If We Want Parity, We Must Stand Together

Long ago when I was quite young, there was an effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (the ERA), which would have guaranteed women in the United States parity with men in all essential regards. It failed, not because of a lack of support from men in power, but due to opposition from a groundswell of conservative female voices like that of Phyllis Schlafly. Stated fears included that housewives would be disadvantaged, women would be subject to the draft, women would lose the right to alimony, and mothers would lose the presumption of custody in divorce cases.

Here we are in 2019. We have housewives and househusbands. If there were a draft, women would almost certainly be drafted, even though a change in the Selective Service Act would be required. I and many other women now pay what is called spousal support. Shared parenting is now the default presumption in divorces with children. And, here in the United States, a woman without a bachelor’s degree earns 78 cents for every dollar a man without a bachelor’s degree makes, while a woman with a bachelor’s degree earns 74 cents for every dollar a man with a bachelor’s degree makes. Not passing the ERA was a bad call, an epically bad call.

Pay inequity seems to be an intractable issue in this country. One of the reasons for that is the infinite variety of bases presented to justify such a blatantly unfair result. But another insidious basis for this ongoing economic discrimination is the inability of women to truly unite as a group behind simple principles that are clearly in their own and their daughters’ best interests. I am always troubled when women hesitate to stand up for themselves and other women.

There are many reasons why women are less highly remunerated than men for the same or equivalent work. But for me, the most frustrating aspect to the issue is women’s consistent failure to pull together and force change. Until we all row with the same oar, not only will the poor always be with us, but underpaid women will staff positions all over the country.