On Thursday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a 1970s relic that would have enshrined the interchangeability of the sexes into the U.S. Constitution, had it not expired before meeting the standard for ratification.
Today, there’s an effort to revive the ERA. No fewer than six witnesses, including actress Alyssa Milano, testified in favor of it. One sole witness for the minority, my colleague Inez Stepman, testified against. Inez is a contributor to The Federalist and a senior policy analyst for Independent Women’s Forum, Independent Women’s Voice, and Independent Women’s Law Center.
Despite being outnumbered, Inez made the case against the ERA, and in the process, flipped the script on several popular left-wing narratives about women and girls in the United States. Here are the top five highlights:
1. Sounding the Alarm about ERA’s Consequences
During Inez’s opening testimony, she had to cover a lot of ground. She had to explain how, procedurally, the ERA ratification process must completely start over. She had to explain how American women already enjoy equal protection under the U.S. Constitution and U.S. law. And she had to explain how the ERA, while well-intended, would ultimately harm women and girls.
She reviewed the various ways U.S. law can differentiate between women and men. For example, this includes in sex-segregated prisons, sports teams, shelters and private spaces, and in sex-specific programs meant to help mothers and infants.
To sum it up, Inez said: “‘Equal’ doesn’t mean ‘the same.’ Treating males and females exactly the same—regardless of biology, privacy, or circumstances—hurts women and girls.”
2. Refuting the False Wage Gap Narrative
Proponents of the ERA point to the wage gap as evidence for their claim that American women lack adequate legal protection from discrimination. But the wage gap is a misused statistic that represents the overall disparity in men’s and women’s aggregate wages. This disparity is the result of many factors, including profession, seniority, hours worked, work conditions, etc.
Not only would the ERA fail to add any protections against wage discrimination (which is already illegal in the United States), but it could be construed to require pay “parity” (which is different from equal pay for equal work). Here’s Inez’s golden nugget on this topic during Q and A with lawmakers:
Sure, men and women on aggregate have different choices and preferences. This is not discrimination. I reject the idea that because a disparity exists, that automatically, that means that there’s a discrimination at play here. The ERA could potentially lead to us taking some of these disparities as discrimination, which would mean that the ERA would be set against the choices of actual American women and about how they want to balance their lives, their careers and their families. That’s not progress in my book.
3. Teaching Lawmakers Basic Biology
Biology is real: Inez rattled off some statistics from Independent Women’s Law Center’s Competition report and totally took down the idea that biological sex doesn’t matter in athletics (or other areas, for that matter):
Men jump 25 percent higher, throw 25 percent further, run 11 percent faster, accelerate 20 percent faster; they punch 32-162 percent harder, and they’re overall about 30 percent stronger than females who are pretty much the same size…[On the impact of the ERA on women’s sports…] These are opportunities that women and girls, you know, cherish and that we have won over time.
4. The Patriarchy Has Been Already Been Smashed
Women aren’t a victim class. Inez made that clear:
We women not only own the majority of wealth, we get the majority of both undergraduate and graduate degrees. We had the lowest unemployment rate since we started recording female unemployment all the way back in the 1950s in 2019. So, to present women as though they are second class citizens in the United States, I just truly, deeply disagree with that presentation. You know, I’m not a second-class citizen because UVA can have a sorority on campus. That does not to me, raise to the level of second-class citizenship or discrimination, but we’re talking about the law recognizing a small number of instances in which [sex] differences really do matter.
5. Name-checking Union Head Randi Weingarten
Ring, ring! Randi Weingarten got called out. Perhaps the moment that got the most buzz on Twitter was when Inez name-checked teachers’ union leader Weingarten and boosted school choice in her answer about women falling behind in labor force participation during the COVID pandemic. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Pennsylvania, asked Inez: “Why are women held positions disproportionately affected by COVID-19?” She responded:
I think that’s a question you should take up with Randi Weingarten, who’s the head of the National Teachers Association. Look, we’ve heard a lot about European countries in in this hearing, generally, usually, comparing America disfavorably to them, but in most European countries, schools reopened in person, just after a matter of weeks, you know, 6, 8, 12 weeks, meaning they opened in summer or fall of 2020. American schools in many states remained closed to in-person learners for far longer to the extent that even just a couple months ago, many families were dealing with the reality of school closures…I suspect that this is one of the reasons that women disproportionately had to leave the workforce during the pandemic, because as much as as many try to fight against it, women still choose to take more of the childcare responsibilities and family responsibilities in the home. And so, disproportionately, they decided to leave the workforce when their children couldn’t attend school so again I suggest you take that up with Randi Weingarten.
When Keller followed up with a question about how the government can better support women who want to work, Inez had this beautifully reasonable answer:
That’s a much larger subject than I can touch in a few seconds. But for starters, just to return to the issue of schools for a moment, it would provide them with better education for their children and educational options for their children. States that provide school choice, for example, in those states during the pandemic, those programs, families were allowed to use those programs to then take their kids to the overwhelming majority of private schools that opened last fall for in-person instruction. But in states where those programs didn’t exist, those opportunities didn’t exist, and again…those burdens fell disproportionately on mothers and women.
There were many more great moments from the hearing, which you can watch in full here. Thankfully, despite being outnumbered, Inez was able to stand up for the millions of women who weren’t otherwise represented among the panel of witnesses.
Women do enjoy equal protection under U.S. law. We also benefit from being treated differently from men in the rare circumstances where this makes sense. While they might have good intentions, ERA crusaders seem to fail to realize the way this proposed amendment to our Constitution would ultimately hurt, not help, women.