It has been quite a month for women’s rights.
On March 1, the Nevada State Senate voted on and passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), an amendment over 30 years in the making.
Nevada State Senator Patricia Spearman articulates the amendment’s intent: “You cannot abridge the rights of anyone based upon sex, and so it means once [the ERA] is adopted fully into the Constitution, it means everyone who happens to be a woman is now constitutionally equal to their male counterparts.”
In simpler terms, the ERA, if ratified, would recognize women in the Constitution as fully equal to men in the eyes of the law. This could make it easier for women to refuse lower wages for the same work as men and could provide greater support for women in their everyday battles against sexism as well as battles in court.
Essentially, women’s rights would be fully supported by our Constitution. If this amendment were to pass in Nevada, only two more states would need to ratify the 1972 measure and Congress could potentially make it the 28th amendment to the Constitution.
Back in 1972 when the ERA was introduced, Congress passed the amendment but needed at least 38 states to ratify it in order for the amendment to fully become part of the Constitution. The measure failed.
Only 35 states ratified the amendment, with Nevada being one of the states that initially did not do so.
This is the fourth time that Nevada has voted on the issue. In 1973, 1975 and 1978, the ERA was approved in the Nevada Assembly but defeated in the Senate. Sheila Leslie of the Reno News & Review pointed out: “It’s telling to note there were just five women serving in the Nevada Legislature in 1973 and only seven in 1975. By 1977, the number of women in the Legislature had increased to eight.”
Seeing the same unresolved issues that female activists fought against years ago continue today speaks to the moment we are at in history.
Younger generations are embracing activism, and approaching it with a never-back-down attitude. Women are unapologetically claiming their space to be seen, heard, respected and valued, refusing to accept anything less.
This past Wednesday, women did just that. As a part of International Women’s Day, organizers of the Women’s March declared March 8 “A Day Without Women,” urging U.S. women to take the day off work if they could, or to show support in other ways if they couldn’t (such as wearing red).
The fight for equal rights rages on, and the words of black writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde echo into today: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
This sentiment is so critical to the fight for equality. Setting aside one’s self-absorption and individual problems in order to focus on the obstacles and injustice others face is the essence of activism.
Participation and awareness are the pillars of progress, and to see all these events unfolding is cause to be more involved and more conscious than ever.