Thursday, 30 October 2008

End of an ERA

Today's New York Times provides a reminder of just what is coming to a welcome end with the collapse of the 30-year culture war launched in 1980 by Saint Ronald and soon to be buried by Winky and Wrinkly.

In an article entitled "Women Buying Health Policies Pay a Penalty," we learn how the private market for insurance--the same one John McCain wants to force us into by taxing employee benefits--systematically discriminates against females, even discounting the added costs of pregnancy.

This is exactly the sort of practice that would have become unconstitutional had the long-forgotten Equal Rights Amendment become the law of the land as it almost did during the 1970s. Instead, insurance companies, fearing the implications, poured cash into the mass movement against the ERA via myriad think tanks and front groups that convinced conservative Christian women that free-loving and -thinking feminists somehow threatened their way of life.

Coming off the post-sixties reaction against sexual emancipation, the 'pro-family' crowd, led by shrill but clever operators like Phyllis Schlafly and the well-known evangelo-politicians like Falwell, Robertson, Dodson and Bauer, joined up with the corporate elite to shift the debate to fetal well-being and the 'values' agenda and away from simple fairness and equality. It is a testament to their success that no one under 30 even knows what the ERA was or that the party of Sarah Palin pulled out all the stops to suppress legal recognition that women and men should be treated equally.

As the public discussion of how to finance healthcare develops and deepens in the Obama Administration, we should see about resuscitating this recent history and educating young women and men of all ages about the economics of inequality and who benefited from decades of female impoverishment.

I believe the political shift about to occur reflects a much deeper movement in our society that has proceeded despite the ossified official crew in charge. Women are living different lives than those blocked out for them in the 1960s and in the 1980s for that matter, and basic feminist beliefs are as much a part of Sarah Palin's world as of Tina Fey's, despite the Bible-thumping and the shocked woo-wooing at gay marriage and all the rest of it.

No woman today thinks it's fair to be charged a 'vagina tax' for her health insurance. Now that McGovernites and Reaganites alike are being pushed off the stage in our wheelchairs, this anachronism--and many others like it--are likely to become the focus of our politics, rather than mindless polemics from yesteryear.

1 comment:

Virginia Harris said...

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