Yesterday’s post received a comment from an anonymous reader (What is it with these people with such strong beliefs and yet who are unwilling to take credit for them? It baffles me…) who took issue with my comments about Proposal 2, dishonestly entitled the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. I would like to thank that anonymous reader for taking the time to comment and also for doing so in a civil, respectful manner. I think all politics would be so much easier if people could actually just talk issues instead of resorting to personal slander, so my hat’s off to you, Anonymous Commenter, for sticking to the issue at hand.
A portion of the comment reads “Every opponent that has spoken out about this proposal has failed to answer one simple question. Can you answer it? What is wrong with equal protection under the law?” (For the entire comment, click on the “comments” link at the bottom of yesterday’s post.) I will do my best to answer it, though I offer no guarantee that you will agree with my answer. But then, I guess if it were so cut-and-dry, there wouldn’t any debate bout it, would there?
Affirmative Action programs are important because they give people or groups of people a fair playing field. In my opinion, this IS “equal protection under the law.” Because my degree, my career, and the area I know best is Women’s Studies/Women’s Issues, I will address this matter from that vantage point. However, the same truths ring true for many of the minority peoples in this country as well, including, but not limited to, African American and Hispanic American cultures.
Programs that give so-called “preferential treatment” to women are put in place to help make up for the fact that, since this country was founded, women’s rights have been severely limited in comparison with their male counterparts. As you may know, despite the best efforts of Abigail Adams in persuading her husband to “remember the ladies” in the framing of the constitution, in the early days of our country, women were not allowed to vote, own property, seek higher education, speak publicly or enjoy many of the other freedoms enjoyed by males. In addition, until late in the last century, physical violence perpetrated on a woman by a man within the confines of a marriage was not only permitted, but was recommended. As a result, women in this country have spent dozens of decades “behind” in the rat-race to success.
Even in “modern” times, the barriers to education, self-improvement and even to successful careers in business and politics that have been systematically and institutionally imposed on women HAVE NOT provided them with “equal protection under the law.” Women remain the majority of persons living below the poverty line in this country. They are largely blocked from participation in higher-level politics, high-level positions of business and even from executive positions in the entertainment industry. Women also are more likely to suffer spousal abuse, sexual assault and murder at the hands of an intimate partner and, in the vast majority of these crimes, the perpetrators, who are almost always male, are never brought to justice.
Tell me, Anonymous Commenter, where has OUR equal protection been all these years? Where was it when the courts decided that there is no such thing as rape within a marriage? And where was it last week, when the Maryland Appeals court overturned a rape case, stating that a woman cannot withdraw her consent for sex after penetration has occurred? Where was it when women fought to gain entrance to male-only educational institutions? Where is it when the woman who is raped is convinced by the police and the prosecutor NOT to press charges? Where was it when our little girls were taught that their value lies in their beauty and compassion and not in their voracious little minds that start out every bit as hungry as little boys’ minds? Where is it when women are paid an average of 75 cents on the dollar to their male counterparts? Where is it when a middle aged woman dies of a heart-attack because studies about heart disease are only conducted on men and the ER staff don’t recognize the difference in symptoms in women, dismissing her as emotionally upset or pre-menstrual. Where is it when the female junior high student is encouraged to take child development courses rather than high-level math and science? Where is it when our little girls are sexualized to become victims while our little boys are militarized to become perpetrators? Where was in when women were intimidated away from filing sexual harassment claims and then fired in retribution? And why, Anonymous Commenter, is there no Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing under the law that women and men are equal?
So here is my final answer to you, Anonymous Commenter: Affirmative Action Programs are put in place to EQUALIZE the opportunities for woman to participate in “non-traditional” careers. They are designed to encourage girls from any income bracket and from any background to explore ANY career they choose, not just those traditionally considered “female” (and, coincidentally, low-paying). They are designed to help young women pay for and gain entrance to male-dominated educational institutions. They are designed to allow women THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES AS MEN. When women have finally broken through the limitations heaped on them by centuries of biased laws, unfair social practices and gender-based discrimination and when they HAVE “equal protection under the law,” then, and only then, will I be okay with the end of Affirmative Action Programs.