Trump Attended the March for Life, Now he Has to Support the Equal Rights Amendment
In 1981, President Ronald Reagan withdrew Republican support for the Equal Rights Amendment in favor of a constitutional amendment against abortion. This decision marked the beginning of feminism being seen as a political issue- one that can be deemed “false” by opposition and eliminated from the docket by supporters, when its not politically opportune. By speaking at the 2020 March for Life , Trump has continued to perpetuate the fatal pattern of partisan feminism.
Since the 1840s, feminism was a Republican issue. The Republican Party was viewed as the “Great Emancipator,” spearheading political support for the abolitionist movement, forming the first Women’s National Committee in 1840, and supporting the 19th Amendment. By 1920, however, this progress began to experience friction. When the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution was proposed to declare men and women legally equal, Phyllis Schlafly, an American constitutional lawyer, began the STOP ERA movement. She claimed that legal equality would lead to a host of negative consequences, such as widows losing social security benefits, and men no longer being held responsible to support their wives. The assumptions that Schlafly made about the ERA demonized progress for women, making opposition to feminism a political platform.
In 1981, Reagan denounced the Equal Rights Amendment as a platform, instead supporting a constitutional amendment against abortion. Not much later, he showed us the first evidence of partisan feminism silencing women: he publicly called out the head of the Republican National Committee, Mary Dent Crisp, for supporting pro-choice issues. Because feminism was now a political issue, she could not support both Republican ideals and feminism. This not only led Crisp to resign, but it encouraged 50% of Americans to demonize women’s progress- because that attitude flipped attention to banning abortion, winning elections for Reagan.
On January 26, 2020, President Trump carried on the tradition of partisan feminism, becoming the first President to speak at the March for Life. Regardless of one’s stance on abortion, it is apparent that Trump’s presence at this event has continued to perpetuate the history of partisan feminism. Just weeks before Trump attended the March for Life, the Justice Department rejected the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, again. Thirty-eight years after Reagan, in the mind of Trump and millions of Americans, you still can’t be a Republican feminist.
In January 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, filling the 2/3 majority necessary to pass the Amendment to the Constitution. The Trump administration responded that the deadline to pass the Amendment was in 1982, and declared that states will have to start back at square one of the voting process. In reality, this is false, because Congress has the authority to change or eliminate deadlines for Amendment passage. However, just like Reagan, President Trump has made a choice to try to limit feminism- a decision that is reinforcing partisan feminism and holding back the women’s movement.
Partisan feminism is feminism void of meaning. The President has recently increased the number of women in his cabinet to increase his appeal to woman voters in the election, but is unwilling to take the steps necessary to officially give women equal rights. At the same time, feminism has lost it’s meaning to civilians. Some Republicans opposed to feminism may be more supportive of feminism than avowed Democrats and feminists. For example, Harvey Weinstein called himself a Hillary Clinton supporter, although clearly has never supported women. All the while, feminism has been used to silence women, as we can not achieve a political platform if our opinions toward feminism do not fit within the agenda of our political parties.
Trump has reinforced the idea of feminism being on a political agenda. He has chosen to reject it, and, when we have a Democratic president, he or she will choose whether confronting women’s issues is politically beneficial. We will not be able to view and confront women’s issues objectively until we begin seeing them as not a political issue, but a fact. Currently, 50% of our population, women, are not receiving equal protection under the laws. This should not be an election issue to win. This is an inherent problem in our society- one that needs to be solved by a unified front.
At the Bipartisan Feminist Project, we strive to create a unified front of feminism, so we can more effectively confront women’s issues in every area of life.