Daily Class OutlineDaily Class QuestionsDaily Class Web LinksDaily Class Notes

Question for Discussion: What are the major
arguments for and against granting women
equal rights and passing the ERA?

Reading: Hymowitz, p. 341-350; Gerster, pp. 214-220;
Why I Want a Wife (web); Steinem "For the ERA" (web);
Falwell "Against the ERA" (web); Klatch "Women
Against Feminism" (web)

Daily Class Web Links

The Women's Movement in the 1960s

The Political Fight for the ERA

Daily Class Outline

1. The Rise of the Women's Movement
in the 1960s

2. The Political Struggle over the ERA

3. The Women's Movement after the Defeat of the ERA

Daily Class Questions

1.  According to Rebecca Klatch, why is feminism anti-family?

2. Why does Klatch believe that American society can't afford to allow women to pursue their own individual interests?

3. Why does Klatch believe that women need to be
protected from men?

4. According to Klatch, what should be women's role in society and in the family?

5. According to Hymowitz, what was the goal of the
National Organization for Women (NOW) when it was founded in 1966?

6. What do feminists mean when the argue that "the personal is political"?

7. Why does Judy Syfers want a wife? What benefits
would a wife give her?

8. What are the major arguments Gloria Steinem makes to support passage of the ERA?

9. What does Steinem mean when she argues that "Women's Liberation is Men's Liberation, too"?

10. Why does the Reverend Jerry Falwell believe that women's liberation is a threat the the family and American society?

11. What are Congresswoman Margaret Heckler's major arguments in support of the ERA?

12. Why does Myra Wolfgang believe that the ERA will
hurt women?

Daily Class Notes

Let's look at a larger paradox in American society. Throughout its history, the United States has been forced to grant an increasing number of groups their basic rights and freedom as Americans. However, despite Americans' willingness to accept Blacks, immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and other historically excluded peoples greater rights and freedoms, Americans have been at the same time reluctant to grant women their full rights and freedoms as American citizens. Even today granting women equal rights in American society is a very controversial and divisive issue. What is it about granting women equal rights that causes some American men and women to fear that American society, the family, and marriage will be undermined? Why do women still not have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as American men do? In order to answer these questions we need to look at the history and debate over the equal rights amendment, the ERA. Having been approved by Congress in 1972, the ERA was soon ratified by more than 30 states, but the closer it came to being passed as a Constitutional amendment by the states, the larger and more vocal its men and women opponents became. By 1982, the ERA was defeated, having failed to pass the states, and women still do not have equal rights under the law in the United States.

What did the ERA say? (See EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT site.)


Alice Paul, 1921

Section 1. Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

The Equal Rights Amendment was written in 1921 by suffragist Alice Paul. It has been introduced in Congress every session since 1923. It passed Congress in 1972, but failed to be ratified by the necessary thirty-eight states by the July 1982 deadline. It was ratified by thirty-five states.

For an excellent history and series of document on the women's movement after World War II, see The Feminist Chronicles 1953 - 1993. The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923, but still to this day it has failed to become law. Let's look at the nature and history of the debate over the ERA to try to determine why it is so controversial.

As a result of political pressure from the Civil Rights movement, Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It committed the federal government to protect and ensure the civil and political rights of Blacks and women from discrimination. It would appear that the Civil Rights Act was both a victory for both Blacks and women, whose civil rights the federal government was now committed to protect. But, in fact, it was only really a victory for Blacks. During the debate over the Civil Rights Act, Southern Congressmen included women in the Act hoping that enough Northern and Western Congressmen would refuse to support it; Southern politicians hoped that Congress would refuse to pass a law protecting women's civil rights. Indeed, this demonstrates that for many protecting American women's civil rights was even more controversial and divisive than protecting Black's civil rights. But, in the end, the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed despite the fact that it would now force to federal government to also protect women's civil rights.

