The Women’s Rights Movement: How You Can Help

Cover photo from a 2018 Women's March.

Advocates from three women’s rights causes — financial feminism, the Equal Rights Amendment, and clinic defense — share actions you can take to help women.

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Stepping Up for Women’s Rights

I was talking with an old friend of mine not long ago named Kyle Mercury. As we were catching up, he mentioned that he’d reached a point in his life where he wanted to do whatever he could to help others. He told me he was especially interested in supporting women’s rights and young people who identified as LGBTQ.

The impression I got as Kyle told me this was he was eager to make a difference but he didn’t know where to start. That got me thinking about what I could do, or what any of us could do to get more involved. I decided to look into some solutions related to women’s rights and save LGBTQ solutions for another time, since they both deserve an entire episode.

I did some research into these issues, and I was intrigued by three causes I didn’t know much about. I thought you’d like to learn more about them, too.

Financial Empowerment for Women

(Skip to 1:40 to hear this section of the episode.)

Financial feminism is a body of thought that advocates for women to have greater access to financial services, for women to be paid more fairly and to not have to depend on men for their financial well-being, things like that.

Financial equality among genders hasn’t been common for most of human history, but activists have been working to change this.

A couple of activists who have helped me understand all of this are Kara Perez and Tanja Hester. Kara is the founder of Bravely, an online community for women who want to learn more about financial literacy. Tanja is an author and writer at the blog Our Next Life, where she writes her experiences since she retired at 38 years old.

Together they host the podcast The Fairer Cents, and Kara was kind enough to talk with me about why they do the work they do.

Kara Perez and Tanja Hester, hosts of The Fairer Cents podcast
Kara Perez and Tanja Hester, hosts of The Fairer Cents podcast. (Source)

What You Can Do

Kara offered two simple solutions on how we—especially men—can help empower more women financially.

“First and foremost, treat the women and girls in your life like people,” Kara said. “I know that sounds kind of silly. So often, anything for women gets what Tanja and I call the ‘shrink it and pink it’ treatment. That can be very patronizing.”

“When you are talking about whatever with women, particularly money,” she added, “understand that we can grasp the same concepts that you can grasp.”

Kara’s second point applied more to professional life. “Talk to the women in your life about how much money you make, especially co-workers or if you know you’re in the same industry. Share your income or the percentage salary raise you got this year. The more people can start breaking down this taboo around talking about salary, the more women will benefit from that.”

The Equal Rights Amendment

(Skip to 13:10 to hear this section of the episode.)

The ERA is a proposed amendment to the US Constitution that would guarantee legal equality for Americans regardless of their sex. It was co-authored by a women’s rights activist named Alice Paul in the early 20th century.

It’s been floating in the halls of Congress—unratified—since the 1920s.

I asked an expert named Krista Niles if she could help me better understand the ERA. She’s the Marketing & Civic Engagement Coordinator at The Alice Paul Institute, a not-for-profit based at the late activist’s home in New Jersey. The Institute carries Alice Paul’s work into the present.

Krista told me about the history of the ERA. She pointed out the last deadline for its ratification expired in 1982. Out of the 38 states required to ratify a constitutional amendment, she said 37 have voted for it (as of 2018). Because of the 1982 deadline, the ERA has been stuck in limbo.

Krista and The Alice Paul Institute want to rebuild the momentum.

Alice Paul, women's rights activist and co-author of the Equal Rights Amendment
Alice Paul, women’s rights activist and co-author of the Equal Rights Amendment. (Source)

What You Can Do

Krista shared what’s left to do to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed.

“The answer is both complex and simple,” she said. “The simple [part] is just to educate people.” Krista shared a link to a website that she and others have redesigned, EqualRightsAmendment.org. It educates readers on the ERA and offers a toolkit for anyone to spread the word.

Krista summarized the legal barriers hindering the ERA’s progress. “The complexity of trying to get the ERA ratified has to do with the original deadline,” referring to the date in 1982. There are two approaches to reviving the ERA. One would require a vote of ratification from an uncommitted state, as well as a challenge to the 1982 deadline. The other would start the ratification process over from the beginning.

Krista’s point about ratifying the ERA and how it’s both simple and complex at the same time is a good one. She’s put some serious hours into making the process easier for us to get involved with. That’s what success going to take: people like us getting involved.

Reproductive Rights and Clinic Defense

(Skip to 25:05 to hear this section of the episode.)

I intended to focus on reproductive rights because there’s so much more there than abortion. I thought about it, and I decided that ignoring abortion wouldn’t be fair to the theme of this episode. That’s because abortion rights are women’s rights.

An activist named Sonya Mendoza was kind enough to talk with me about something called clinic defense. She’s a training coordinator at a clinic defense organization called LA for Choice. On the weekends, Sonya shows volunteers how to safely escort patients into a reproductive health clinic in Los Angeles.

According to her, reproductive rights and clinic defense are tied to social problems beyond pregnancy, but she often encounters people who don’t share her perspective.

Sonya Mendoza, reproductive rights activist and volunteer at LA for Choice
Sonya Mendoza, reproductive rights activist and volunteer at LA for Choice.

What You Can Do

“There’s many different clinic defense organizations around the country,” Sonya said. “It really depends on where you are and if there are protestors.” If you’d like to volunteer, she advised a search for clinic defense organizations in your state, e.g. “clinic defense california”.

Sonya cautioned that clinic defense isn’t for everyone, but there are other support options besides clinic defense. “If you’re interested in supporting people in your home area that need abortions and might not be able to get them,” she said, “I would direct [you] to the National Network of Abortion Funds.”

What Do You Think?

What are other ways someone like my friend Kyle can support women’s rights? Please comment below and share your thoughts.

(Original cover photo: Phil Roeder)

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