Some Harsh Words about the Equal Rights Amendment

Wendy McElroy recently wrote an article for Fox News (E.R.A.: R.I.P.) that had some extremely harsh — but accurate — words for feminists who have decided to resuscitate the Equal Rights Amendment. As she sees it, feminist groups such as the National Organization for Women are resurrecting the ERA because they have nowhere else to turn.

McElroy, for her part, has no use for the latest attempt to push the ERA,

THere are many reasons to oppose the new ERA, not the least of which is that the Constitution already applies equally to both genders. What organizations like NOW are hoping to achieve is not equality, however. They wish to sneak in some agenda items through the back door.

What sort of things would NOW like to sneak through the back door? As McElroy points out, NOW would almost certainly use the ERA to demand that all states fund abortions. Section 1 of the ERA says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” (emphasis added). The Supreme Court has previously ruled that states may fund abortions if they choose, but cannot be compelled to do so.

But with the ERA in place, NOW and other groups would likely argue that when a state says it will pay for, say, an appendectomy but not an abortion, that this decision is a prima facie denial of a woman’s right to equality under the law.

Think this is some absurd right wing idea? NOW and others filed legal briefs in a New Mexico abortion which case which argued just this: that a version of the ERA adopted by New Mexico required state funding for abortions. The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of this notion in 1998, and ordered the state to begin paying for abortions.

Like McElroy, I am pro-choice but against forcing taxpayer to fund of abortions, and the feminist duplicity on this point is difficult to stomach. On the one hand filing briefs in New Mexico arguing that ERA language means states can’t opt out of funding abortions, but simultaneously attacking as a right wing myth that the passage of the ERA means mandated funding for abortions.

On the other hand, the mainstream feminist movement has become its own worst enemy when it comes to preserving abortion rights. According to McElroy,

Eventually, gender feminists such as Catharine MacKinnon refused to share a stage with women who argued on any grounds for the right to publish pornography. At that moment, I knew the feminist movement would not be able to regroup should abortion rights ever come under sustained attack. The most innovative voices in the movement — most notably Camille Paglia — were relegated to the status of “anti-feminist” because they disagreed. What happened to the feminism in which every woman’s voice should be heard?

You can see this inability to defend abortion rights in the rhetoric that has been coming out of NOW ever since the election of George W. Bush. I expected to see a sophisticated, coordinate opposition to Bush’s initiatives on abortion, but instead NOW seems reduced to shrieking that Bush will create some sort of Afghanistan-style oppressive regime if we don’t all hit the streets in protest today. All NOW and other groups seem to have left when it comes to abortion is hyperbole and vicious ad hominem attacks — most pro-abortion groups, in fact, don’t even seem interested in actually defending the morality of abortion (which might not be so bad, since for the last decade they have been decisively outmaneuvered by abortion opponents on the rhetoric front).

But while they don’t seem to be able to make the case for abortion, they have no problem with regularly sending me fund raising letters/pamphlets that highlight their continuing campaign against Rush Limbaugh. I guess for NOW that’s enough of a consolation prize for the organization’s continuing irrelevance.


E.R.A.: R.I.P.. Wendy McElroy, Fox News, April 20, 2001.

Columbia’s Sexual Harassment Policies and Its Status as a Private School

Wendy McElroy makes an interesting observation that I had not heard before about the controversy surrounding Columbia’s sexual harassment policy. If Columbia were a public university or college its policy would be clearly unconstitutional and the courts would take little time at all overturning it. Columbia is a private university, however, and so doesn’t have to abide by the Constitutional protections that a state institution would have to consider — the standard for private colleges is that it has to adhere to “fundamental fairness.”

