What Equality Really Looks Like

In 1996, my seventh grade social studies teacher Diana Murray read the beginning lines of the Declaration of Independence to the class. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal—’

She stopped.

“What does that mean?” she asked. “Who’s equal?”

Silence. Cautiously, I half-raised my hand. “Rich, white men?”

As a young Filipina-American born to parents who emigrated to avoid political oppression, my father taught me what privilege and prejudice looks like. It can be confusing.

When I reflect back on that day in class, it reminds me that meaningful change happens through a long process punctuated by sudden shifts in the collective conscience. For those in need of a quick history refresher:

  • The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress (read: not like our lame duck modern Congress) on July 4, 1776, announcing to the world that the 13 American colonies were no longer a part of the British Empire. In this document, America was born.
  • Nearly 72 years later, after decades of campaigning by staunch activists, the 19th Amendment was adopted into law on Aug. 26, 1920, thereafter prohibiting our government from denying anyone the right to vote based on gender.
  • 51 years after that, Congressmember Bella Abzug introduced a resolution asking Congress to commemorate that day thereafter as Women’s Equality Day.

August 26 marks a turning point in the history of the struggle for equal treatment of women and women’s rights, and it’s appropriate to ask this week: How far have we really come?

Every year, progressive women’s groups celebrate and observe Women’s Equality Day—not only to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment, but to also call attention to the ongoing movement toward full equality. This year, in particular, women’s organizations, elected officials and feminists—male and female—will focus on reviving the fight for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). At its core, the ERA declares that men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States.

Women matter. We make up more than half the electorate in our country, state, county and cities. Yet nearly 80 percent of our elected officials are men. The San Jose City Council has only two women among its eleven members (including the mayor), and there is a very real potential that San Jose will have only one female councilmember in January 2017. That’s quite a feat in what used to be known as the “Feminist Capital of the World,” the city that elected the first female mayor of any major American city.

Meanwhile, male lawmakers in state legislatures across the country are pushing bills that restrict women’s reproductive health, bodies, salaries and childcare decisions. When women’s advocacy groups bring policies to the table that could benefit society as a whole, their ideas are eviscerated. Yet repeated studies show that when women hold equal or majority control in a legislative body, the result is more progressive policy and more thoughtful governance.

While it is obviously a priority for women’s organizations to support and elect more women leaders, true equity will not exist until we as a society decide to be intentional about ending sexism and inequality.

In September, the Santa Clara Democratic Party Central Committee has the opportunity to adopt a resolution similar to the one Rep. Abzug wrote 43 years ago. Spearheaded by community leaders of all backgrounds and written and presented by Democratic Activists for Women Now (DAWN), the resolution calls on the county Democratic Party to create an executive board position dedicated to ensuring gender parity at all levels.

It may not be the ERA, but it’s an important step for our local political infrastructure, which so often objectifies and even demonizes women when it should be empowering them.

We call on our fellow women warriors—and male allies—to help this cause by speaking out, pushing back and refusing to stand idly by while a generation of future leaders is derailed by ignorance and arrogance.

Angelica Ramos serves as the Communications Director of the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) California and president of the local chapter, NWPC Silicon Valley. She lives in San Jose with her husband, Peter, and dog, Josie. All are feminists.

23 Comments

  1. Thanks, Angelica, for speaking out eloquently on equality. Let’s encourage high quality female leaders to pursue elected office, as well as other community leadership roles. And let’s not forget those gems (genuinely enlightened males) doing good work too!

  2. Santa Clara has four women, a majority, on the City Council. Pat Mahan is leaving. Roseann LaCoursiere, a true independent is running. Dominic Caserta is also in that race funded by developers. Shall we continue Santa Clara’s excellent record, or recycle a politician? Let’s put women first with Roseann who us supported by the other women on the Council.

  3. “Meanwhile, male lawmakers in state legislatures across the country are pushing bills that restrict women’s reproductive health, bodies, salaries and childcare decisions. When women’s advocacy groups bring policies to the table that could benefit society as a whole, their ideas are eviscerated. Yet repeated studies show that when women hold equal or majority control in a legislative body, the result is more progressive policy and more thoughtful governance.”

    Can you please cite what bills, specifically, restrict womens’ reproductive health, establish external (presumably male) control over womens’ bodies, restrict salaries or affect in any way childcare decisions (for better or worse).