Many opponents of the ERA argue that it is not needed because women are included in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But, in fact, in 1965 and 1966 the federal government and the courts refused to enforce the Civil Rights Act's protection of women, arguing that it was a "fluke" and that Congress had not really intended to include women in the law. Despite the fact that women were included in the law, the government refused to protect women's civil rights. This refusal outraged the leaders of the women's movement. They felt that once again women were going to lose out to Blacks, who were granted full citizenship and the right to vote after the Civil War, while women were told to wait, that there time would come soon. It seemed that once again the government was telling women to wait, that it would now protect Black's civil rights but not women's. As a result of the government's refusal to enforce the laws protecting women's civil rights, the leaders of the women's movement got together and formed the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. NOW's major goal was to force the government to enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

But by the late 1960s, the leaders of NOW decided that enforcing the Civil Rights laws were not enough. They concluded only a Constitutional amendment that once and for all included women as full citizens under the law would guarantee women equal rights and freedoms in the United States. State and federal governments had already proven that they would find ways out of enforcing lesser legal protections for women's rights. In fact, some critics of the ERA argue that it is not needed because women were included in the 14th amendment's guarantee of equal rights under the law to "all person born and naturalized in the United States." But, as we have seen, the Supreme Court on a number of occasions has ruled that the 14th amendment's protections did not include women. Supporters argued that only the Equal Rights amendment would force American government and society to finally recognize women as persons and full citizens under the law.

Let's look at NOW's "Declaration of Purpose" in 1966 to better understand the goals of the women's movement and supporters of the ERA. (See The History of the National Organization for Women.)

The National Organization for Women's 1966 Statement of Purpose

We, men and women who hereby constitute ourselves as the National Organization for Women, believe that the time has come for a new movement toward true equality for all women in America, and toward a fully equal partnership of the sexes, as part of the world-wide revolution of human rights now taking place within and beyond our national borders.

The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.

We believe the time has come to move beyond the abstract argument, discussion and symposia over the status and special nature of women which has raged in America in recent years; the time has come to confront, with concrete action, the conditions that now prevent women from enjoying the equality of opportunity and freedom of choice which is their right, as individual Americans, and as human beings.

NOW is dedicated to the proposition that women, first and foremost, are human beings, who, like all other people in our society, must have the chance to develop their fullest human potential. We believe that women can achieve such equality only by accepting to the full the challenges and responsibilities they share with all other people in our society, as part of the
decision-making mainstream of American political, economic and social life.

We organize to initiate or support action, nationally, or in any part of this nation, by individuals or organizations, to break through the silken curtain of prejudice and discrimination against women in government, industry, the professions, the churches, the political parties, the judiciary, the labor unions, in education, science, medicine, law, religion and every other field of importance in American society.

Enormous changes taking place in our society make it both possible and urgently necessary to advance the unfinished revolution of women toward true equality, now. With a life span lengthened to nearly 75 years it is no longer either necessary or possible for women to devote the greater part of their lives to child- rearing; yet childbearing and rearing which continues to
be a most important part of most women's lives -- still is used to justify barring women from equal professional and economic participation and advance.

Today's technology has reduced most of the productive chores which women once performed in the home and in mass-production industries based upon routine unskilled labor. This same technology has virtually eliminated the quality of muscular strength as a criterion for filling most jobs, while intensifying American industry's need for creative intelligence. In view of this new industrial revolution created by automation in the mid-twentieth century, women can and must participate in old and new fields of society in full equality -- or become permanent outsiders.

Despite all the talk about the status of American women in recent years, the actual position of women in the United States has declined, and is declining, to an alarming degree throughout the 1950's and 60's. Although 46.4% of all American women between the ages of 18 and 65 now work outside the home, the overwhelming majority -- 75% -- are in routine clerical, sales, or factory jobs, or they are household workers, cleaning women, hospital attendants. About two-thirds of Negro women workers are in the lowest paid service occupations. Working women are becoming increasingly -- not less -- concentrated on the bottom of the job ladder. As a consequence full-time women workers today earn on the average only 60% of what men earn, and that wage gap has been increasing over the past twenty-five years in every major industry group. In 1964, of all women with a yearly income, 89% earned under $5,000 a year; half of all full-time year round women workers earned less than $3,690; only 1.4% of full-time year round women workers had an annual income of $10,000 or more.

Further, with higher education increasingly essential in today's society, too few women are entering and finishing college or going on to graduate or professional school. Today, women earn only one in three of the B.A.'s and M.A.'s granted, and one in ten of the Ph.D.'s.

In all the professions considered of importance to society, and in the executive ranks of industry and government, women are losing ground. Where they are present it is only a token handful. Women comprise less than 1% of federal judges; less than 4% of all lawyers; 7% of doctors. Yet women represent 51% of the U.S. population. And, increasingly, men are replacing women in the top positions in secondary and elementary schools, in social work, and in libraries -- once thought to be women's fields.

