Rights Amendment needed
JENNIFER ARMIGER, For the Courier-Post, August 21, 2005
The rights won for
women in the past three decades have resulted in a dangerous and
misguided belief that we have somehow achieved equality of the
sexes. Social conditions reveal otherwise.
The wage gap between women and men persists. Women
represent less than 20 percent of congressional representatives,
while we represent a slight majority of the population.
Women still are the ones who do the majority of housework and
stay home with children, sacrificing earnings, careers and
Social Security credits.
Meanwhile, cultural and political conservatives, who argue that
we have actually achieved a state of reverse discrimination in
which white males are disadvantaged by women and racial
minorities, seek the continued dismantling of affirmative action
programs and civil rights laws.
American women have minimal protection through legislation and
no constitutional guarantee of equality.
Critics and opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment argue that
equating the sexes would remove the various forms of protective
legislation that have benefited women, most particularly labor
laws. Cultural and religious conservatives argue the ERA
would be deleterious to women by devaluing the roles of wife and
But the ERA would expand the rights of everyone, women as well
Whether women lean to the left or right, the recent calls by
mothers of all stripes for greater social and workplace support
of parenting options reveal that the enshrinement of wives and
mothers has not been enough. Women need legal and social
The ERA would do much in the way of equalizing women's wages and
benefits and thus taking the burden off of men and creating more
equal partnerships in the home.
Likewise, an ERA would more effectively equalize divorce,
alimony and custody disputes between men and women by removing
the burden of long-held cultural stereotypes about family roles
that have set legal standards in divorce law.
Young women want more choices. We want to know that all
occupations are open to us. When we earn our degrees and
enter the careers of our choice, we want to be paid the same as
men of equal rank. Yet, if we are not college bound, we
also want occupations that have long been filled predominantly
by women to be recognized and paid for their true worth.
When a man working as a general laborer on a union construction
job can support a family, yet a woman working as a waitress or a
cashier cannot, we see a problem, especially since "welfare" for
women and children has been largely dismantled.
Give us options
Young women want to have options when it comes to raising our
children -- options that are not limited to "career oriented"
and "stay-at-home mom."
We want our government and our employers to support us socially
and economically in these family options, and not just pay lip
service to the wonderful role of motherhood.
And whether we choose to be conservative, religious or liberal,
we want equality in the eyes of the law. Whether we call
ourselves feminist or not, we want and need the Equal Rights
The writer is co-president of the South Jersey National
Organization for Women--Alice Paul chapter, which serves Camden,
Burlington and Gloucester counties. Contact her at