This meeting, already set for an hour later than usual, was delayed another hour because most of its sixteen attendees were still at the UUSS Public Forum meeting, which lasted well over an hour longer than planned.
Our speaker, who was very patient and completely unflappable, made an outstanding presentation.
What is a feminist? What is feminism not? Why haven’t we passed the Equal Rights Amendment? Lynn Medeiros, who is a professor in the Women’s Studies Department at Sierra College, answered these questions and more. Ms. Medeiros painted the historical landscape of feminism for the audience, recalling the movement’s heyday of the late seventies and early eighties, earlier efforts which resulted in the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, and the attempts to pass an Equal Rights Amendment.
With the obvious passion of someone involved in her subject beyond that of a mere intellectual pursuit, Ms. Medeiros pointed out the disfavor now associated with the term feminism, and the role of the former Moral Majority in bringing this about—in particular, Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum. By using negative rhetoric, those opposed to the ERA have made it distasteful to be labeled a feminist. Medeiros pointed out that, contrary to the negative mischaracterizations, feminism is simply an attempt to provide an alternative to the traditional power structure that awards power based on gender. She also pointed out that feminists have been mischaracterized as being all women, man haters, and gays; that feminists do not seek to be equal in every respect to men, nor to relinquish their femininity; that they don’t want men to stop acknowledging that femininity, and they don’t want their feminism to used as an excuse to assume they would like to be treated with a locker room attitude.
Although the government has passed several laws giving women rights and protections they did not previously have, Medeiros pointed out that at least one of those, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was inadvertent. She explained how Howard Smith, a Congressman who hated the Civil Rights Act, amended it to give civil rights protection to women in attempt to kill the bill. As it turns out, Mr. Smith miscalculated both the level of support for race-based civil rights and the willingness to allow the same protections for women. Even though statutes are on the books and all but fifteen states have their own equal rights amendments in their state constitutions, she emphasized the need to pass a national ERA to encompass the entire nation, to raise the level of legitimacy for the justice provided for by the ERA, and to ensure existing statutes are not easily reversed.
To learn more about feminism or support feminist causes, you might wish to contact one or more of the following: National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Third Wave Foundation, and Center for Women Policy Studies. Links to all four are provided on the Links page.
Report prepared by Brian Jones, Recorder
In a short membership meeting (announced well before the event), immediately before Ms. Medeiros’ presentation, members voted to ratify the HAGSA Board's decision to increase the number of at-large Board members from four to five. The HAGSA Bylaws will be amended accordingly.