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
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