100 Years of Women’s Equality…?

Today is August 26, 2020, Women’s Equality Day*, the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment.

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Amazing that this sentence could be so controversial. Amazing that, even today, people take issue with this most basic equality – the equality of the sexes.

In May of this year, anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson admitted on twitter that she desired to bring back what she called “household voting,” an idea she affirmed again just moments before her speech at the Republican National Convention last night.

As you can probably guess, household voting would revert American society back to life pre-19th Amendment, with only the male head of household allowed to vote.

Oh, you may ask, as did one commenter on Twitter, what happens when a husband and wife disagree? What if the husband wants to vote Republican and the wife Democrat?

Well, says Abby, “In a Godly household, the husband would get the final say.”

You might wonder why I even bother to engage with this idea. It would be easy to assume that this is a super radical stance and the opinion of an ultra conservative minority sect. But I am troubled by Abby’s tweets for two reasons.

First of all, Abby Johnson was given a major platform on the RNC stage last night, speaking for over 4 minutes, a not insignificant amount of time, and her scathing speech was re-tweeted by Trump. Her views are totally legitimized by the GOP.

Secondly, and more important, I remember this exact dilemma posed to us as young women at a pretty standard evangelical Christian high school.

If you are in a godly marriage, we were asked, and you and your husband disagree about election candidates, would it be wrong, or more specifically “unsubmissive” (the worst thing a Christian woman could be), to vote for someone your husband thinks shouldn’t be voted for?

And obviously this is a trick question. Like Abby says, godly women always submit to their husbands’ voting decisions. The 19th Amendment was such an affront to God’s plan for the family. In the wise words of John MacArthur, Woman, “Go home.” 

(I hope it goes without saying that I am being sarcastic.)

Conservative Christians love to blame feminism for the “downfall” of the American nuclear family (see this blog post, written by Doug Wilson, the “leader” of the movement of which my high school was a part). It’s funny to see them blame feminism as if countless Christian men in leadership, not to mention any ole Tom, Dick, or Harry, have not been caught destroying the “sanctity of marriage” in their own delightful ways (a la Doug Phillips and Jerry Falwell, Jr.).

It reeks of the most self-serving manipulation to be told by these men that the place of a woman is to be silent and to submit to their leadership.

What is more troubling to me than even the patriarchal nonsense women (especially Christian women) are subject to is the fact that WOMEN are touting this subjugation as some sort of ideal situation.

Forgive me while I chuckle at the irony of Abby Johnson, a women who heads a large non profit organization and who got to speak on national television last night, wishing for the regressive subjugation of women. It reminds me of the totally counter-intuitive war waged by Phyllis Schlafly regarding the Equal Rights Amendment.

I could write 20 pages on the ERA, but for now, let me just say that I also find it incredibly ironic that Schlafly, a highly educated woman who published multiple books and has gone down in history as one of the most influential women of the time (for better or worse, you can’t deny her influence), would exert unimaginable effort to counteract all of her accomplishments.

She led the movement against the ERA, saying that the ERA would tear apart the American family and leave women in unprotected positions in society. She said she was defending the real rights of women, the right to stay in the home. To do so she had to mobilize housewives across America, teaching them how to be interviewed by the press and argue with legislators. Incredible that to fight to stay in the home women had to become something of political activists *outside* the home.

Others object to the addition of an Amendment, claiming the 14th Amendment protects men and women equally. Even RBG won multiple cases arguing this. But she also argues that the 14th Amendment is not enough; the fact that it is subject to interpretation is reason enough to require a more direct, explicit protection of women’s equal rights.

And truly, it is an insult to women even to suggest they are viewed as equal under the Constitution as written or protected by the 14th Amendment, when Thomas Jefferson and revered originalist Antonin Scalia admit they are not. (For the Jefferson argument in question, search “were our state a pure democracy” and read from there.)

I bring all of this up on this auspicious occasion to remind us that, as Ronald Reagan once said and Republicans are so fond of quoting, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

Our grandmothers fought hard for our right to vote. Don’t squander it. And don’t forget that there are forces at work still fighting to keep women from an equal standing under the law.

*(I acknowledge that the 19th Amendment gave only white women the right to vote and that equal justice for women of color took much longer.)

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