August 26th was the 99th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. Since then, women have been able to vote in the United States, something many people regard as a huge step forward for women’s rights. But even as Congress passed it, women were unequal. Some jobs were not legally open to women. In many states, women were unable to exercise full control over their finances. Moreover, women didn’t have the full power to divorce their husbands. Women especially faced a great deal of social inequality including backward notions of femininity and misplaced ideas of womanly weakness. But after decades of lobbying and law removing, women finally achieved legal equality to men in the mid-1980s. Despite this, the hashtag “#Equalitycantwait” is trending on Twitter. The hashtag both celebrates the 19th amendment and levies concerns about the true state of women’s equality in America.
Most of the posts under the Equality Can’t Wait hashtag involve one of a few things. The first is companies coming out of the woodwork waxing poetic about how their big business firm truly supports and uplifts women. Second is fairly wholesome women using this hashtag as an opportunity to take pictures with special women in their lives or to praise their favorite female celebrities. It’s much like how some use International Women’s Day to do the same sort of sorority signaling. Third is politicians and corporations calling attention to the long-debunked wage gap. Fourth is activists endorsing the proposed ERA, or Equal Rights Amendment. The fifth is people complaining about various the anecdotal ways society treats women and men differently.
A Harmful Spread of Misinformation
Virtue signaling your company and celebrating female friendships are great. But corporations, politicians, and activists touting out the wage gap myth, proposing the ERA, and advocating law to change society is something to contend with. It is all untruthful, needless, and harmful. Not to mention coming from the mouths of politicians and activists, people are far more likely to take it seriously. Harvard debunked the wage gap myth in a recent study, along with other outlets and statistical journals. This includes Vox media, a notably liberal group. So many people have debunked it that it would be pointless to rehash.
One concerning thing under the Equality Can’t Wait hashtag is a vague allusion to inequalities women face societally, rather than legally. This is clever because the claim “women are pressured out of STEM fields” isn’t something really provable. It’s very anecdotal. There are two sides to a claim like this. It is either that some law ought to exist to remedy this real or imagined problem, or it is that companies, especially STEM companies, should work on being “more inclusive” to women.
The second option will either result in more unqualified STEM workers, and thus, women doing poorly in said field, or it will result in failing diversity programs. Unqualified women in science and engineering brought in via phony initiative doesn’t just lower the quality of the work in that field. It also damages the reputation of women in STEM. The average woman is simply less equipped for STEM fields than the average man. Whether this is caused by an inherent sex difference or societal pressure is entirely irrelevant. As long as the end result is a less-qualified woman, a diversity operation would be damaging.
Equality Can’t Wait Laws
The first option though is far more sinister. Because the Equality Can’t Wait hashtag is involved with politicians and people calling for other types of legislation, there is an implication– subtle or overt– that something legal ought to be done about real or imagined social inequalities between men and women. Social inequalities can be things as concrete as discrepancies in career fields to “pressure” relating to fashion. These are all anecdotal. They would also be dystopian to tear down by law. To stop society from treating women differently, serious social engineering would be necessary. Encouraging this also misunderstands the fact that society treats women differently in varying ways, some good and some bad. Because there are different kinds of people, whether the categories be arbitrary or legitimate, the world will treat the various types differently. It is a quality of human differentiation.
Nonetheless, hysterics about Senators drafting laws that would force every misogynist in America to treat women well is a misplaced fear. Most lawmakers know little to nothing of this Equality Can’t Wait hashtag and are thus unconcerned with the pettier women’s issues people peddle out online. But the push for an equal rights amendment, or ERA, is an entirely relevant fear. This raises the obvious question: why do we need an ERA?
Legal Equality Already Exists
That is a wholly reasonable worry. After all, the United States does have the 14th Amendment which rather plainly states “equal protection of the laws” and “All persons born or naturalized in the United States…” Last I checked, all included women. These two pieces of the first section of the 14th Amendment make it clear that women indeed have equal protection under the law, as do all people. Like any law, this is not always upheld, but that is a problem with the State itself, not the alleged sexism of current legislation.
The ERA currently proposed has an information website where it justifies its existence and explains its goals. It seems to be less about real equality and more about Roe v. Wade and the Lilly Ledbetter case. Further, the existence of this amendment may be about optics to a significant degree. One of the stated reasons for its existence is to “Improve the United States’ standing in the world community”. Apparently, since America has an amendment banning all acts of legal discrimination, it looks frumpy on the global stage. It takes two to look progressive. This is despite the fact that women and men are on almost equal playing fields, legally speaking. There is not a single right that men have that women do not.
Circumcision: Where Boys Have Fewer Rights
But notice my use of the word “almost”. Although an ERA of any kind is not the answer, women hold one legal right in America which men do not: the right to genital integrity. Yes, circumcision and genital cutting are the places where the government protects girls and leaves boys to slip through the cracks. Rightfully and thankfully, female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal. But male genital mutilation (MGM), commonly called circumcision, is completely allowed. To call FGM barbaric and cruel is commendable, but even referring to circumcision as MGM is something that shocks most people. The way the West (and the world) see men as disposable can be put on the backburner for now. It is a far larger concern than little boys are legally allowed to be cut into and mutilated. The world knows it’s horrifying when someone does this to girls and should hold an equal standard.
But even this glaring discrepancy isn’t an excuse to ignore existing legislation. It does, however, demonstrate that women and men are not unequal in the way most people think. The right to genital integrity does not require an entire amendment of its own, but it is a significant problem. The practice is needless and harmful. In America and other non-Jewish, non-Muslim majority communities, it’s almost entirely a result of anti-sex propaganda. To achieve equality in this area requires only one law, but the Equality Can’t Wait hashtag failed to recognize this.
An Undesirable End
However, to remedy every discrepancy between men and women with a law is not only impossible; it’s also immoral. Men are the ones America legally discriminates against, so women’s advocacy wouldn’t change that. Social discrimination is nearly unprovable, with instances that may or may not be due to actual discrimination.
The hell-raising over the plight of women in the West is based off a handful of weak platitudes and disproven statistics. But even then, when genuine legal differences between men and women exist, it is because of a failure to uphold a law that already exists or a failure to apply that law universally. If the Equality Can’t Wait hashtag truly is about equality on all levels, the people under it simply need to make themselves more well-rounded and more accurate in their activism.