Official pronouncements of the advance in the status of women hide not only the reality of this dangerous decline, but the fact that nothing is being done to stop it. The excellent reports of the President's Commission on the Status of Women and of the State Commissions have not been fully implemented. Such Commissions have power only to advise. They have no power to enforce their recommendation; nor have they the freedom to organize American women and men to press for action on them. The reports of these commissions have, however, created a
basis upon which it is now possible to build. Discrimination in employment on the basis of sex is now prohibited by federal law, in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But although nearly one-third of the cases brought before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the first year dealt with sex discrimination and the proportion is increasing dramatically, the Commission has not made clear its intention to enforce the law with the same seriousness on behalf of women as of other victims of discrimination. Many of these cases were Negro women, who are the victims of double discrimination of race and sex. Until now, too few women's organizations and official spokesmen have been willing to speak out against these dangers facing women. Too many women have been restrained by the fear of being called `feminist." There is no civil rights movement to speak for women, as there has been for Negroes and other victims of discrimination. The National Organization for Women must therefore begin to speak.

WE BELIEVE that the power of American law, and the protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to the civil rights of all individuals, must be effectively applied and enforced to isolate and remove patterns of sex discrimination, to ensure equality of opportunity in employment and education, and equality of civil and political rights and responsibilities on behalf of women, as well as for Negroes and other deprived groups.

We realize that women's problems are linked to many broader questions of social justice; their solution will require concerted action by many groups. Therefore, convinced that human rights for all are indivisible, we expect to give active support to the common cause of equal rights for all those who suffer discrimination and deprivation, and we call upon other organizations committed to such goals to support our efforts toward equality for women.

WE DO NOT ACCEPT the token appointment of a few women to high-level positions in government and industry as a substitute for serious continuing effort to recruit and advance women according to their individual abilities. To this end, we urge American government and industry to mobilize the same resources of ingenuity and command with which they have solved problems of far greater difficulty than those now impeding the progress of women.

WE BELIEVE that this nation has a capacity at least as great as other nations, to innovate new social institutions which will enable women to enjoy the true equality of opportunity and responsibility in society, without conflict with their responsibilities as mothers and homemakers. In such innovations, America does not lead the Western world, but lags by decades behind many European countries. We do not accept the traditional assumption that a woman has to choose between marriage and motherhood, on the one hand, and serious participation in industry or the professions on the other. We question the present expectation that all normal women will retire from job or profession for 10 or 15 years, to devote their full time to raising children, only to reenter the job market at a relatively minor level. This, in itself, is a deterrent
to the aspirations of women, to their acceptance into management or professional training courses, and to the very possibility of equality of opportunity or real choice, for all but a few women. Above all, we reject the assumption that these problems are the unique responsibility of each individual woman, rather than a basic social dilemma which society must solve. True equality of opportunity and freedom of choice for women requires such practical, and possible innovations as a nationwide network of child-care centers, which will make it unnecessary for
women to retire completely from society until their children are grown, and national programs to provide retraining for women who have chosen to care for their children full-time.

WE BELIEVE that it is as essential for every girl to be educated to her full potential of human ability as it is for every boy -- with the knowledge that such education is the key to effective participation in today's economy and that, for a girl as for a boy, education can only be serious where there is expectation that it will be used in society. We believe that American educators are capable of devising means of imparting such expectations to girl students. Moreover, we consider the decline in the proportion of women receiving higher and professional education to be evidence of discrimination. This discrimination may take the form of quotas against the admission of women to colleges, and professional schools; lack of encouragement by parents, counselors and educators; denial of loans or fellowships; or the traditional or arbitrary procedures in graduate and professional training geared in terms of men, which inadvertently discriminate against women. We believe that the same serious attention must be given to high school dropouts who are girls as to boys.

WE REJECT the current assumptions that a man must carry the sole burden of supporting himself, his wife, and family, and that a woman is automatically entitled to lifelong support by a man upon her marriage, or that marriage, home and family are primarily woman's world and responsibility -- hers, to dominate -- his to support. We believe that a true partnership between the sexes demands a different concept of marriage, an equitable sharing of the responsibilities of home and children and of the economic burdens of their support. We believe that proper recognition should be given to the economic and social value of homemaking and child-care. To these ends, we will seek to open a reexamination of laws and mores governing marriage and divorce, for we believe that the current state of `half-equity" between the sexes discriminates against both men and women, and is the cause of much unnecessary hostility between the sexes.