    Also, can you factually establish how ‘progressive policy’ is the equivalent of ‘more thoughtful governance’? Because ‘progressive policy’ is what is getting the EU in financial trouble. It is what has led to France’s moribund economy. It is what has led to the dissolution of France’s Parliament. It is what has led to Greece’s moribund economy and national bankruptcy. And Italy’s. And Spain’s. And Portugal’s.

    Progressive immigration policy has led to a massive influx of Muslims – many of them quite radicalize and militant – in countries like Belgium, France and the UK. And those nations, among others are teetering on the brink of race wars, with Islamic radicals indulging in honor killings. female genital mutilation, child marriage, riots, violent assaults on law enforcement and members of the military.

    ‘Progressive policy’ is what has led to the current border crisis, couple with Obama’s unconstitutional actions with respect to executive action on immigration policy. Under the constitution, immigration law can only be made or changed by Congress and it is then up to the President to either sign proposed legislation into law or to veto it.

    ‘Progressive policy’ has driven countless businesses out of California and New York (for instance), and to states like Texas.

    ‘Progressive policy’ created Detroit.

    ‘Progressive policy’ created Chicago with it’s out of control crime, corruption, and racial tensions.

    “Progressive policy’ created Camden, New Jersey, with all the same sorts of problems suffered by Detroit and Chicago.

    ‘Progressive policy’ created Newark, New Jersey with all the same sorts of problems suffered by Detroit and Chicago.

    ‘Progressive policy’ created Oakland, CA. See above.

    Economically speaking, women and African Americans have suffered more than any other demographics under the ‘Progressive policy’ of Barack Obama who is, arguably, deeply influenced by Valerie Jarrett.

    Now, understand: I have no objection to women being active in governance. Nor do I take issue with women receiving equal pay in equivalent jobs for equivalent work. But, we need to be honest about the outcomes of ‘progressive policy’.

  4. “Rich, white men?”

    The tragedy of this young woman’s education is that, thanks to progressive efforts like feminism, she has now been politically empowered to be ignorant. In crafting that declaration, those “rich, white men” were demonstrating a level of courage all but unseen in today’s America. Rich? Yes, some of them may have been rich, but in their call for independence they demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice their every comfort for a cause, one that, should it have failed, would have cost each and every one of them their lives.

    The Founders of this country did not pull their political beliefs out of their rear ends and declare them sacred. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were built upon centuries of great scholarship, the real world lessons of history, and a profound faith in the values and character of the colonists. Contrast that to the tenets of 1960’s feminism, where it’s great heroines did nothing other than make demands on others and capitalize on women’s traditional dependence on men. Where is the scholarship behind gender equality? It is certainly not in the history books — Rome was not built in a day and it was not built by women. It’s not in our science books, where the mechanism of natural selection precludes the very existence of equality of any kind. Female equality was and is based on nothing more than words, uttered loud and often by some of the ugliest and angriest culture destroyers in history.

    “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” And what, I ask, is the legacy of this widely embraced witticism of the seventies? Two out of every three black kids, four out of ten Hispanic kids, one out of every four white kids, all without a dad at home. Quite an achievement. Our prisons are bursting with their offspring, and the drug manufacturer’s couldn’t have dreamed up a better scam: costly drugs for defective kids, costly drugs for their screwy, unhappy, aging and desperate mothers.

  5. The gender makeup of legislative bodies happens to be the result of democracy. If the author AR anyone else is advocating castING votes based on a candidates gender in order to achieve some sort of gender equity in legislaturea rather than on the basis of the candidates stated platform then they are really not worth listening to. Check out the movie “Idiocracy” – have a laugh but keep in mind that if idiots pushing thesE misguided notions on a gullible electorate then we’ll end up likE the society depicted in that movie. (Outlets like SJ I that provide forums for idiocy like this are complicit in our demise)

  6. a bunch of asshats above are just another perfect reminder of the work that needs to done — especially from this meyer weed and fustrated fin fan who both seem to have some serious issues with strong women — and i’m willing to bet they earned whatever demons follow them around thru their sorry-ass existence. angelica i apologize that my gender has so many bullies in its ranks. but there’s a lot more of us that appreciate, and applaud, all that you do and all that you stand for. Remember: sisters (don’t let the bastards grind you down) keep up the good work.

    • Rossty:

      > especially from this meyer weed and fustrated fin fan who both seem to have some serious issues with strong women

      If imagine you know everything that’s going on in other peoples’ heads, why do you need reality?

    • Sir, your comment would carry significantly more weight if you bothered to address specific issues with which you disagreed rather than indulging in personal attacks. This is not the path of meaningful debate. In fact, you might be interested in learning about the various forms of fallacious argumentation. For your convenience, I have attached a link so that you might increase your education.

