It’s a bittersweet day to be an Illinoisan. On Wednesday night, more than 45 years after it was approved by Congress, Illinois finally voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. We’re now only a single state away from the ERA becoming a part of the US Constitution.
Obviously, it’s something worth celebrating, but it didn’t happen without a long and arduous fight.
The Women’s March Chicago said in a news release that “…this final push to move the ERA forward did not happen overnight. The massive mobilization of support in both 2017 and 2018 at women’s marches has paved the way for incredible enthusiasm and collaboration of new and seasoned activists on both a state and national level. We’ve witnessed this in the formation of groups like Indivisible, the resurgence of encouraging and empowering women to run for office, and the emergence of movements such as #MeToo and #ILSayNoMore.”
This is true. I witnessed the sudden surge of people who wanted to get involved through social media groups, marches and rallies. Locally, I connected with some of those people in my own city and helped mobilize them so we’d have a strong presence at the Chicago Women’s March.
I was one of the many marchers who flooded the streets of Chicago in my regrettably non-inclusive pussy hat during the inaugural Women’s March.
Those early days were a powerful time. Was this a new wave of feminism? Was real change actually on the horizon?
But, mostly, I share the sentiments of Democratic Rep. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego, who was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying, “I am appalled and embarrassed that the state of Illinois has not [ratified the ERA] earlier.”
What took us so long, Illinois? Why were we nearly dead-last on the list of states to ratify? Was Phyllis Schlafly really that powerful? Were our politics really that corrupt?
Honestly, I’ve felt an edge of bitterness since that first Women’s March in Chicago, one that many underrepresented women (i.e. anyone who isn’t white and middle/upper-class) will recognize. You see, women of color, the LGTBQ+ communities, we’ve all been fighting for equality for longer than we can remember. Then suddenly Trump gets elected, and white women get scared, and they remember men have the ability to take their rights away. So they suddenly decide to pick the mantle up again as if they’re doing something brave.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m encouraged to see Illinois finally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. I’m encouraged to see people flood the streets across the globe to fight for equal rights.
But don’t get it twisted; this fight’s been going on a long time. And every time white women get involved, they need reminding that there are intersections of oppression. The Lavender Menace. Womanism. Shall I go on?
The oppressive veil of White Feminism began to rear its ugly head right here in my hometown as soon as the Women’s Marches began.
So, yes, let’s celebrate this victory for Illinois. But let’s also recognize that it took Illinois all the way until 2018 to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Let’s hope all of these new faces who have suddenly decided equal rights are worth fighting for continue to fight even when those intersections of oppression no longer apply to them.