But as McElroy points out, Columbia is using a federal grant to pay the university official in charge of administering the harassment policy,

Columbia’s Administration also points out that the University is a private institution and the courts have upheld its right to determine which procedures are appropriate to serve its needs. In short, students have no right to expect Constitutional protections from university procedures. Private or not, it is the government, which means the taxpayer, who will foot much of the bill for Columbia’s experiment with gender justice. As part of their Report, the Task Force mentioned that grant funding to finance a full-time officer responsible for disciplining sexual misconduct was available from the Department of Justice. The on-campus gender crusader is estimated to cost $125,000 of taxpayer money in the first year. Yet, according to Patricia Catapano, who chaired the Task Force, “The courts only have said that Columbia…has to have fundamental fairness” because it is a private institution.

If Columbia wants to maintain its Star Chamber-like system of student justice it may have the right to do so as a private university, but it certainly shouldn’t use taxpayer money to enforce a policy that would be unconstitutional at a public institution.


Gender Madness on Columbia’s Campus. Wendy McElroy, IFeminists.Com, March 20, 2001.

The “Good Rape”: The Vagina Monologues Returns

Even if I tried, I don’t think I could write a parody of the contemporary feminist movement that accomplished half of what The Vagina Monologues did last year. For those of you who haven’t yet heard of this play, the Vagina Monologues features women representing vaginas who talk about their experiences onstage. The premise is typically wacky, and meant to focus on issues of domestic violence.

The play earned a lot of criticism, however, for its positive portrayal of the statutory rape of a 13 year old girl by a 24 year old woman. At the conclusion of that scene, the 13 year old girl tells the audience that it might have been rape, but “well, I say if it was rape, it was a good rape.” If a male playwright depicted the statutory rape of a 13 year old girl by a 24 year old man and then had the girl say that if it was rape, it was a good rape, feminists would never stop grousing about the play (and rightly so), but as is typical among leftist movements, the same rules simply don’t apply to feminists. That part of the play reached national attention when a male columnist at Georgetown’s student newspaper was fired for writing a column asking if there was such a thing as a “good rape” (in the official explanation of his dismissal, the paper complained the student had attacked “a women’s issue on campus.”)

Anyway, Feminist.Com is trying to arrange for colleges and universities to perform the play on V-Day. V-Day is the radical feminist attempt to redefine Valentine’s Day. According to a Feminist.Com press release, “V-Day is still Valentine’s Day. But the “V” now also stands for vagina, anti-violence and victory.”

With backing from Planned Parenthood and others, the goal is to have The Vagina Monologues produced at campuses around the nation. The open question is whether or not they’ll get to portray the “good rape” scene. Wendy McElroy in a column for LewRockwell.Com notes that the Feminist.Com press release specifically warns colleges thinking about performing the play that they will be given a special script and,

You must use the version of the script of “The Vagina Monologues” that is included in the Performance Kit that you will receive. No other version of the play is acceptable for your production. Do not use the book of the play or versions of the script from previous College Initiatives. The new script must be followed. You may not edit any introductions or monologues. And you may not exclude or change the order of any of the monologues.

McElroy speculates that the V-Day folks want to do a little rewriting of history and exclude the now infamous “good rape” scene.

Either way, the play and the reactions to it will provide yet more examples of the intellectually bankrupt nature of the radical feminist enterprise. Take this quote, included in the Feminist.Com press, from a woman who staged the play, release intended to show the life altering potential The Vagina Monologues possesses:

“Overall, I loved how I felt being part of a movement that empowers women. During the months leading up to the performances, and especially during the few weeks just prior to the event, I relished in the fact that I was able to use the word “vagina” in my everyday vocabulary. Every time I saw a cast member on campus, we would speak loudly and confidently about how excited we were to be part of “The VAGINA Monologues.” During staff meetings and in casual conversation with College Deans, I would ask of they were going to attend “The VAGINA Monologues.” In dining halls, the campus store, in libraries, bars and restaurants, it was my favorite topic of conversation. Because of the College Initiative, I said VAGINA at least a dozen times a day for two months, and I was able to reclaim it as a word.”

All that rhetoric about seeing women as more than sex objects and respecting women as moral, social and political equals; now it turns out that the big message of radical feminism is that women are nothing more than sex objects after all (who can benefit from a “good rape” even), and the path to liberation is saying “vagina” three times.