Now comes one Carolyn Cook, described as the “Washington representative for the ERA Campaign Network”. She was recently allowed space in ‘The Philadelphia Inquirer’ to plump for the ERA.
For those readers who have joined Us recently, the ERA Amendment was put forth in 1972, the year that the Democrats formally unveiled themselves as the “Party of Women” (in George McGovern’s candid phrase). It was to be a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing “equality of rights under the law” to women and guaranteeing that nobody would be “discriminated against on the basis of sex”.
The first thought that came to my mind is that at this point it would appear that “men” might need such a guarantee more than – ummmmm – any other sex or gender. But that would be to jump down into the pit, and going further downward isn’t what the country needs right now – public discourse is debased enough as it is.
The piece starts off by pointing out that the Declaration of Independence, which is seen as controlling the interpretation of the Constitution, was whomped up by “56 white, male landowners representing 13 colonies”. This might possibly have been ‘news’ – or at least an interesting ‘take’ on the Founding documents back in 1972. It isn’t now. It’s like being in a time-warp.
The situation is intolerable, the piece is getting to, because the composition of the Framing group “is hardly representative of America today”. Yes and no. The Framers were consciously trying to speak for all humanity, and speak to all History, by incorporating principles that had been evolving throughout Western history toward the landmark moment in 1776 (followed by the Constitution in 1787) when one nation would be founded purely on the high principles that had been evolving piecemeal throughout the previous two millennia.
And while in one sense America is ‘different’ now in the sense that there are more than educated, land-owning white males in town, yet that ‘difference’ seems far less significant than the commonality that remains: America was founded as a country where all human beings were created equal. Whether the human beings are brownish, yellowish, reddish, whitish, or equipped with one type of plumbing instead of another does not change the principles.
So it seems strange that this concern about ‘white males’ is considered somehow crucially significant.
But a clue to what is being left unsaid, and what is going on beneath the surface, is provided a couple of lines further on in the piece: “With only one justice and a quarter of judges in state courts female, the odds are not in our favor”. Oy. Oy gevalt.
What is the significance of the gender of a judge such that having only a quarter of them female means that “the odds” are not in "our" favor? Is this the tip of a berg characterizable as: A judge will decide cases according to that judge’s gender? If this characterization is accurate, then the country is in a heap of trouble.
Or is this characterization what the ERA lobby would like to see happen? In which case, if We go along with them, this country is in a heap of trouble. And who is this “our”? Americans? Or just “women”? Or, more likely, just the “women” who support what the ERA is trying to pull here? Is it starting to become clear, how divisive this whole ‘gender’ (or ‘sex’) Identity is? Being ‘American’ is no longer to be the primary identifier for – theoretically, according to the Ideological Feminists whose handiwork I think I see here – 51% of the American population. This house is most certainly divided, is it not?
But what precisely are the “rights” and what precisely constitutes this “equality” of which the lobbyists speak? This I think is the real land-mine being planted under nice-looking verbal greenery. There has taken root in American legal and constitutional thought (as it were) the weedy distinction between Formal Equality and (something verrrry new and different) Substantive Equality. *
‘Formal Equality’ meant an equal treatment under the laws and an equality of opportunity. It is the ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’ concept and definition of American commitment to ‘rights’ and ‘equality’; you were to be free from government tyranny and free to give life a shot as best you could.
But ‘Substantive Equality’ has been developed only in the past few decades (during the same timeframe as Identity and Gender politics, by some coincidence). ‘Rights’ are entitlements and protections granted by the government, and are judged by the result that they lead to. If the results for some group turn out to be different from another group then that must constitute proof – the theory goes – that the government must ‘do whatever it takes’ (if I might borrow the candid Israeli phrase) to change the results and make them more ‘equal’.
The entire relationship between The People and the government is changed. And since the Founding documents (the Declaration and the Constitution) were put together by “white males” then according to the new theory those documents are suspect and fungible from the get-go. This, I submit, is going to lead to something other than a Constitutional Republic.
