As girl children of the 1970s my sister and I were raised to believe that nothing was beyond our reach. We were told, more than shown, that we could be doctors, lawyers, astronauts, CEOs or publishers, that we could do any of those jobs just as well as any man could.
But our mother, the woman with multiple careers, a Master’s degree and a high IQ, was most decidedly not a feminist. She despised the National Organization for Women generally and Gloria Steinem in particular. Feminists, in my mother’s opinion, were women who sought victory at the expense of men. They were brash, boastful, ill-mannered women whose win-lose approach was certain to cause only future strife. Equality was fair and appropriate; feminism was neither.
When the Equal Rights Amendment passed in 1972 I was six going on seven, a child whose view of the world came largely through the eyes of her mother, the walking contradiction. Mama’s sewing group, the group that gathered in our living room to drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and smock dresses while I sprawled on the floor with my dolls, talked about the E.R.A. only occasionally, if at all, and never with much enthusiasm.
There was one friend I remember, Alice Swanson, a woman my father described as “the liberated sort,” who was always egging my mother on and trying to get her to become more involved. It was inconceivable to Alice that my mother wouldn’t join the women’s movement; it was inconceivable to my mother that any woman would.
And then the whole thing sort of dissolved, at least in our house. The amendment passed; the box was checked; we moved on. We talked about what opportunities lay ahead, what things we girls could achieve. My sister and I went to college; we got jobs; we became modern women. We did not become feminists; why would we?
We are still modern women, my sister and I. We’re well-educated career women juggling work and family life, the sort of women who try to stay reasonably up to date on both current affairs and pop culture. My sister, the doctor, is in charge of reading JAMA. I, the marketer, am responsible for reading the Sunday New York Times and listening to NPR. Margaret sends me technical articles about exercise and sunscreen; I send her human interest stories and reviews of novels I know she’ll never have time to read. We both recognize Janet Yellen when we see her picture (yep, we’re in that 24%), but to be honest, given a free 30 minutes in the evening (rarity that it is) we’d rather watch Modern Family than read The Wall Street Journal.
Knowing what you now know about my background, you either will or will not understand my surprise (I was dumbstruck, actually) reading this recent Huff Post piece about the Notorious R.B.G. (Ruth Bader Ginsberg) and learning that the Equal Rights Amendment, that thing I’ve taken for granted my entire adult life, is not law.
Yes, you read that correctly: the E.R.A. passed by Congressional vote but was not ratified by the required number of states (38) for it to stand as a Constitutional amendment. Here’s what Justice Ginsberg had to say about it to New Republic’s Jeffrey Rosen:
One thing that concerns me is that today’s young women don’t seem to care that we have a fundamental instrument of government that makes no express statement about the equal citizenship stature of men and women.
In the age of #YesAllWomen and #BringBackOurGirls one tiny detail seems to have escaped ongoing headline discussion: women in the U.S. do not enjoy constitutionally protected equality because only 35 of 50 states could agree that such an amendment was reasonable, and 38 state ratifications were/are required.
I read and re-read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” I shared it with friends and discussed it in depth. I’ve followed Lisa Belkin’s writing for years, from The Opt Out Revolution to The Gender Gap. I’ve talked with other women about issues facing women. Even though I was raised not to be a feminist per se, I’ve marched right up to the edge of F word territory on a relatively frequent basis. How did I not know that the Equal Rights Amendment has been hanging out in legal never-never-land? Am I the only ignorant one?
No, as it turns out; I’m not alone, at least not among my local peers. I took a short and very unscientific poll of my women friends, all well-educated women with jobs like teacher, doctor, scientist, etc. “Did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified, that it’s not law?” I asked.
“Are you sure?” one friend responded. “Are you sure that’s right?”
Yes, I’m sure. Ask your lawyer husband. We fell three states short, way back in the 70s, a fact known to only two of my friends, a lawyer and a journalist.
This is all meaningless hogwash, you say, certain that there are laws aplenty to protect women against employment discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic violence and more.
Yes, there are numerous statutes protecting women, and at this juncture the Equal Rights Amendment might be largely symbolic. Now go tell the National Rifle Association that Amendment 2 might similarly be largely symbolic, and let me know how that works out.
How is this possible? How could all those pioneering 1970s women neglect to tell their footstep followers, “Oops – Our bad!”
Actually it’s our bad, the would-be followers’ fault. For four decades a dwindling group of activists has been running a relay, ready to hand the baton to the next generation. But we of the next generation, so many of us anyway, have been busy running a parallel race, enjoying the easy benefits but actively shirking the more complicated responsibilities and unattractive adjectives. We’ve relished our ability to bring home the bacon and then write blogs about cooking it, but the women’s rights movement, well that’s old news, ancient history.
