Is Hollywood Attacking the Fight for the Equal Rights Amendment?
Is Hollywood Attacking the Fight for the Equal Rights Amendment?
by Kamala Lopez
On January 27th of 2020 the Equal Rights Amendment that would guarantee equal justice under law and ban discrimination on the basis of sex became part of the U.S. Constitution. That’s only the 28th amendment ratified in our entire history. Why then has there been so little media attention surrounding this historic achievement by America’s women?
And why is the entertainment industry spending millions of dollars and engaging the talents of our most brilliant and charismatic stars to push a narrative in the new FX original series Mrs. America that focuses on the past fight for ERA while ignoring the present urgent battle raging in our states and Federal courts? And why are they even going farther – saying ERA “remains comatose”* when it is in fact ratified and very much alive?
After close to a century, American women have succeeded in ratifying the final of the 38 states needed to achieve constitutional equality.
In 2016 my ERA focused non-profit Equal Means Equal moved operations from the Hollywood and New York arts and entertainment capitals to put our boots on the ground in multiple unratified states. Aggressive advocacy and education operations successfully pressured the legislatures in Nevada and Illinois to ratify ERA in 2017 and 2018 respectively. What we believed at the time would be our final act came last year, when we relocated to rural Virginia and ran a creative voter identification and turnout operation that used ERA as a motivator to move suburban white women, African Americans and enlightened white men to the ballot box. The unprecedented ERA get-out-the-vote campaign won six seats that flipped the Virginia general Assembly to pro-ERA, got women the first ever vote in the Virginia House of Delegates and victory on January 27th with the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Now the Justice Department is coming after us, moving the goalposts, rewriting law and refusing to recognize ERA as a valid Constitutional amendment in order to take our hard-earned rights away. [Read our lawsuit here to see how Equal Means Equal is fighting back against the DOJ.]
Phyllis Schlafly, the late conservative author and staunch anti-ERA activist, played by Cate Blanchett in Mrs. America, spent most of her life trying to stop other women from doing what she did – work outside of the home to support her family. Beyond that personal hypocrisy – Phyllis Schlafly went out of her way to block all American women from achieving equal rights.
Women need help and support from Hollywood and the media to end this injustice and respect women’s equality once and for all.
But instead of support, instead of rallying the creative troops like we’ve done as a community so many times before (seatbelts and smoking and returning vets from Afghanistan) support for ERA has been given the cold shoulder. I have been traipsing into executive suites all over town for almost ten years and have been met with dismissal, rejection, and even patronizing BS about how women’s issues don’t sell; any excuse to keep the real battle for ERA off the public radar.
Hollywood’s post-#MeToo laissez faire attitude about the fight for women’s equality in the United States raises a real red flag for me. If the entertainment industry, and society in general, is going to effectively address what #MeToo unveiled, then we must embrace ERA as the necessary a priori action towards making equality substantive.
Look at these miserable stats from the recent Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Report: across 11 years and 1100 studio movies only 4% of the directors were women and only one was Latina; 82% of C Suite jobs are held by men. From the report: “the perception of a gendered marketplace pushes females—and the movies they direct—to the margins. Until industry decision‐makers confront the beliefs they hold about female directors, little progress will be made.”
If Hollywood actually cared about rectifying gender injustice in our industry, it would mean not only having zero tolerance policies in place for sex discrimination in the workplace, but also having benchmarks and metrics so that actual progress could be measured and achieved.
You and I are the real Mrs. America. And Ms. America, Miss America. Sra. America, Senorita America and Trans America too. And we need Hollywood to do the most important and effective thing right now to support women’s equality: join the fight for ERA. The courts will decide ERA’s fate in the next few months. Please help us in this fight to ensure that women finally get human and equal rights they deserve and have been fighting for since the 1800s.
I interviewed Phyllis Schlafly for my film Equal Means Equal before she died. She was ninety-two. The original cut featured her for over ten minutes and included her views on why ERA was wrong for women, her thoughts on proper family structure, religion and education. In the end I took her out. I knew my film would be more controversial if I left her in, maybe even more commercially valuable, but I truly felt bad for her. Her views were so outdated and laughable that it would have been cruel to leave them in. She was a woman of great personal power and ambition living in a time and place where outlets for that kind of energy were essentially non-existent. She carved out an important place for herself in a virulently sexist environment.
I respected Schlafly, despite disliking her world view and actions. She wrote five books, got a law degree at fifty, raised a raft of kids and ran around the country telling everyone that women should not run around the country and should obey their husbands. It’s no surprise that Ann Coulter wrote the intro to her last book. But I love women. Even women that hate women. That’s why I fight for the ERA. We all deserve our place in this world – whether we want to stay home, run the nation or get out there and ruin it like Phyllis Schlafly did. J
All women everywhere need equality lovers like you to read our Open Letter and get involved in the fight for ERA. Use #ISupportTheERANow and tell us why you support equality for all regardless of sex. Join us at equalmeansequal.org today to learn more and help make this historic fight a success.
Kamala Lopez, a filmmaker, actress and activist, is president of the pro-ERA organization Equal Means Equal, the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit to protect ratification of ERA. Ms. Lopez directed and starred in the 2016 award-winning documentary, Equal Means Equal, and has since organized and shepherded the successful campaign to get the last three states needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.