Last night while I was reading Alan Alda's _Never Have Your Dog Stuffed_, I came across the chapter where he describes going around working on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. I didn't know he did that, and I'm guessing lots of other people didn't as well... Thus Feminist of the Week was born.*
"A woman in Illinois told me about an encounter with a legislator who had refused time after time to vote for [the ERA], saying it just didn't matter to his constituents. After she had made every argument she was capable of, he finally said, 'All right. I'll vote for it if you come up to my hotel room this afternoon and give me a hand job.' And he wasn't joking. Something like voting for the 14th Amendment in exchange for a couple of good slaves.
'Why are you working so hard for equality for women?' I was asked a little suspiciously sometimes. In fact, I was asked this so many times, I began to realize I didn't know myself what the answer was. At first, I tried flip answer. 'I come from a long line of women,' I said. Or, 'Well, I'm from a mixed marriage. My father was a man, and my mother was a woman.' But these jokes didn't explain it. Why was I spending so much energy on it, even willing to get some people mad at me?
Partly, it was that I knew it could be helpful if a man spoke out in public about these things, and I kept going out, trying to help. And there's no doubt that I loved getting up in front of audiences and making speeches. There certainly was that. I could hear the nun behind me chuckling again. But mostly, I think, it made me angry that we were refusing to guarantee half our citizens equality under the law.
Finally, though, with all the efforts of hundreds of thousands of people, the amendment lost. These few words never made it into the Constitution: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
- Alan Alda, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed (177-178)
*I don't want to hear any crap about how I picked a man to be Feminist of the week. Lots of men are feminists and lots of women are feminists. So there.