Women are not treated equally; at least that’s according to the laws and cases seen in “Equal Means Equal,” a one hour documentary directed by Kamala Lopez that featured stories of workplace harassment, domestic violence, rape and more.
The screening took place at the Rowan Art Gallery on Tuesday, Oct. 22 and was hosted by sociology professor Dr. Nadine Rosechild Sullivan, along with radio, television, and film professor Dr. Colleen Montgomery. The majority of the 20 students who attended came for extra credit for one of their classes.
According to the film, 72% of Americans believe women have equal rights under the The Constitution of the United States, but in reality they don’t.
“Certainly, the constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex, the only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t,” said Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice, “Nobody ever voted for that.”
Since the 2016 film, Scalia has passed away and his replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, is accused of sexual assault.
“The court has definitely gotten scarier as far as women’s rights go,” said Sullivan.
“The Equal Right’s Amendment is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex; it seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment, and other matters,” according to the ERA’s website.
Things have changed since the release of the film. During the film, three more states were needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Now there is one state left, and it could be Virginia. If Virginia ratifies the ERA this would add gender equality to all Americans under the Constitution.
Why do we need the ERA?
Sex discrimination falls under intermediate scrutiny while race and religion falls under strict scrutiny. In other words, the Supreme Court is not willing to scrutinize a sex discrimination case because it is not protected under the law.
This means women are still getting paid less than men for the same job. This means restraining orders don’t have to be validated if the police don’t feel like it. This means women who are raped aren’t winning cases against their rapist.
Some of those women who lost rape cases ended up committing suicide.
Governor Phil Murphy visited Rowan the same night. He said he wants more millionaires in New Jersey, but how can women get there when there is so much against us?
According to Montgomery, if a faculty member at Rowan gets pregnant, she has to use sick days. There is no paid maternity leave.
Marcus Dickerson, a junior sports communication major, attended for extra credit and to understand more about gender equality and its history. One thing from the film that surprised him is the women who are in jail.
According to the film, “Up to 90% of women in jail for killing men had been battered by those men.” They also serve longer sentences comparted to men. For example, a man who kills his wife might be sentenced for five years whereas the average for a woman who kills her husband is 20 years.
“What we really need is more allies. Men who are involved in these causes. Men who are feminists. Men who realize that it doesn’t just affect women,” said Montgomery.
“Men are harmed by the gender rules,” said Sullivan. “The Equal Rights Amendment doesn’t say the rights of women’s shouldn’t be abridged—it says no one’s rights should be denied or abridged on the basis of sex.”
Imagine being a father and losing a child because your pregnant wife was forced to do heavy lifting at work which caused a miscarriage. Imagine growing up as a man with a single working class mother struggling to make ends meet because she gets paid less than her male counterparts. Imagine being a soldier who was raped overseas and the law refuses to provide protection.
Along with voting, being active in politics, and attending events like this Montgomery said, students can get involved by “being part of organizations that support the causes you believe in whether that’s racial justice, gender equality because these aren’t just women’s issues—these are people issues.”
She said, “You can find ways to be involved that match with your interests like take a women in film class if you like film or take a women in justice class if you want to be a law student.”
For more information, check out the “Equal Means Equal” website, along with a specific link for those who want to get involved to the ratification of the ERA in Virginia. There will be another screening of “Equal Means Equal” on Nov. 4 at 3:30 p.m. in Hawthorn 204, which is the day before Election Day. The film can be rented on YouTube Movies and iTunes.
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