I had the pleasure tonight of attending a screening and discussion of the film Equal Means Equal, put on by the Women and Gender Studies department here at CofC. The film focused on many points, all centering back to a common theme of social injustice in our society, the world, and the U.S. constitution. The focus was mostly on gender inequality and the film explored various topics on how women are discriminated against in the workplace, in the criminal justice system, government, etc. The panel included Dr. Millicent Brown,a historian and activist who was one of the first Black children to integrate South Carolina schools with her “Somebody Had to Do It” project, a campaign that features information on school desegregation. Also on the panel was Shaundra Young Scott, the first African American executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, a graduate of John Marshall Law School, and a previous Attorney for South Carolina Legal Services. There were also two student panelists, my friend and roommate Kate Cockerham, who wrote a resolution that was voted on and recently passed by Charleston City Council to adopt principles found in the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) resolution that was passed by the UN in 1979. The United States is one of only seven countries that has yet to pass CEDAW at the national level. This means that Charleston City is now paving the way for the rest of the US to adopt the resolution, that is now on its way to state level government in Columbia. The final student panelist was Temperance Russell, a communications major and activist here at CofC.
The film dissected issues women face in the workplace such as not getting paid the same amount as male counterparts, and not receiving fair maternity leave or health benefits. Also mentioned were the unfair ways the criminal justice system has failed many women. Two survivors of domestic abuse spoke out about how after protecting themselves from their abusers, they were thrown in jail for 20+ years, one woman who was raped was sent to a mental hospital instead of getting the counseling and help she deserved. Yet we see time and time again for males, such as Brock Turner or George Zimmerman, they are found not guilty or are put on probation. There is also unequal representation of women in office, something that needs to change soon so that the fight for passing the ERA can be completed. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was written to guarantee equal rights for all citizens, men and women, and says the following: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The ERA has been proposed in hopes that the Constitution might finally guarantee equal rights for women, because as Equal to Equal pointed out, it currently does not. The U.S. constitution was written by men, for men, with no intent to include women, and this is why passing the ERA is so important. Without it, women will continue to have to fight the supreme court on cases, trying to prove that they have the same rights as men, and should be treated fairly because of it. I’m grateful I was able to see the film and learn more information on how to join the fight to pass the ERA. I encourage everyone to research and check out the ERA’s website as well as screen Equal to Equal in your own home when you get the chance. As students of sustainability and social justice, we have an obligation to act. We can’t allow ourselves to sit in silence.