Nathanson and Young note as well that “the ultimate model of quality of result is Marx’s classless society, in which personal merit has little or nothing to do with the distribution of wealth”. I’m only secondarily concerned here with the distribution of wealth; my concern here is that the whole scheme is antithetical to the functioning and politics of a Constitutional Republic; and the fact that the whole scheme is essentially Marxist with ‘gender’ substituted for ‘class’ doesn’t make me feel any less apprehensive. The late Mr. Marx may have been a nice man and for all We know might be in heaven at this moment, but his ideas have resulted in untold catastrophe for hundreds of millions, and his was not the brightest chapter in the history of political theory.
Worse, the only way to achieve such equality of result is precisely by not applying laws equally, by not applying “the same rules in the same way to the all citizens as individuals” (Nathanson and Young again). And yet, in Our still-kicking democracy, the government must lie to (at least half of) its own People and insist that it is applying the laws equally; and government lying ... who needs to give any government yet another excuse to lie?
And the original equality of opportunity meshed nicely with classical Liberal theory. But equality of result comes from another political world altogether; there is nothing ‘Liberal’ about it; it is a statist mechanism. And when introduced into as complexly designed a matrix as the American Constitutional system then the implementation of such a mechanism cannot but be revolutionary. And ‘revolution’ doesn’t inhabit the same conceptual, operational, political, or moral space as a Constitutional and democratic politics.
I keep wondering how the frak We got here forty years or so later. I think that the original stated aim was that women (again, I’m speaking about what the self-proclaimed ‘advocates’ of females claimed, not about all female citizens) wanted to get into the job market. OK, that was no Constitutional problem (although in the US of the 1970s, with its declining industrial economy, it may have been arguably an unwise economic path to take).
But then something else got rolling, a different dynamic. ‘Women’, according to the Ideological Feminists (IFs) who proclaimed themselves the ‘advocates’ of all females in the country, were just the same as men and could not be seen to be different. Well, OK. But somehow so very many seemed to still remain attached to – well – ‘babies’ ... having them and raising them.
Now that was a complication: conceptually as well as organizationally. Didn’t the IFs insist that women were just like men, only with different bodies? What then was this continuous brouhaha that women who wanted jobs also wanted babies? Were women somehow ‘connected to’ babies in such a way that made having-a-job just way too much for one person – and her production-minded employer – to handle?
This, I think, was the huge disconnect that came to be unmentionable. The Dems couldn’t go near it because they had already made up their mind to give “women” – or really the IFs who claimed to represent them – carte blanche in order to secure the ‘women’s vote’, or at least the support of the IF lobby. The media, having tasted the blood of exciting ‘advocacy journalism’ were in no mood to go back to the boring old corral of ‘objective and factual reporting’, nor did the media bosses want to annoy a ‘customer’ base equaling 51% of the population.
So the matter never really was aired thoroughly. And yet the government kept having to twist itself and its construal and application of the laws into pretzels in order to work around this monstrous disconnect – that ‘women’, as opposed to their ‘advocates’, seemed to want both jobs and babies, and had been led now to expect that the Dems and the government they controlled would make it happen.
Nor did it appear that it was only ‘straight’ women who were evincing a deep, almost visceral (and therefore politically incorrect) attachment to having babies. Lesbians too seemed to evince the same attachments – which seemed to imply that Nature had evolved some deep and complex matrix within the female that not only was attuned to having babies but actually required the having of babies. And to notice THAT was to invite political and professional death; and was not often done.
But if Nature (and its daughter, Evolution) had so gone about designing females, then that of course could lead to justifiable speculation to the effect that maybe the ‘old’ approach to divvying up the chores in Western civilization (and many other world civilizations) might have been the right way to go. And to follow THAT string into the dark forest was also to invite political and professional death.
Nor could the Dems, having committed to ripping down any and all walls in the national House, now admit that there were such monstrous conceptual and actual warning signs that it might not have been a good idea, that it might even wind up proving to be a lethal or even a fatal idea.
And you still really can’t talk about it very openly.
Yet it is a stubborn actuality at the very center of domestic events, and has been so for decades.
Nor do I think you can really make the case that ‘gender’ is just another category like ‘race’. The ‘racial’ category is provably a chimera – there is no difference genetically between human beings of different races. There do seem to be, however, some very deep, clear, and robust differences between the genders. Ask yourself, if you’re in a burning building with two broken legs, if you’d like a perky female fireperson coming up the ladder to try to carry you down, or a more ‘quaint’ and ‘traditional’ fireman.