      • My comment was somehow misplaced. It was my intent to address comments made by ‘ROSSTAFARIAN’.

  7. Rossta-F-Face,

    If you can manage to stop lol-ing and turn off TMZ, feel free to expose me as the ignorant misogynist you’ve made me out to be. Correct me about the dearth of substantive historical evidence supporting female equality; explain to me how evolution somehow overcame six million years of gender differences to make women magically equal in 1960.

    I won’t await your reply because your default setting seems to cause you to react emotionally when your precious beliefs are challenged. It’s a trait that wears great on a young bride or nurturing mother but looks quite queer on someone claiming the right to apologize on behalf of his gender.

    By the way, if you really believed women deserve equal treatment, why did you feel the need to attack those of us who lambasted the author? Is it because your physical separation prevents you from hugging her and you two having a good cry together?

    • Hey Finfan.

      I know Angela, and I think I know who Rosstafarian is now too. Neither is out of town on vacation, I’m sure they’re having plenty of cuddle time. (Don’t worry Rossta, your secret identity is safe with me.. BTW October is right around the corner )

      • Awwwwww… Rosstafarian it is nice to know that chivalry and patronism isn’t dead as you all attempt to impose this wholly fabricated model of gender equality on a society that (with some exceptions) says it is willing to respect competance and accomplishment.

  8. What equality really looks like?

    Well Angelica, from this woman’s point of view, equality looks like women being taken seriously for their experience, skills, talents and abilities. Not simply for their gender. Equality means that the female candidate can stand up against the standard we expect in the position they’re seeking. Equality looks like taking the same heat for doing a bad job that anyone else would do.

    I’ll ask you again, why did you support Sheriff Laurie Smith other than she’s “female” and “pro-choice”? I ask this in light of the fact that two more women have filed serious sexual harassment claims in the District Court against specific members of the Sheriff’s office and against the office itself for allowing institutionalized harassment to go unchecked despite complaints. How does supporting a woman like this fit into the “equality” lexicon of women who also want respect with their equality?

    • Agree totally. We should elect good PEOPLE not elect people based on their sex. It seems pretty obvious to me.

  9. I find it ironic that the person who wrote this article did not support the one women who will be serving on San Jose City Council next year. She also did not support any of the women who ran for mayor. If you say you want more women elected, you should support all women, not just your friends. Sounds like you are using this platform as an excuse to get yourself and your circle elected by playing the gender and race card. Your paycheck currently comes from working for a rich, white man to get him elected to office. Women like you are why women cannot get ahead

  10. Thoroughly amused that the majority of the responses appear to be from males incensed by this uppity broad. Way to illustrate “a generation of future leaders is derailed by ignorance and arrogance.”

    Great article, largely ridiculous responses.

    • Hazel Sonu, toward the top, I asked specific questions of the author with respect to her piece. They were pertinent and on-point, addressing specific statements she made. I also questioned her tacit assertion that ‘progressive’ politics and policies are, by definition good politics/policies. I further cite specific examples of how ‘progressive’ policies have, in fact, done more harm than good domestically and around the world.

      I would like to know in what ways these questions and assertions illustrate ‘ignorance and arrogance’ or add up to a ‘ridiculous response’. To date, neither the author nor any of her apologists have seen fit to actually debate the article on its merits which are, to my mind dubious, at best. Rather, what she does is use unsubstantiated assertions and claims to support the questionable assertion that women, as a whole, are more suited to positions of leadership than are men (“Yet repeated studies show that when women hold equal or majority control in a legislative body, the result is more progressive policy and more thoughtful governance.”).

      To my mind, this is feminist extremism and the exact opposite of actual equality. The subtext is that women – by dint of their gender – are better suited to take roles in governance and leadership than are men. Sadly, this is all too common among ‘feminists’ who have exceeded a pursuit of actual ‘equality’ in favor of turning ‘feminism’ into the other side of the chauvinism coin.

  11. Please explain why you didn’t support the ONE woman who was elected to San Jose City Council? You say it’s so sad that there’s only one, but you didn’t support even her. You also didn’t support any female candidate who ran for mayor. #And your paycheck comes from working to elect a rich, white man.# You work a full-time job to elect the opposite of what you say you want in office. Personally, I am voting for him and I donated but you cannot be serious to say you support getting more women in office when you make your living off getting white men elected.

    It’s obvious that you just like talking on a soap box and don’t do anything to actually support women get into office. Unless they’re your friends of course.