Feminist Friday – Ani DiFranco and the ERA

I’m not sure there’s a single song in the canon of Ani DiFranco’s work that doesn’t send a chill up my spine, put goosebumps on my arm, or send my fists up into the air in a gesture of ‘fuck yeah’ solidarity. I’m a fan girl. A total, and complete, unabashed fan girl. She’s got a new album coming out January 17, 2012 and I’m already biting my nails in anticipation.

And on this new album is a song about the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA, authored in 1923 by Alice Paul (who was a badass women’s advocate), says very simply that,

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. 

Shorter version: People of any sex should be Constitutionally guaranteed equal rights. A no brainer, right? Yeah, well, the ERA was introduced in every session of Congress between 1923 and 1970, and essentially went nowhere. Finally, in 1972 the proposed 27th Amendment to the Constitution (a different 27th Amendment has since been ratified) passed Congress and went to the states for ratification. States had 7 years to ratify the amendment, and it couldn’t be done. So again, the ERA has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1982 to no avail. It’s 2011 and equality for women is not guaranteed by federal law.

Paul, in closing remarks made in Seneca Falls in 1923 at a celebration honoring the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls convention of 1848, said,

“We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.”

(Insert a fuck yeah of solidarity.)

And in 2011, this is what Ani has to say about it.

wouldn’t it be nice if
we had an amendment
to give civil rights to
women…

I know what you’re thinking
that’s just redundant
chicks got it good now
they can almost be president
but it’s worker against worker
time and time again
’cause the rich use certain issues as a tool
and when I said we need the ERA it ain’t cause I’m a fool
it’s cause without it nobody can get away
with anything cool

we gotta come down abortion
put it down in the books for good
as central to the civil rights of women…and if you don’t like abortion
don’t have an abortion
teach your children
how they can avoid them
but don’t treat all women
like they are your children…

your body is your only true dominion…

in this amendment
family structures shall be free
we’ll have the right to civil union
it takes unions of all kinds
unions of hearts and minds
to give society communion
let’s do more than tolerate
let gay and straight resonate
and emanate all things human
with equal rights and
equal protection
intolerance finally ruined

(nearly complete lyrics available here.)

I’ve been ragey this week.

Monday I read this article about a woman who has made it her mission to break the code of silence about sexual assaults on college campuses in the United States. A woman was raped and when she took her complaint to the Sexual Assault board “administrators offered mediation as an option and warned her that if she spoke about her case publicly, she– the victim– could face expulsion for an Honor Code violation.” Excuse me, but what is there to MEDIATE? She was raped, she wasn’t in a fight with her suite mate over whose turn it was to vacuum. Oh, and she couldn’t talk about it. I hate the code of silence.

Then there was this article about a fraternity at the University of Vermont sending out a survey to its members asking them if they could rape someone, who would it be? I…I…I don’t even have words for this. The frat has been suspended, but you know what? I could give a crap about the frat. I want the boys who did this to hear the stories of women who have been raped. I don’t want them to talk, or to defend, justify or minimize their actions. I want them to sit down for a week and do nothing but read the experiences of rape. Of having your body stolen from you by someone who believes they are entitled to it. I want them to understand, so viscerally, that rape is dehumanizing, it is asserting domain over someone else’s body, and it is violent. That it is NOT having sex. That is is NOT no big deal. That is is NOT something to make light of. Ever.  Rape culture wins again.

Ugh.

So it was nice to end the week with this great interview with Ani over at No Depression. Go read.

Enjoy your weekend!

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