And there’s that having-babies thing, which I am starting to think is even more significant than the profound issue of females aborting ... whatever the government cares to call those little critters.
And it can be no coincidence that while historically all Americans (with the exception, back there half a century ago, of the benighted Southrons) could agree that denying ‘the Negro’ full civil rights and equality of opportunity was somehow not only wrong but antithetical to the American vision, there exists no such consensus as to just what – beyond political civil rights and the opportunities thus afforded - would constitute ‘full equality’ and ‘rights’ for ‘women’. Surely the sempiternal national argument over abortion ‘rights’ is clear evidence of that.
Nor can such argument be written off as ‘merely’ ‘backlash’ or evidence of some gender-wide, world-historical male plan to ruin women’s day. **
So what is this “equality” that only the ERA can provide? It seems like such a harmless, and indeed worthy, word - “equality”. But I think that the landmine is hidden right in there, in the way that Nathanson and Young have talked about: there are different conceptions of “equality” now, and the one that those who ‘get it’ plan to implement is hell-and-gone from the one that the rest of Us understand and that was built into the Constitution.
And those who ‘get it’ are spending all their days and nights figuring how to subvert what everybody else – in what little spare time and attention they can manage – assume that NO American government would ever piss away: the Constitutional heritage, securely anchored in the machinery of government “of the People, by the People, for the People”.
But it gets worse. As I said above, the word “equality” is the suspicious baggage here: it is not packed the way any average citizen would imagine, with Formal equality (of opportunity). Instead, it is sneakily packed with the suspicious, new, and hidden Substantive equality (of result).
So passing the ERA for the sake of “equality” is really a back-door solution to introducing into the core of Constitutional government and practice an entirely new, Constitution- and democracy-unfriendly ‘theory’ and ‘definition’ of Equality that, as noted above, will further derange the already-battered Constitutional ethos upon which this nation is based. Think ‘The Patriot Act’, which so many folks figured was just a way for the government to go after ‘terrorists’ and has turned out to be one heck of a lot more, and not much of it in Our common interest.
Once again, a highly-focused interest group, the Ideological Feminists (whose ideas, alas, are now pretty much the whole of what passes for ‘feminism’ in Beltway-land), are doing that revolutionary end-run around democratic politics, popular and public deliberation, and – let’s face it – around The People. This bunch is not democracy-friendly and does not have the best interests of all of the American people at heart, nor is it committed to the founding vision of this country.
But it gets even worse than that. I think that passage of the ERA without serious discussion and definition of just what this “equality” means is also a backdoor effort to reduce the political and perhaps legal liability of all the pols who for decades now have supported this anti-democratic assault in order to further and preserve their own interests and jobs; think of the ERA as they’re currently trying to spin it as the Ideological Feminist equivalent of the Military Commissions Act and the Telecommunications Act: it will serve to provide ‘immunity’ for all the pols who have betrayed the common weal by indulging the revolutionary programme of the IFs for all these years. After all, if “equality” as it is meant in the ERA becomes part of the Constitution itself through the Amendment process, then none of the pols can be held responsible for betraying their responsibility to the Constitution or for doing anything unconstitutional. Verrrrry shrewd. Verrrrry sleazy.
We need to be very careful here. True and genuine Citizens kick tires without apology or fear.
Let Us start kicking.
*For a fuller discussion of this see Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young, “Legalizing Misandry” (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press; 2006), on pp. 82-85 and in other places as indicated in the book’s Index under the headings “equality of opportunity” and “equality of result”.
**Can anyone honestly accept that for millennia males have been going to classes to learn how to discriminate against women? That at some point back there in history all the males, just out of pure meanness or whatever dark motives, got together and decided to overthrow the women-based hierarchical utopia under which all the tribes on the still-primitive planet are presumed to have been living? This is not, I say here, some subtle way of suggesting that Kinder, Kuche, und Kirche was the best and only way to arrange society – but surely things evolved historically in a more complex way than to simply insist that there existed some sort of genderistic Big Bang by which ‘men’ suddenly took over and subordinated a highly-functioning female-controlled tribe, or all of the tribes on the planet at once. But, of course, complexity and accuracy are gall and wormwood to ‘revolutions’ – and no revolution will permit complexity and accuracy to interfere with its urgent impositions.