equal rights amendment, gender, gender gaps, women in politics, Women's rights

equal means equal – right?

It’s been a good month for equality in the United States. The country celebrated transgender rights and threw Caitlyn Jenner the nicest coming out party ever. SCOTUS handed down a landmark decision to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states. And there’s a woman running for president.

Granted, transgender rights still have a long way to go – check out John Oliver’s segment on the issue. He really exposes the ways in which we currently view transgender people – most of us seem confused, and the rest want to ask them about their privates. Legally, they still have an uphill battle with many States viewing transgender identity as a lifestyle choice. and they still face higher rates of poverty, suicide and violence than the general public.

The gay movement is celebrating marriage equality and everyone is changing their Facebook profile photo. however, a moving piece by Darnell Moore exposes the ways in which the LGBTQ+ movement has failed to include him ‘under the rainbow’. he writes: ‘the “movement” might care about my queerness, but it certainly does not value my blackness’. this sentiment is one that the gay movement will have to address very soon if it wishes to stay true to its cause.

Historically, the feminist and gay movement have not always gotten on well. Feminists see the inclusion of gay women’s issues as a distraction from issues faced by all women regardless of their sexual orientation, and gay women see the feminist majority as trying to erase their experiences and unique challenges. The PBS documentary ‘Makers: Women Who Made America‘ takes a good look at the cost of this struggle. The schism has been so great that to this day you’ll find countries like Ireland, where gays can get married but women can’t get a legal abortion.

But here’s the thing –

Equality is for everybody. discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual orientation is unjust and it should be illegal. How those two have managed to be separated in the eyes of the public and of legislators is a question for another day. But for now I think the time is right for the feminist movement to reclaim this space and leverage the current public support for equal rights to fight for what we deserve.

rosie era

and thankfully – I’m not alone in my convictions.

On June 23rd, Meryl Streep sent five hundred and thirty-five letters to each and every Member of Congress urging them to support a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women. Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment stalled in 1982 as it was ratified by only 35 states, three states short of the 38 required to put it into the Constitution. The ERA has been introduced in Congress every year since, with little result. the ERA, together with much of the feminist movement, seemed stuck.

But the tide is turning. a new generation of feminists have taken up the call. a slew of girl’s empowerment campaigns have emerged, some led by civil society and some by large brands (#likeagirl, this girl can, Dove real beauty to name a few). they have both capitalized on the renewed feminist energy and also been instrumental in creating an added momentum. and with the wind of civil rights victories at our back, and a female presidential candidate with an outstanding record on advancing women’s rights at our lead, we might just make the ERA happen before I’m gray and old.

era

Jessica Neuwirth is the Founder and President of the ERA Coalition which is working to create a broad base of support for the ERA across America. ‘Equal Means Equal’ is a documentary produced by Patricia Arquette which takes a long hard look at the reality of women’s lives without the ERA and the personal cost to their freedom and civil liberties. Issues that have been getting more attention lately, from the pay gap and paid family leave, to domestic violence and trafficking, are all linked to the unequal treatment of women under the law and the continued discrimination they face in the United States in 2015.

I can only hope we have the courage to come together with the support of our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ+ community, and demand an end to discrimination against women with a constitutional guarantee.

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media

Bad Ads (2)

Despite the title, these aren’t exactly advertisements, so much as photo spreads in magazines. however, I’m pretty sure they are selling something too.

There have been a spate of glossy photos published in magazines lately that (on the face of it) seem to be challenging existing norms, or at least shocking us all into a conversation. But, delving deeper we might find that they are still cogs in a well oiled market driven machine that’s predicated on the objectification of women’s bodies.

the most obvious place to begin would be with Kim Kardashian’s notorious ‘breaking the internet‘ photo, but i refuse to give her space on my blog so won’t be posting this photo here. However, feel free to follow the link and then come back as I would like to draw some parallels with her father’s recent cover on Vanity Fair.

Caitlyn Jenner

Both photos seem like brave departures from established norms. The shock factor of Kim’s nudity is compounded by the sleek oiled look and emphasis the photo places on her generous backside. some hailed the photo as a feminist statement flouting conventional ideals of beauty and celebrating female power. however, as Naomi Wolf wrote many moons ago in ‘The Beauty Myth’ – power which derives from the gaze of another, is no power at all. I agree with Feminist Current who claim that women are sick of their bodies being used as ‘a disposable object for enterprise’. Much like paid commercials, Kim’s body is used (with her consent) to bolster a consumerist market, selling an unattainable, photo-shopped and cosmetically enhanced spectacle of female sexuality that almost boarders on the absurd.

Caitlyn Jenner seems to have made a similar choice in sharing her semi-nude body on the front pages of an important publication, creating a global collective intake of breath. so far reactions have been overwhelmingly positive and this photo is being haled as a breakthrough for transgender rights. however, as Laverne Cox wrote on her Tumblr, no one person can ever represent all trans people. I would also add, that so far both Laverne’s public identity and that of Caitlyn Jenner, have made a conscious effort to conform to standard beauty ideals, offering an unoffensive image of femininity.

I don’t expect trans people to carry the torch for the entire feminist movement and battle all gender stereotypes in addition to the discrimination they face already because of their trans identity. however, this photo just isn’t as subversive as it seems. Jenner has made a choice to look (through surgery) and dress in a way that glamorizes a very narrow kind of feminine beauty, and is also decked out in designer clothes – so we can all go out and buy her look. And this image also creates an apparent dichotomy between masculine and feminine representations that seem to be on complete opposite sides – an issue which should bother trans people as much as it bothers us, as it’s holding them to the same narrow normative beauty standards.

at the end of the day, there is nothing truly revolutionary about the image of femininity offered here or of the role of the female body in any of these images.

the final photo I would like to share is one that has cropped up quite a bit on my feed lately supposedly celebrating motherhood and challenging norms which call on women to cover up while breastfeeding.

ell mag

however, a closer look at this photo will reveal that the model is holding her 4 month old naked child like a casual handbag, and that this entire photo aesthetic calls to mind the use of a baby as a glamorous accessory. the designer clothing on the model and the nudity of the child, juxtaposed with her face which seems to be experiencing pleasure or release, which could be interpreted as sexual, is all incredibly disturbing. Once again, an image of supposedly female power is co-opted into the market driven consumerist world of glossy magazines, and the good intentions (maybe) of the storyteller are lost.

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