Larry Flynt Calls For Return Of The ERA

Larry Flynt Calls For Return Of The ERA

I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see such strong feminist writing coming from the mouth of infamous Hustler publisher (and free speech advocate) Larry Flynt.  But there it is, in the Huffington Post, for all to see.

The quintessentially 1970s Flynt calls for a return of the Equal Rights Amendment.  The Equal Rights Amendment was THE issue of the 1970s.  It was bigger than the Tea Party and Obama's health care reform combined.  It divided the country for over ten years.  It would have amended the Constitution to give women equal rights, and I am sad to say that it failed.

The ERA would have guaranteed women equal rights, "not to be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."  

Interestingly, in the context of today's political theater, the Republican party was vocal in its support of the ERA until 1980.  Funny to think of the Republican party as being pro-feminism, but there you have it.  This makes me wonder if Sarah Palin would back a return of the ERA to the political foray?  If so, I would have to seriously evaluate my opinions of her.

Since the ERA's demise in 1982, Democrats have taken up the cause exclusively.  The ERA continues to be reintroduced every year, although surely at this point it's surely just a formality, a "never forget" kind of gesture to a nation that has largely moved on.

One thing that continually dooms the Equal Rights Amendment is the issue of abortion.  Pro-lifers feel that passage of the ERA would basically write the right to terminate a pregnancy into the constitution.  This isn't true, of course, but that doesn't stop them from waving around a bunch of rubber fetuses and keeping the ERA down.

Interestingly enough, many of the key tenets of the ERA have since been enacted, in various bits and pieces.  Title IX for example gave women equal access to sports in school.  Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act explicitly prohibits gender discrimination in the workplace.  Most state laws have an additional battery of laws against gender discrimination.

Flynt specifically cites the issue of women's pay (women are still only earning 73 cents on the dollar in the open market).  But "equal pay for equal work" was legislated by the Equal Pay Act of 1963.  Which only goes to show you that legislation can only go so far.

One thing that may prevent the ERA from gaining traction today is that it is exclusive to cisgendered people.  Any issue of gender equality and gender rights that doesn't address transgender issues is going to have a difficult time with the contemporary (a.k.a. Third Wave) feminists, who make an effort to be inclusive.  It is a sad truth of the history of feminism that the movement and its leaders were frequently homophobic, racist, and often both.

Unfortunately, I think we have gone as far as we can so far as legislation is concerned.  The struggle at this point is to change people's minds, their entire attitude towards women.  Attitudes which, I am obliged to point out, stem partly from the kinds of things that Flynt himself has been cheerfully publishing all these years.

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