On this day: Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat
December 01, 2023
By Eve Palmer, Policy and Partnerships Intern
After 100 years, the Equal Rights Amendment has still not been added to the Constitution. However, what is arguably even more unsettling is how little people know about the current status of the amendment and constitutional sex equality. Though I spent my summer interning with the ERA Coalition, I only recently learned about the ERA, its goals, and its long history.
I grew up in a very small conservative town in rural Virginia with three sisters (and two to come) and considered myself to be a politically informed high schooler, and yet I never learned about the Equal Rights Amendment. Discussing the 19th Amendment, Roe v. Wade, and Griswold v. Connecticut in my high school dual enrollment government course was the full extent of my education on women’s equality. Once I got to college I began to seek spaces that centered equality, particularly intersectional sex and gender equality. Despite being a government major, serving on the executive board for my campus's reproductive justice club, and joining a club that focused on peer education and survivor advocacy for sexual misconduct, I still did not learn about the Equal Rights Amendment until my Junior year of college.
At first, I thought my lack of knowledge had to be a result of where I grew up or a lack of self-education. But how was it possible that I had not encountered any discussions of the ERA on campus or in my extracurriculars? During my summer spent with the ERA Coalition, I quickly learned that I was not alone. A fellow intern who considered herself to be well-informed and similarly involved had also not been aware of the ERA until recently. When people would ask me how I was spending my summer, they seemed surprised by my answer. There are still people working toward the certification of the Equal Rights Amendment? Many others informed me that it was a lost cause and repeated a number of opposition arguments that I later came to challenge on the ERA’s TikTok page. My mom’s neighbor saw one of my videos that my mom had reposted and texted her “ERA was never ratified? Really????” This is a widespread sentiment.**
According to one poll by the Pew Research Center, 78% of Americans support the Equal Rights Amendment; however, a majority of Americans believe that sex equality is already a part of the U.S. Constitution. This data and the seemingly common experience of a lack of knowledge about the ERA and its current state leads to me to wonder how much more pressure could be applied to lawmakers and how much more progress could be made if people were better informed on the Equal Rights Amendment.
Thanks to the work of my colleagues at the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition, this awareness is something that has been increasing over the last few years, perhaps best demonstrated by the ERA’s mention in the 2020 democratic debates and the growth in the coalition. When I was given the task of creating content for social media this summer I knew I wanted to help bridge this gap for people who may be less knowledgeable about the ERA, as I had previously been. I tried to write every script with the understanding that this could come across someone’s For You Page who knows very little about the ERA. I asked myself questions like what language can I include to make this more accessible? And what terms, topics, and processes can I explain in the limited size of this clip? I was also able to use this process as an outlet to further explore my own questions about the Equal Rights Amendment. I wanted to fully understand the ERA’s history, the path forward, and the arguments of the opposition and concisely convey these topics to people who had less time to spend hours researching and reading. I hope that in my short time working with the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition I was able to make a difference and increase awareness.
Though my contributions might have been small, the impact this internship had on me and my understanding of equality was immense. And though my time with the ERA Coalition is over for now, I am excited to continue raising awareness and engaging in meaningful conversations around the Equal Rights Amendment with the knowledge I have learned.
Eve is a Senior at William & Mary studying Government and Linguistics interested in the intersection of language and power, human rights, and data policy.
**Editor's note: The Equal Rights Amendment was actually fully ratified by the 38th state (Virginia) in January of 2020. Many people simply don't know the process for adding amendments to the Constitution and use the words "ratified," "published," and "passed" interchangeably.