Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to Find Victory for Feminist Causes

Back in college, I was a radical feminist activist. I truly fit the stereotype of the raging, man-hating feminist. I stopped wearing makeup and shaving my legs. (Yeah, my mom loved that!) I started using words like “tyranny” and “oppression” in every paragraph. (I think that embarrassed my mom.) I had a fling with another woman. (And that will be news to my mom.) I believed then that using the government to get anything for women, or people of color, or members of the GLBT community, was wrong. It was a waste of time. I believed in revolution outside the halls of the legislature.

Then I began to think that perhaps legal methods were best. Look at civil rights. Though there’s still work to be done, the various pieces of civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s did help. Using the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, political leaders were able to make not hiring African Americans or serving them as customers illegal. (Please note that link's not Wikipedia. It's dKosopedia - a project of the Daily Kos.) It doesn’t mean African American workers are treated fairly or that practically every store clerk in America isn’t on heightened alert when an African American male teen comes in. It just means that legally people of color cannot be excluded from commerce.

Perhaps women could benefit from the same process. The Lilly Ledbetter Act, which would give women more latitude to sue their employers for violating the 1963 Equal Pay Act, would be a step in the right direction. Reinvigorating the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment, a project of the Alice Paul Institute, would give legal teeth to various fights women face.

So I became a bigger advocate of legislation as a feminist battle until…

I found myself again disillusioned with the legislative process. I’m terrified of a McCain administration. Yet I believe a single-payer healthcare system, which would require the government, is best. What to do?

I now believe, in true Aristotelian fashion, that a combination plan is best. We need both legislative measures in place, and we need to work outside the established system to change people’s lives. How about you? Which do you favor? Why?

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