What does the image suggest about conflicting ideas of the role of women in American society in the wake of the social and political divisions created by the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s?
From the picture, one can tell that women played a role in protesting the Equal Rights Amendment, as Phyllis Schlafly is seen in the photo leading a rally against the amendment, as people hold signs of support behind her. One might think that, as an oppressed and often marginalized section of society, women would largely support equal rights, which sought to level the playing field for women and prohibit gender discrimination.
Though many feminist groups sought gender neutrality and equality, women like Schlafly believed that true neutrality would mean that women would have to assume traditionally “male” duties, such as registering for the draft and going to war, and that they would lose traditional privileges, like being able to stay home instead of being forced out into the workforce. Today, for women, being able to work and gain independence is a benefit, but the political climate was different in the 1970s, and many women were not yet ready to take on traditionally “male” responsibilities.
Why do opponents claim that the proposed amendment was a “blow” against American families?
In the attached photo, viewers can see individuals holding up signs reading, “ERA is a crushing blow to American families.” The reason why some individuals thought this way is because many saw the “traditional” family as having one male earner, one female, stay-at-home child-bearer, and children. Some felt that if the ERA were passed, women would flock to the workforce just as their husbands had already been doing, and this would disrupt the gender dynamic mentioned above.
Today, many women both work and take care of children, but decades ago this was not the norm. It is odd to think how equal rights might be viewed as harming American families, but in a certain perspective one can imagine that certainly the “traditional” family might be reshaped (perhaps not “harmed,” though). Change is always a disquieting thing for human nature, and the ERA represented change and a move toward the nontraditional family structures we see today.