“80% of Americans do not know that women do not have equal rights under the Constitution.”
But that wasn’t as shocking of a statistic at the next one will read: “95% of Americans think the US Constitution should guarantee equal rights to women and men.”
Now, the second stat was used as a point in favor of passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), stating that if 95% Americans think there should be equal rights for men and women, then that would be a large deciding factor in gaining support to pass the bill and have total equality.
However, I read it as only 95% of Americans think women and men should have the same rights. Nonetheless, the point is that women should have equal rights as men, and the fact that it’s 2K16 and women still don’t is dumbfounding. We live in a country that prides itself on being for the common people, understanding of everyone’s troubles and backgrounds, and yet we regard 51% of the population as lessers in society, their only legal right is voting.
Taking that into consideration, the people behind the Fund for Women’s Equality/ERA Coalition, a coalition made to gain support for the amendment and help women in legal situations decided to host A Night of Comedy with Jane Fonda on February 7 at Caroline’s on Broadway. Appearing on Sunday included the coalition’s board, including Gloria Steinem and Jessica Neuwirth, as well as other prominent activists and comedians, like Rosie O’Donnell, Judah Friedlander, Sasheer Zamata, Gina Brillon, Wyatt Cenac, Michelle Buteau, and Sarah Jones.
Why host a comedy night for a serious political topic? Steinem, who was recently in news for criticizing female Bernie Sanders’ supporters, stated that “laughter is the only free emotion” and that in some cultures, “it is thought to be a path into the unknown. So there is a reason why we are laughing our way to freedom.”
Of course these women have had their run-in with politics and politicians in the recent weeks, with Steinem’s comment as well as O’Donnell’s criticism with Donald Trump in 2015. While O’Donnell kept quiet and didn’t mention Trump in her stand-up act – instead opting for a look into her family life and her recent heart attack—that didn’t stop Steinem from opening with him.
“It’s hard for any off us to be funny when Donald Trump is in the lead. And I hope there will soon be a group of rich people to explain that he is disgracing rich people. He’s not really a successful businessman, he is a successful con artist. And somebody had figured out that had he just taken the $200 million or whatever he inherited from his father and invested it, he would now have more money than after going bankrupt three times and sticking everybody with his debt. This is not a businessman, can you surpass that for surrealism and humor?”
After being introduced, Fonda talked about her past and her role in activism and feminism. “I want to talk about how I came to feminism: it took quite a while to understand feminism. To understand that it didn’t mean you don’t like men, it means that women should be equal and that you were willing to stand up for that. And so I began to identify as a feminism—that would be gloriously reinforced in me whenever I heard Gloria speak.”
Although letting it slip that a 9 to 5 sequel was attempted in the past, and her favorite part was when Dolly Parton started tapping her fingers while singing, Fonda closely sticked to the topic at hand. She did mention that she thought Trump was playing on “people’s anxieties” with his “racist” and “dangerous” views. And in adding to the hate, she said “even if he doesn’t make it, which I don’t think he will, all young Muslims: it will drive them closer to terrorists.”
At the end of the night, however, it wasn’t who was making the worst political remarks or who would become president, it was about and their rights—or lack thereof. “And it is a seriously long fight but I think in some countries that have equality, they don’t have the right to practice those freedoms because they haven’t had a fight. And after we win we’re going to have muscle,” ended Steinem.
Read our interviews below and be sure to check out the ERA website for more information.
Can you elaborate on your comment with Bill Maher on female Bernie supporters?
It’s on Facebook and I learned not to comment in the world of Twitter, so it’s on Facebook.
What do you say about the young voters who are voting for Bernie instead of Hillary?
I think that Bernie is saying the message of occupy. So he is stating the problem very clearly, which is a good thing, and Hillary is stating the solution very clearly, which is a good thing. And hopefully, I’m sure in the future, they will end up together.
Do you believe Hillary would get the youth vote besides that demographic’s inclination towards Bernie?
Well she has the gender gap and the race gap as it is. So in 2008 I didn’t think she could win but now I think she can. But it’s going to be hell.
What do you think is going on with the Republicans?
I’m sorry to say that they’re not Republicans. Those of us who remember the real Republican Party, which supported the Equal Rights Amendment before the Democrats and others were pro-choice. These are extremists who have taken over the Republican Party, and it’s very dangerous to have one of our two great parties in the hands of extremists.
New York Representative Carolyn Maloney:
You can’t dismiss that Bernie is very popular with youth voters.
I think more people are gaining votership. I think she will get the nominee.
Have you been campaigning for her?
Yes I have, I’ve been to New Hampshire, I’ve been to Iowa, I’m going to South Carolina and Virginia.
Those are the places that haven’t ratified the ERA. What can we do to wake them up?
Well it’s going to take a lot of grassroots effort and we’re going to keep working on it and that’s what we’re doing.
But that’s been going on for years.
Well it’s time to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. This is a wonderful gathering of people and I hope it brings more momentum: we have 180 cosponsors in the house and we’re working hard to make it happen. And many of the things that people said that we shouldn’t have fail. We passed it in ’72 and it was ratified by 35 states and we need 38. Well what they said was “No women in the military.” And the women are in the military. They said “Co-ed bathrooms.” Well have you been on a plane recently? They’re all co-ed bathrooms. They were concerned about gay rights; well the Supreme Court decision certainly helped straight out some gay rights questions. So many of the obstacles are no longer there, but the statistics are there, the inequality is still there. And if you look at the gender gap, it has been consistent for roughly thirty years. And what happens is the gender gap, it compounds into retirement, into your savings account, into your earnings. And it’s one of the reasons why women are the largest proportion living in poverty, in their old age.
As someone whose received Oscar nominations, what do you think about its diversity?
Well I think it’s very clear that it’s part of the dialogue. We have to be talking about it. The Academy is taking it seriously and I think there’s going to be changes.
What do you think about Bernie?
I think he’s great. I think he’s raising political issues. I think he’s very good at pointing out the problems and Hillary can solve it.
You worked with Tina Fey on 30 Rock so how was that like?
I think it’s pretty much what you would think it would be like. It was pretty awesome, yeah it was pretty awesome.
Taking that into consideration, what do you think about women writers and women comedians in the first place?
It’s great and there’s been more and more recently and that’s good. I don’t think the reason there’s more women in comedy is necessarily because show business is such an activist society. I think it’s because you have a few women like Tina Fey who have been very successful. And Hollywood, not always so creative from the business side of things, they just like to copy what’s successful. But I hope that things keep getting more that way and more diverse. I’m just saying that if you’re a feminist, don’t get relaxed and think feminism is solved, is what I’m saying. You know it’s not like “Well, we love women now so we’re all for it.” It’s bringing money and Hollywood only cares about money.
Would you call yourself a feminist?
Yeah definitely. I mean feminism means you’re for equal rights, so yes, I’m for equal rights, 100%.
And why are here supporting the ERA?
Well I was asked to do it and I think it’s a great opportunity. One thing about America, and I talk a lot about this in my act, is the hypocrisy of America. Because not too many countries build themselves as the greatest country in the history of the planet, but we do. And I’m actually working on a new stand up album and movie right now which is called “America is the Greatest Country in the United States.” And it’s all about the hypocrisy of our history and are we really the best.