WE BELIEVE that women must now exercise their political rights and responsibilities as American citizens. They must refuse to be segregated on the basis of sex into separate-and-not-equal ladies' auxiliaries in the political parties, and they must demand representation according to their numbers in the regularly constituted party committees -- at local, state, and national levels -- and in the informal power structure, participating fully in the selection of candidates and political decision-making, and running for office themselves.

IN THE INTERESTS OF THE HUMAN DIGNITY OF WOMEN, we will protest, and endeavor to change, the false image of women now prevalent in the mass media, and in the texts, ceremonies, laws, and practices of our major social institutions. Such images perpetuate contempt for women by society and by women for themselves. We are similarly opposed to all policies and practices -- in church, state, college, factory, or office -- which, in the guise of protectiveness, not only deny opportunities but also foster in women self-denigration, dependence, and evasion of responsibility, undermine their confidence in their own abilities and foster contempt for women.

NOW WILL HOLD ITSELF INDEPENDENT OF ANY POLITICAL PARTY in order to mobilize the political power of all women and men intent on our goals. We will strive to ensure that no party, candidate, president, senator, governor, congressman, or any public official who betrays or ignores the principle of full equality between the sexes is elected or appointed to office. If it is necessary to mobilize the votes of men and women who believe in our cause, in order to win for women the final right to be fully free and equal human beings, we so commit ourselves.

WE BELIEVE THAT women will do most to create a new image of women by acting now, and by speaking out in behalf of their own equality, freedom, and human dignity - - not in pleas for special privilege, nor in enmity toward men, who are also victims of the current, half-equality between the sexes - - but in an active, self-respecting partnership with men. By so doing, women will develop confidence in their own ability to determine actively, in partnership with men, the conditions of their life, their choices, their future and their society.

This Statement of Purpose was co-authored by Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, and Dr. Pauli Murray, an African-American, Episcopal minister.

What was it about the demands of NOW and the growing women's movement in the 1960s and 1970s that caused the growth of a committed and powerful "Stop ERA" campaign and an anti-feminist backlash by the 1970s and 1980s? In order to understand the growing opposition to the ERA and the women's movement by conservative men and women and by powerful Christian organizations, we need to look at the growth of the "Religious Right" and the "conservative Right" in America since the 1950s. See Historical Background of the Religious Right site for a general history of the growth of the conservative movement after World War II. In order to understand the rise of the the Religious Right in the 1970s and 1980s, see The Religious Right Of The '6Os And '7Os and The Religious Right Of The '8Os And '9Os internet sites. For a good historical overview of the rise and growing power and influence of Religious conservatism in American society and politics since 1960s, see the With God on Our Side site. Finally to get a look at the political and religious views of some of the major Christian groups that helped defeat the ERA, see The Christian Coalition Home Page and The Eagle Forum Home Page. With the defeat of the ERA in 1982, many religious and political conservatives went on to try to roll back some of the victories of the women's movement in the 1960s and 1970s. What is it about women's full social, economic, and political equality with men that caused conservative American men and women to fight so hard against equality for women?

Let's look at an excellent summary essay, "Women against Feminism," by Rebecca Klatch to understand the rise of the conservative opposition to the women's movement. Klatch begins her argument by equating feminism and the women's movement with the social and moral decay caused by the 1960s. The implication is that feminist, civil rights, student, anti-war, and other political movements of the 1960s damaged American society. But how did the women's movement damage America? Klatch charges that feminism was in fact an ideological attack on the family that has caused the decline of the family and "family values" in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. Along with the other radical changes in the 1960s, she argues, feminism helped cause the "internal erosion of the moral bases supporting family life, particularly with the rising divorce rate and increased number of working mothers."

Klatch, like other religious and political conservatives, argues that many of the major social problems that faced the United States in the 1970s and 1980s were caused by the women's movement and its moral and political campaign against the family. Anti-feminists charge that rising divorce rates, drug-use, the breakdown in families, youth violence, homosexuality, and growing poverty among women and children are all caused by feminism and so-called "women's liberation." But how does this work? Aren't these problems symptoms of larger social and political crises facing American society? How can feminism possibly be responsible for all these growing problems?

