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WOMEN’S PUBLIC AUTHORITY & the ERA: Wishing & working for what we want (instead of against what we don’t want)

A recent podcast on gender identity, women’s public authority, and related issues led to a strange Twitter exchange between me and the guest, an attorney. The guest was one of the first in the U.S. (along with a co-author) to publicly alert the United Nations to the dangers for women and girls of substituting “gender” for “sex” in anti-discrimination and other legal or formal instruments. 

This blog is a continuation of that Twitter exchange, containing my response (too long for a Twitter thread) plus a better understanding of #WomensPublicAuthority as a positive articulation of women’s liberation, as opposed to the negative articulation of the ERA (and other 20th and 21st century statements on women crafted under the banner of “equality”). 

I welcome further dialogue with anyone who is interested in these issues and who is interested in growing women’s PUBLIC authority as the foundation for our PERSONAL authority.

Likewise, if anyone would like to support my work or work with me on #WomensPublicAuthority (and other high-impact U.S. policies that relate to FoodFarmsDemocracy), contact: DLHillman [at] sbcglobal [dot] net.

B. MY RESPONSE: Too long for Twitter
C. BEYOND THE TWEETS: CEDAW & ERA as spiritually impotent
D. A GLOBAL COMMITMENT to #WomensPublicAuthority
E. BLOGS on #WomensPublicAuthority (2018-21)


Listening to another fun and informative Heterodorx podcast recently, I was interested to learn about a recent article in which the guest, Elizabeth Hungerford, and another woman (Amy Sousa) had a dialogue about Working with the Religious Right. The article is presumably about feminist issues (e.g., gender identity) and is in Issue 5 of a new feminist journal out of the UK, The Radical Notion.

Afterwards I Tweeted to the guest and hosts my thanks, highlighting that I was looking forward to to reading the article as it sounded like it might dovetail with my interest in the religious right per their stance against the ERA. (I didn’t learn until later that the article is available only in print or online behind a paywall.) By way of explanation for my interest, I included a link to a short 2018 blog. Here is the exact Tweet.

Looking forward to the dialogue on working with the religious right. As a 70-year old born feminist, I never resonated with the ERA, for some of the reasons cited by Schlafly, etc.

Hence my 2018 blog (and others) advocating for #WomensPublicAuthority
Women’s Authority, Women’s Lives: The ERA or the Great Law of Peace

Hungerford responded in a surprisingly condescending way, with a link to a 2020 article supporting the ERA and a quoted section (3 paragraphs). It was mostly surprising because we don’t know each other, had never exchanged Tweets before, and, so far as I know, had never heard of each other.  I was also surprised by the tone because my original Tweet was positive feedback on her guest appearance on the podcast. It was also surprising because in the space of three short sentences a lot of imprecise, even contradictory statements were made about my blog, #WomensPublicAuthority, and the ERA.

Given that Hungerford sounds like a busy mother, I might have let her Tweet stand, but at least one other person has “liked” the Tweet and one never knows who might stumble across our Twitter exchange in the near or far future.

In the interests of more precision as well as clarification of my idea of #WomensPublicAuthority, which is new and not always understood the first time around, I thought I’d put my thoughts into a short blog (rather than a long Twitter thread). For context, here is Hungerford’s Tweet and quote (in response to my thanks and blog link):

The ERA is necessary as symbolic, if nothing else. Your proposal is interesting and may indeed be better, but it’s not a politically feasible alternative. It’s a thought experiment, not a substantive reason to oppose the ERA. See:

Quoted section (3 paragraphs) from When it comes to Constitutional Equality, the United States Lags Behind the Rest of the World by Antonia Kirkland:

Countries with constitutional guarantees of sex equality have used such provisions to not only eliminate existing discriminatory laws but also to implement laws that prevent future discrimination. France, relying on the “comprehensive gender equality statue” in its constitution, has implemented measures to reduce the gender pay gap; reform parental leave to incentivize equal caregiving between parents; and to provide aid to victims of gender-based violence. 

