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Why Was the Equal Rights Amendment Never Passed?
After decades of ads and media portraying women as kitchen-dwelling husband servants, the US House of Representatives and Senate finally passed the Equal Rights Amendment. The bill finally passed through in 1971, with hopes that it would portray women as equal to men after acting as such while husbands were away during WW2. The ERA was never ratified by the states, however. In the end, I think the amendment was never ratified by the states because protesters offended citizens instead of recruiting them, they challenged what mainstream culture found “comfortable,” and they supported a bill that many thought was unnecessary and would only increase government spending.
One of the reasons the ERA wasn’t ratified by the states was because most protesters only offended citizens instead of recruiting them. “Some of the pro-ERA tactics were so obnoxious to large portions of the population,” wrote Thomas Reese in America Magazine, “that they made it impossible for the ERA to get the support it needed." By burning their bras, using “trucker language,” protesting in bare-breast, and creating chaos as in the picture, ERA supporters came out to the public swinging their fists. The biggest contrast this makes to more successful protests, such as the civil rights movement, is exactly there in the way people presented their cause. Leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King facilitated meaningful and peaceful marches, speeches, and demonstration whereas demonstrations by ERA supporters seemed to be mainly reckless and crude. By coming off the public as disruptive and outspoken, they were viewed negatively and recruited much less supporters than they could have with peace and emotional appeal.
Not only did protesters fail to recruit more followers by offending them, but they also lost support by challenging what mainstream culture already found “comfortable.” Even though many women found themselves responsible for housework and kitchen work very often, many found comfort in their personal responsibilities over all. The woman’s movement had disrespect for family relationships because they failed to see that many women were already comfortable with their responsibilities. Regardless of being in charge of housework and being less represented in the job market as shown in the Background Essay, women found comfort in other gender dependent liberties such as their safety from the draft. Because many women weren’t as unhappy as the ERA protesters, they didn’t want to vote for ratifying the amendment.
ERA also never made ratification by the states because it seemed unnecessary to the people financially. Many states felt their current state of equal rights support was sufficient enough for women. Ratifying the amendment, however, would result in total enforcement by the provisions of ERA. Total enforcement of another amendment means more government spending, which at the time, would only add on to the spending already increased by more federal courts, internal revenue service, the HEW federal credit union, and OSHA.
When it comes down to it, ERA just didn’t seem appealing enough to the public to reach ratification by the states. Whether or not it was “right” to give women equal rights by stating in the constitution was viewed as an inconsequential part of the issue because of all the stress and focus placed on what was “comfortable.” The public wouldn’t side with a group that was rude and disruptive, who challenged their lifestyle, or supported a bill that would increase federal spending and their taxes. Many people may have been ready for women’s equal rights, but they just weren’t comfortable with the way the idea was brought to them.