Politics and Equality - Essay Example

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Ii is divided into three sections. Section I: The suffrage movement; Section II: The NOW AND Section III: The equal Rights Amendment. It deals with the complex issue of politics and…
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Running Head: Politics and Equality Politics and Equality Politics and Equality 2. This paper is about the important issue of political equality in context of the American women. Ii is divided into three sections. Section I: The suffrage movement; Section II: The NOW AND Section III: The equal Rights Amendment. It deals with the complex issue of politics and equality in the context of American History.
It has been a long struggle for the American women to achieve political emancipation from the strong and all pervasive male domination. It was due to the efforts of courageous and visionary women like Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul and Kelly Florence, to name only three, among many, who made it easier for women like, Nancy Pallosi, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin to compete with men in the political arena.
Politics and Equality Page 3.
Topic: Politics and Equality.
Introduction: The quintessential concept of equality between the sexes is as old, as perhaps the Biblical account of Adam and Eve. She was made from the rib of Adam, by the Lord God, to be the consort and companion of the first man, so her subservience is but a natural corollary of the story.
Theology apart, world history is also replete with instances of the lesser status of women as compared to men. So, Cleopatra, perhaps the most powerful woman of her time, was less in status to the Cesar and later Anthony, only because she was a woman.
World literature is also full of examples, where women have almost always been portrayed as the second fiddle to the male protagonists, in a novel, a short story or a play.
This notion of male superiority is deeply ingrained in the psyche of mankind, and the examples that I have cited are incidents and /or aspects of this phenomena of our societal behaviour in general and of the individual aspects of our domestic existence, in particular.
Section I. The Suffrage Movement.__
The American women, have, like the rest of their kind, had to undertake a long and arduous struggle to change and/or modify this old conception, which still persists in the twenty first century.
The movement of the American women to shrug off this yoke of subservience to patriarchal hegemony, is typified in the movement of attaining the right of vote for the American women, that on the one hand has challenged centuries old notion of male domination and on the other hand, is a milestone in human history, where the women have fought for what was, and is their inalienable right as human beings__ that of justice and equality with men.
The movement of the American women to acquire the right of vote is referred to as the Suffrage movement. The focus of this movement was to get the right to vote for the American women. In words of Jo Freeman: "The Suffrage was not a united movement. It was a coalition of different people and organisations that worked together for a few intense years around the common goal of votes for women."
The organisation that headed this movement was the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) under the able leadership of Carrie Chapman Catt. "She mobilized the coalition into high gear until success was achieved". The other prominent woman leader that helped Catt in this cause was Alice Paul.
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During the First World War, both these women struggled relentlessly for the cause, though, it is to be noted that both these women had completely different strategies to achieve the desired goal. Catt ,"...worked both for Suffrage and in support of the war effort ". While the Congressional Union under Paul, "...flouted Wilsons slogan that the purpose of the War was to make the world safe for democracy by standing outside the White House with banners reading How long must women wait for democracy?" And the did not have to wait for long as on 26 of August, 1920, through the enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment, twenty six million American women got the legal right to vote.
After gaining this right of suffrage, the NAWSA disbanded and ,"Some of its members reorganised into a non-partisan, non-sectarian League of Women Voters to provide women with political education and work for a broad range of social reforms, while,"...National Womans Party reorganised itself into a new National Womans Party and continued its work for womens equality with men".
The second step in the advancement of the American women to seek equal status, "and the paramount feminist issue was he Equal Rights Amendment". As cited by Freeman:
"It was first proposed by Alice Paul who decided that the next step was a removal of all legal discrimination against women and that the most efficient way to do this was with another federal amendment."
Section II. The National Organisation for Women (NOW).__
In 1966, after the dismemberment of NAWSA, the preeminent feminist organisation to take its place was the National Organisation for Women (NOW). NOW was, in fact , modelled on the principles of the Civil Rights Movement .The first president of NOW was Betty Friedman, the author of the bestseller, The Feminine Mystique. In 1967 NOW endorsed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Though NOW initially had its humble beginnings as a Washington pressure group, in time, it became the only feminist organisation with mass membership.
Its founding members and initial followers were "...well educated underemployed and underpaid women". As stated by Freeman, the aim of NOW was to work against the discriminatory laws against women in place at that time in America:
"The preponderance of these laws limited the hours women could work each day and each week, prohibited night work for women, and removed women from certain occupations altogether. Some states also required minimum wages for women only,"
The history of NOW is a chequered one, the initial years of NOW were turbulent and it suffered splits in 1967 and 68. But in time NOW overcame these initial difficulties and is
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today,, "the largest feminist organisation". In the year 1974 it nearly split into two different factions, but its unflinching support for the Equal Rights Amendment and "opposition to restrictions on abortion,..." not only helped it survive this crucial crisis in its history but also helped increase its mass base.
Not only did NOW survive major splits on issues like the disagreement between the old and naturally conservative members of the women’s liberation movement and the younger radical elements, on pros and cons against abortion, and the gay/straight issue; but was also the main driving force behind the passing a Bill of Rights, which, according to Freeman, ensured:
"...enforcement of sex education laws; paid maternity leave tax deduction for child care; establishment of public, readily available child care facilities; equal and unsegregated education; and equal job training facilities; housing and family allowances for women in poverty...equal opportunity in employment and education; free abortion on demand, and twenty-four hour child care centres."
Section III. The Equal Rights Amendment.__
Freeman cites that, "Equal Rights Amendment was the dominant issue of the womens movement during the 1970s and part of the 1980s." Further she writes:
"The ERA was aimed at the plethora of state laws and common law rules that restricted womens jury service; limited their right to control their own property, contract, sue, and keep their name and domicile, if married; gave them inferior guardianship rights over their children; and generally stigmatized them as lesser citizens."
When ERA was first introduced in the Congress, in 1923, it resulted in dividing the major women right organisations into two camps hostile towards each other for almost fifty years. The two major figures on the opposing ends of this divide were Florence Kelly and Alice Paul. And after years of infighting among the followers of Kelly and those of Paul, the visionary finally triumphed. According to Freeman:
"…the ERA became the dominant issue because it captured the public imagination__ pro and con __as no other issue had. It was the quintessential symbolic issue. It meant what people thought it meant, and all involved projected onto it their greater fears and their greatest hopes for the future of women."
Conclusion: In short the whole womens liberation movement , perhaps, after the Civil Rights Movement is one of the most important chapters of the American history in the twentieth and it would be most befitting to end this paper with the prophetic words of Freeman:
Politics and Equality Page 6.
"In reality feminism in all its manifestations is radical in that it seeks to redefine the basic human relationships between the sexes and to redistribute power and other social goods."
Politics and Equality Page 7.
"From Suffrage to Womens Liberation: Feminism in Twentieth Century America." Women: A Feminist Perspective Edited by Jo Freeman, Mountain View, Calif: Mayfield, 5th Edition, 1995, pp. 509-28. Read More
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