Constitutional guarantees of equality can also hold private actors accountable for gender discriminatory practices and policies. For example, the Constitutional Court in Colombia interpreted its constitutional provision to affirm a pilot’s right to health coverage for her miscarriage. 

As demonstrated by the above examples, the ERA could provide women and girls in the US with protections from discrimination that currently do not have a clear constitutional basis, including laws relating to child marriage, domestic violence, pregnancy discrimination, and parental rights, among others.

B. MY RESPONSE: Too long for Twitter

1. Political feasibility, thought experiment
A “politically feasible” alternative usually starts as a thought experiment, an idea. Hence my 2018 suggestion for a national book club (not a Constitutional amendment, a judicial action, or executive order) on #WomensPublicAuthority.

2. Defacto forms of #WomensPublicAuthority
More recent blogs (see short list at end of blog) have expanded on my idea, on the thought experiment, documenting some of the ways that existing realities are defacto forms of #WomensPublicAuthority (though not legally codified as such). Some of those realities are:
—70-80% of the active participants in the U.S. food & farm movement are women, including the 200+ Food Policy Councils
—new initiatives like Marshall Plan for Moms, indigenous initiatives, domestic workers are training women in #WomensPublicAuthority
—rejuvenation of labor unions are being led by women (nurses, teachers)
—more women are running for office (at all levels, all jurisdictions), learning how to be campaign managers, etc.

3. Questions of the moment re my idea
a. If trends continue as in #2, will a “politically feasible” alternative to the ERA be necessary?
It’s hard to know or predict right now, but if not, great.

b. If so (which is more likely), what would be a way or next step to codify women’s public authority in U.S. law (or normalize in U.S. culture) so that it would immediately make a positive material difference in women’s lives, children’s lives, men’s lives, the lives of non-humans (including the Earth—air, water, soil)?

What would capture the imagination of voters? 
— U.S. Constitutional amendment, state constitution amendments, U.S. bill, state bills?
— a general strike led by women?
— a women’s digital currency (distributed to all U.S. women as forgiveable 0% interest loans)?
— other?

4. Constitutional equality worldwide
The article Hungerford linked to (about U.S. lagging behind rest of world, written in Sept. 2020) seems to prove my point in Dec. 2021: Constitutional equality is almost meaningless. Per the mission statement of The Radical Notion and many other statements, comments, etc., by women all over the world, more and more women’s lives are a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual nightmare and we need a new women’s (feminist) movement. As J.K. Rowling recently said (2021): “We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced. Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now.”

Given what’s happening re Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court right now, not to mention gender identity situations, the low percentage of rapes reported and prosecuted, the epidemic of domestic violence and other violence against women, the increasing burden of climate injustice on women, the increasing number of women who lack of resources (time, money, access) for initiating legal challenges to discrimination, the evisceration of U.S. non-profits (who might lead such challenges), etc., etc., etc., it’s not clear how exactly the ERA would protect women and girls.

5. Re “substantive reason to oppose the ERA”
To clarify, I have never actively opposed the ERA. I just never actively supported it (for the reasons outlined in my short blog). A better question would be, ‘Is there a substantive reason to support the ERA?’

I don’t know what Hungerford means by “substantive” but in my thinking supporting a Constitutional amendment would need more than one reason. At the very least, I think the ERA would have to meet all these criteria:
—Clear path to immediate implementation 
—Achieve goal (women’s liberation, earth restoration ?) 
—No negative side effects 
—Political feasibility
—Symbolic statement

In fact, the ERA fails my “substantive” test on all counts:
—Clear path to immediate implementation. ERA has none. 
—Achieve goal. When? 
—No negative side effects. Unintended consequences of ERA: gender identity ideology, see Section C re negative intentions
—Political feasibility. The ERA in 2021: still not adopted after being introduced in 1970.
—Symbolic statement. Given the frequent (and legitimate) complaint that women aren’t even mentioned or referenced in the Constitution, the ERA doesn’t even meet the symbolic criterion of mentioning women or woman or she.