Except that it isn’t. It is very much today’s issue for today’s girls and women. We’ve come a long way, baby; but we staked our claim on a slippery slope.
What to do? Well, according to the ERA website, if you live in on the of nine states where ratification seems not impossible (Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, or Virginia) then it’s time to get busy and figure out what’s happening in your state, particularly if you live in Illinois or Virginia where the flame seems still to be most alive. The current plan, as I understand it (even though I’m not a lawyer) is still to get three more states in the hopper. Apparently the 27th (“Madison”) Amendment was ratified more than 203 years after its passage, so the whole seven year deadline thing might not hold up. Again, not a lawyer; but the concept makes sense to me. (And, in case you’re curious, the six states not listed and apparently written off as impossible are Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah.)
Live in one of the 35 states that already voted YES (Tennessee! Hurrah!)? Great; now tell your friends about the issue. Ask them if they are aware that in the United States in 2014 gun ownership has the virtually unbreakable protection of the U.S. Constitution, but women’s equality does not.
With apologies to my late mother, that should be enough to bring out the feminist in us all.
Food | Week of October 13, 2014
So,yeah, I too think it’s a wee bit funny that I’m sticking to my routine and tagging a weekly family cooking plan onto the end of this particular post. It’s especially funny in light of the best article I read last week, Virginia Heffernan’s “What if You Just Hate Making Dinner?”
I’m the designated cook in our family because 1) I actually enjoy it and 2) I’m usually pretty good at it. Yes, I truly, honestly enjoy cooking. It is a great creative distraction for me, something I can do to take my mind off of other things. I have always enjoyed cooking. And I have enjoyed these almost two years of ending my weekly posts with a weekly menu because planning for dinner helps me juggle that whole work/life thing that is particularly hard for women these days.
But some days I just don’t feel like it. And when I don’t feel like cooking, I don’t cook. It’s that simple. We eat leftovers, we eat cereal, we eat scrambled eggs. Sometimes- EGAD! we even eat takeout or fast food. Choices and options: these are good things.
The weekly dinner plan keeps choices and options from being overwhelming. It’s a framework, a reference guide. Having a plan keeps our weeknight evenings from unraveling into stressful chaos. This week our plan includes fish, chicken, sausage and two vegetarian meals. And, since I’m always forgetting to add this, if you try one and like it, drop a line and let me know.
Flageolets | Cornbread | Bibb Lettuce with Buttermilk Dressing
Yep, I’m making another push for Rancho Gordo heirloom beans, this time advocating the flageolets, which are mild and flavorful. There are cooking suggestions on the Rancho Gordo site, or you can try this Ina Garten recipe, an easy recipe to adapt if you want to make truly vegetarian – just skip the bacon and use vegetable broth. Serve with cornbread (here’s Bittman’s recipe, or you can just use Jiffy). Round it out with a Bibb lettuce salad like this, our favorite, also from Ina Garten.
Black Rice | Steamed Cod | Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas
This dinner sounds harder than it really is, mostly because the ingredients sound difficult to find. I found Lundberg’s black pearl rice at Kroger; it’s also available at Fresh Market and Whole Foods. Cook the rice according to package directions; it’s that easy. For the fish, which you can buy flash-frozen if fresh isn’t available, this Martha Stewart recipe is simple and quick. Round it out with some sauteed sugar snap peas.
Pan-Fried Weisswurst | Potato Salad with Dill & Apple
I know; you’re wondering: What the hell is weisswurst? Literally, it’s white sausage – NBD. Here’s the context: Bernard likes Boar’s Head bratwurst; no other brand will suffice. “Get the white bratwurst,” he’ll say. So I did a bit of research and learned that there are numerous varieties of bratwurst, one of which is weisswurst, a mild white sausage typically with flecks of parsley visible through the casing. The Boar’s Head bratwurst isn’t technically that, but it’s the closest match I could find, and maybe it explains why a selected this recipe pairing from Martha Stewart for pan fried weisswurst. It is simple and tasty, and the link to the accompanying potato salad is embedded in the sausage recipe.
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Goat Cheese
This recipe from Saveur is relies on the flavor of broccoli rabe (rapini), a bitter green, balanced by mild and acidic goat cheese. It’s very simple and easy to prepare; in my experience, it does not keep well; so make only enough for the night.
Baked Parmesan Chicken | Caesar Salad
Ina Garten’s Parmesan chicken recipe is simple and reliable; I’m also fond of my friend Marjorie’s version which calls for marinating the chicken in Italian dressing for a bit before cooking and using that same dressing instead of an egg wash before coating with a mix of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. I use store-bought Caesar dressing, but here’s a recipe if you’re feeling domestic.