Klatch argues that in demanding social, economic, and political equality for women, feminists have undermined women's traditional roles in American society. Women's traditional roles of wife and mother, many conservatives believe, is the glue that holds the family and the larger society together. If women give up these roles and try to "become like men," Klatch argues, then society and the family will break down. She writes:

"When individuality and freedom of self extend to women as well as to men, marriage, the family, and society itself are threatened....Feminism is a threat, then, because when women pursue self-interest, not only is the family neglected but also ultimately women become like men. Hence, "macho feminism" is destructive because if everyone pursues their own interest, no one is left to look out for the larger good, that is, to be altruistic, to be the nurturer, the caretaker, the mother. In short, the underlying fear expressed by this critique of feminism is the fear of a a total masculinization of the world."

By demanding to have the same rights and freedoms as men, Klatch argues that feminism is anti-family, selfish, and narcissistic. Her underlying assumption is that only women can care for, support, and nurture the family and society. If women give up their roles as wives and mothers and try to become like men, then the family, marriage, and society will not work. But what about men? Why can't both men and women care for, support, and nurture the family and society?

Anti-feminists argue that American society can't afford to grant women equality with men. Women need to continue to be granted protection and "special rights" if they are expected to carry out their roles as wives and mothers. Klatch now reveals the anti-men assumptions held by the anti-feminist movement:

"The underlying image of men is of creatures with uncontrollable passions and little sense of commitment or loyalty. Only moral and legal authority can restrain the savagery of male nature....Thus, when feminists remove the safety valves that currently exist to protect women, they leave homemakers particularly vulnerable to men."

Only if men are forced to support and protect their wives and children will men accept their responsibilities. By threatening the rights of women to be supported and protected by men, Klatch argues the ERA threatens to undermine women's traditional roles and undermine the American family.

But if men are moral monsters, as Klatch argues, then why should women allow men to dominate their lives and rule the family? Shouldn't women be trusted with the authority to run the family if men are so morally irresponsible? Here, the anti-feminists make an amazing move. They argue that women are, in fact, "the real power behind the throne." Despite what men think, women only pretend to accept men's authority and domination; women are really in control. Phyllis Schlafly, the leader of the "Stop ERA" movement, argues:

"The Positive Woman accepts her responsibility to spin the fabric of civilization, to mend its tears, and to reinforce its seams....God has a mission for every Positive Woman. It is up to her to find out what it is and to meet the challenge."

Thus, the ERA must be defeated because it threatens women's traditional God-given role of wife and mother. If women don't accept their traditional roles, Klatch concludes, then the family, marriage, and society will not work.

Even though the majority of American women and men supported the ERA and equality for women, there were enough conservative men and women to defeat the ERA and derail the women's movement. Just as in the past, Americans were reluctant to give up their traditional belief in two separate and distinct roles for men and women. Supporters of this "women's sphere" argued that women must not demand the same rights and freedoms as men because if they didn't carry out their traditional roles and responsibilities the American family and society would break down. Basically, their argument is that the strength of American society lies in the family, and anything that threatens the family threatens America.

Faced with the growing power of the Religious Right in the 1980s and 1990s, the women's movement was forced to retreat and protect the victories they had already won. In fact, some conservatives in the early 1990s were calling supporters of feminism "feminazis." Women and feminists have become useful scapegoats for conservatives who want to blame America's social and economic decline since the 1970s on the 1960s and the women's movement attack on "family values." The challenge facing women today is how to convince Americans that granting women political, economic, and social equality with men will help the family and will help America solve some of the major problems and crises it faces. Until feminists can do this, many Americans will continue to believe that America cannot afford to grant women equal rights. And the contradiction remains: America can grant Blacks, immigrants, and other minorities greater rights, but it can't seem to grant women equal rights. Equal rights for women continue to be more controversial and politically unacceptable than equal rights for racial minorities. This is one of the larger contradiction that grew out of the civil rights and women's movement of the 1960s.

© 2002 by Chris H.  Lewis, Ph.D.
Sewall Academic Program; University of Colorado at Boulder
Created 7 August 2002:  Last Modified: 18 Nov. 2002
E-mail: cclewis@spot.colorado.edu
URL:    http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/feminism.htm
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