I think the ERA is notably weak and 50 years of some feminists trying to convince me otherwise has missed the mark, especially since 2015 when I first learned about the Haudenosaunee League and started identifying a better way to achieve women’s liberation. Women’s public authority is already a proven model on the land we call the U.S. and, in fact, the Haudenosaunee League still exists and Haudenosaunee women are more and more active in sharing their political traditions. Likewise there are other Indigenous North American nations who have also codified women’s public authority. I hope we can learn from all of them.

C. BEYOND THE TWEETS: CEDAW & ERA as spiritually impotent

In defense of language precision, the current sex-not-gender movement actually advocates for discrimination on the basis of sex by identifying and protecting female sex-based rights — a discrimination with which I wholeheartedly agree, but may be part of the current confusion. 

More to the point, re-reading the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights, I see that a foundational mistake was made by the original CEDAW document (adopted by the UN in 1979): The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women is a negative statement that (in my opinion) actually re-affirms and solidifies discrimination.

Likewise, “equality” with men actually erases all differences and the aspects of femaleness that make women alone indispensable to 
—the future existence of the species 
—a truly liberated future that relies on a working web of life

Likewise the ERA itself is a negative statement: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

The reason that I think both these statements were and are mistakes (even though I think the intentions were good) is for the same reason that I don’t actively fight against things (I try to work for the world I want to live in) and the reason that spiritual teachers strongly advise against praying or wishing for something not to happen: because even in wishing against something, we’re sending energy to that thing.

For example: Instead of saying “I hope it won’t rain today” spiritual teachers advise that we should wish for the weather we want (or alternatively, weather that is “good for everyone”). This is why naming is so important and why women must be correctly named as women and no one else can be named as women. Neither our material realities as women or our spiritual realities as women can ever be changed by science, technology, or law.

D. A GLOBAL COMMITMENT to #WomensPublicAuthority

What women needed in 1923 (when Alice Paul drafted the wording of the ERA), 1979 (when CEDAW was adopted), and desperately need in 2021 is a global, positive commitment to women at all levels—local, state, regional, national, international—starting with #WomensPublicAuthority. For discussion, I offer two examples of articulating that commitment:

1. Recognize women as the center of the species
My working definition of feminism is:
Feminism is the act of remembering that no humans exist or thrive without the wisdom, agency, and authority of women — as indigenous individuals, as an intergenerational culture (women-to-women), and as the center of a wild species living on this Earth.

2. A positive global commitment to women might read like this:
The UN and all member nations will adopt resolutions and implement programs that make it possible for all women to
— birth and nurture all children in health and beauty
— regularly provide advice on policy and workable systems for the daily well-being of all
— pass women’s wisdom on to future women and future generations

Only resolutions and programs that are initiated by women, written by women, and designed by women will be considered.

E. BLOGS on #WomensPublicAuthority (2018 – 21)

WORKING THINGS OUT: Gender identity, violence against females, and language confusion in a Chicago-area high school and suburb  Nov. 2021
Women’s Ways of Knowledge  Nov. 2021
THE “PERSONAL MISERY” OF ACADEMICS (and other U.S. folks): Some Remedies and Resources  Nov. 2021
EXPLODING LISTSERV: Industry & lobby groups “administratively redefining” farmers and women — I’ve been cancelled  Nov. 2021
To survivors & other women, “I’m sorry,  20th century feminist strategy was wrong”  Oct. 2021
IS CONFUSION THE DEFAULT SETTING of the 21st century American mind? Aug. 2021
Camp Auschwitz and an Ancient Women’s Peace Center (Chicago)  Feb. 2021
#MeToo in the U.S. Food & Farm Movement  Dec. 2020
MY AMERICAN DREAM, 1951 — ?  Oct. 2020
WHO’S YOUR CLAN MOTHER? Saying STOP is women’s public authority—including Impeachment   Sept. 2019
U.S. 2018: For Women who are Feeling like Livestock  Sept. 2018
In Case of Constitutional Crisis…Start Here: The Great Law of Peace  Sept. 2018
Women’s Authority, Women’s Lives: The ERA or the Great Law of Peace  March 2018  
Food-and-Farm Policy: Manifesting Feminism in Illinois   May 2018