflicted, the despair and helplessness you feel make it clear in a visceral way why so many girls and women, as well as supportive boys and men, would like to think that we don't need an Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, because equality is already here. It's less painful to believe the world is safe and to avoid facing how much organizing, educating, persuading, and advocating it will take to make real change. The ERA would make so much real, important change possible, and that is what this film is about.

In the interview, we spoke about the myths that pervade our culture, myths that help keep girls and women down, that lead "Let me tell you about my mother" to be a guaranteed laugh-getter for standup comics, when "Let me tell you about my father" simply is not. Myths about girls' and women's alleged inferiority and other kinds of myths serve a crucial purpose: They make it possible for those with the most power and resources to justify refusing to give girls and women their fair share.

I am a Canadian citizen as well as a U.S. citizen, and I lived in Canada at the time when that country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms was created. A handful of women in a remarkably brief time made sure that a provision to guarantee equal rights was enshrined in that Charter. Americans often ask me how that happened in Canada, when after nearly one and one-half centuries, it has not happened here. A significant part of the answer is the deeply-rooted Canadian tradition of fairness, where in the U.S. the rights of the privileged are more likely to be protected than is the principle of fairness. This is not to say that in Canada there is no oppression, as aboriginal people and francophones there can attest, and Canadian women have not achieved equality in every realm. But those who continue the struggle for equality there have powerful backing of their Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

And when I recall the scare tactics used by misogynists in their long fight to prevent the passage of the ERA in the U.S., I feel I must report that what happened in Canada did not lead to the disintegration of the country, the destruction of the family or of morality itself, not even to mandatory unisex public bathrooms.

The struggle to pass the ERA in the U.S. is experiencing a phenomenal resurgence now, reflected in this film and also in the plans for the "We Are Woman Constitution Day Rally" slated for September 13, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Information is available about the rally on the Facebook page of that name, and a wealth of information is on the Facebook page called "ERA Action."

Every one of us is needed to educate and organize, to talk nonstop (do not be silenced by the stereotype that women never stop talking and that we ought to!) about the transformation needed in this country by passing the ERA.

Copyright by Paula J. Caplan   All rights reserved

Published on March 9, 2014 by Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D. in Science Isn't Golden


(image by Equal Means Equal video trailer)

 

http://www.paulajcaplan.net

Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D., is an advocate, activist, clinical and research psychologist, and awardwinning nonfiction author and playwright. She is Associate at the DuBois Institute, Harvard University, and a past Fellow in the Harvard Kennedy (more...)
 
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Thanks, Paula, for this timely piece. I'm a big fa... by Meryl Ann Butler on Monday, Mar 10, 2014 at 5:39:12 PM
These ideas of Paula need to be put on a back-burn... by Pal Palsimon on Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014 at 12:43:16 AM
I am thinking that the ERA and women have both bee... by Meryl Ann Butler on Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014 at 1:14:24 AM
We won't get anything done about these issues unti... by Pal Palsimon on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 2:08:44 AM
My suspicion is that women in politics are more li... by Meryl Ann Butler on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 3:29:45 PM
No. This is not a chicken or egg question. Not at ... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 22, 2014 at 2:02:07 AM
Your vote ain't necessarily counted the way you c... by Jill Herendeen on Saturday, Mar 22, 2014 at 5:13:45 AM
Exactly, Jill!  Not quite a black and white i... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Mar 22, 2014 at 5:40:58 PM
Well, it might not be a chicken or egg question fo... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Mar 22, 2014 at 5:44:31 PM
Sad but true, you won't get cooperation just by de... by Pal Palsimon on Saturday, Mar 22, 2014 at 10:12:31 PM
LOL, I am not interested in the kind of cooperatio... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Mar 22, 2014 at 11:21:09 PM
We do not need a special privilege amendment. It... by Bill Johnson on Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 10:26:03 AM
Bill's comment is a perfect example of why the ERA... by Paula J Caplan on Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 11:17:57 AM
I raised 2 sons on my own. I was discriminated in... by Pal Palsimon on Tuesday, Mar 18, 2014 at 2:17:11 AM
I can see that concentrating on Womans Rights mig... by Paul Easton on Tuesday, Mar 18, 2014 at 1:08:16 AM
"But this war talk of yours is utterly insane."*sl... by J. Edward Tremlett on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 7:34:48 AM
No, the war talk is not insane. In fact it is wel... by Bill Johnson on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 9:08:22 AM
"For you see, feminism is a war on men, a vendetta... by J. Edward Tremlett on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 5:39:25 PM
and do you know what?The more I think about it, th... by J. Edward Tremlett on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 8:36:08 AM
No, feminism is a social evil. We are not going t... by Bill Johnson on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 3:03:57 PM
You are, indeed, an amusing fellow, BJ. But the jo... by J. Edward Tremlett on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 10:14:31 PM
what kind of beer? ... by Paul Easton on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 11:07:42 AM
any kind you want, really :)I had a pleasant surpr... by J. Edward Tremlett on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 10:13:28 PM
Mr. Easton, I love most of what you wrote here abo... by Paula J Caplan on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 9:56:50 PM
I do believe it would be nice not to have a law o... by Burl Hall on Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 3:04:14 AM
"WE should not even NEED a written law for the eq... by Bill Johnson on Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 9:07:47 AM
And when you look at the statistics on children r... by Bill Johnson on Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 9:13:23 AM
These are clearly the words of a person with a ven... by Meryl Ann Butler on Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 10:22:25 AM
Yes, child support laws seem often to be designed... by Jill Herendeen on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 7:07:42 AM
Of course the article doesn't give concrete exampl... by Jill Herendeen on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 7:38:04 AM
A good example:  "A terrifying precedent:&nb... by Jill Herendeen on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 6:35:46 PM
In my opinion this comment should not have been fl... by Bill Johnson on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 3:07:53 PM
Well, seeing as how you have numerous "blind spots... by J. Edward Tremlett on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 10:17:41 PM
The ignorance of those who believe the ERA is abou... by Paula J Caplan on Friday, Mar 21, 2014 at 9:58:55 PM
If this country had decent social support for all ... by Jill Herendeen on Sunday, Mar 23, 2014 at 6:44:13 PM
Im sorry now that I attacked you earlier. Apparen... by Paul Easton on Tuesday, Mar 18, 2014 at 1:32:37 AM
Ah, so you can see the world through a man's eyes... by Bill Johnson on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 9:10:44 AM
Brilliant, Burl! Thanks for sharing your insights... by Meryl Ann Butler on Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 10:27:47 AM
So right you are. We already have a law, really. A... by Pal Palsimon on Tuesday, Mar 18, 2014 at 2:36:40 AM
GOOD POINT! Thanks for the reminder, Pal, the simp... by Meryl Ann Butler on Tuesday, Mar 18, 2014 at 11:03:55 AM
Great article Paula, thank you! ... by Amy Schreiner on Tuesday, Mar 18, 2014 at 12:48:33 PM
Right on, J. Edward Tremlett! ... by Paula J Caplan on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 7:48:49 PM
Very kind and also perceptive comment, Mr. Easton.... by Paula J Caplan on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 7:52:13 PM
Meryl Ann Butler, thank you for all the great and ... by Paula J Caplan on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 7:54:00 PM
Thank you Paula, I'm so glad to have your articles... by Meryl Ann Butler on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 8:38:38 PM
Great stuff, Meryl Ann Butler!... by Paula J Caplan on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 at 10:40:02 PM