Friday, February 27, 2015
Thank you, Patricia Arquette, for raising the issue of US women's equality. I agree. US women are in a sorry state. I remember the momentum to pass the women's equal rights amendment and the shock and disappointment when it did not. We are beyond our time for pressing this issue forward with the same intensity of the 70's feminists. And, as Martha Davis points out, this is an opportunity to breathe life into the campaign for the ratification of CEDAW.
Where Ms. Arquette lost her way was in assuming that her world view is the norm.
In her initial comments, Arquette managed to minimize the status of women who by choice or otherwise have not given birth. Presumably mothers of adopted children were also not included in this category addressed in her initial comment. In the U.S., mothers have cultural and employment barriers that others do not encounter. Organizations such as Mom's Rising bring attention to the special needs of mothers and children and the US policies that harm them.
We cannot minimize the role of childless women, including transgender women, whose leadership in the struggle for women's equality has been significant. But Arquette lumped those women, along with others, in with the general population of taxpayers and citizens which, by the way, excluded non-citizen immigrants and those women who are not working in paying positions.
And then, of course, Arquette, in her follow up remarks, called upon the LGBT community as well as people of color to support U.S. women's equality. In one sentence Arquette managed to change her earlier remarks from an "it's about time" whoop, to a view that promotes the rights and needs of straight, white women . The mistake of prior movements repeated. Far from her awareness was the recognition of thousands of lesbians, particularly lesbians of color, and brown skin women everywhere, who encounter barriers that white, cisgender, straight women never encounter.
What I find interesting in reading various responses is that many commentators responded from places that reflect their own world view. Lesbians pointed out their exclusion. Women of color did the same. Lesbians of color, well they recognized their exclusion even more deeply. A few raised the exclusion of women who have not given birth as well as women who are not paid for their work and those who are not citizens.
Here is my point: Arquette was on the right road in pressing for action on women's equality. Her world view caused her to take a wrong turn. Her critics must not do the same thing. A women is a sister, is a sister. Straight, lesbian, transgender, brown, white, religious or not, documented or native, we are all sisters. To exclude one is to offend us all. The white feminists who preceded us were courageous and successful. We can finish the job without repeating their exclusion of women of color, the gender diverse and others who live outside what many consider our cultural norm.
The feminine way is to embrace, rather than reject, those who falter. Let's thank Patricia Arquette for contributing to the cause and for igniting a new conversation. Then let's move forward together with leadership from those historically deprived of recognition.
Editors' Note: Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Human Rights at Home Law Professors' blog. Thanks to our readers and contributors for making this experiment a success! And here's to another year of commentary, analysis, resource sharing on human rights!