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More email on the subject of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which has been reintroduced this year in the US Congress in the wake of the Supreme Court decision decertifying a class action gender discrimination suit against Walmart.

One of the things I wrote last week to people objecting to the ERA was:

I’m okay with a 10-word Constitutional amendment:

“No discrimination against anybody. Ever. For any reason. No exceptions.”

Just to make sure everybody gets it.

MNB user Jeff Beliveau wrote:

I always enjoy your thoughtful commentary, but I’m not sure you REALLY want your proposed amendment of “No discrimination against anybody. Ever. For any reason. No exceptions.” Think of what that would end:

• Senior citizen movie discounts - price discrimination based on age.

• Kids Eat Free On Tuesdays! and similar promotions – again price discrimination based on age.

• Discounts to uniformed military – discrimination based on military service.

• Married, Filing Jointly – a tax advantage rooted in discrimination based on marital status.

• Ladies Night promotions – gender discrimination (a hot topic, but recently declared legal at the Federal level by the 2nd Court of Appeals).

• Senior citizen only housing – no kids meaning discrimination based on...well, okay, you get the point by now.

In reality these were all instituted for “good reason”, some market driven (seniors have less disposable income, so give ‘em a break), some on public policy initiatives deemed to be “good”. But all would be banned due to “For any reason”.

Another MNB user wrote:

So does that mean we can't refuse to hire people who have body piercings?  "For any reason, no exceptions?"  What about a person with felony theft convictions applying for a bank teller job?  Child sex offender for a preschool?

I get your point.

Another MNB user wrote:

Erma Bombeck has always been one of my favorite writers and people.  She was a money making machine who wore her heart on her sleeve.  She loved being a mother, wife, daughter, and uber-successful writer.  When the ERA amendment was doing its rounds of the states, Erma took a year’s leave from her extremely lucrative speaking tour and went on a national speaking tour promoting passage of the amendment.  I don’t remember the average number of performances she would give in a year promoting her books, but they were all 5 figures.  She took that year instead and toured the US speaking for/promoting passage of the ERA amendment.

When it failed, I recall reading that she had never felt more totally down in her life.  She had really put herself into the battle, left it all there, and was terribly saddened when it didn’t pass.  One of the groups that, on whole, had truly disappointed her as to non-support was younger females.  She felt that they did not comprehend how far women had already come—i.e. they did not view this as a moving target.  One of her comments was, “ they can’t remember a time when an entire family turned out the lights and went to bed because the father was tired”.

So, whenever the subject of this amendment comes up, I always think of Erma Bombeck.  My question would be:  if discrimination against all could be fixed w/an amendment so easily, then what’s the harm in just doing it?

MNB user Lori Burns wrote:

If the phrase “All Men are created equal” in the constitution stands for everyone (even women) why did women have to fight for the right to vote? If we were all equal in the eyes of the founders, I think we would have all had the same rights. Pass the amendment already. Or the short version that you proposed would work for me as well!

MNB user David Livingston chimed in:

I think all of this discrimination talk is nonsense.  I suggest reading Warren Farrell's book "The Myth of Male Power."  Warren Farrell is the only man elected to the board of directors of the NYC chapter of the National Organization for Women.

The way I see it at Walmart is women have been systematically undercutting men on wages to where they now control nearly 70% of the employment positions at Walmart.  Many women do choose to opt into management.  However like many jobs that are dangerous, long hours, the kind that that you away from your family more than you would like, women tend not to pursue those jobs.  One thing I have learned about people is if they want a job or position bad enough they figure out a way to get it and its usually out of court.  I have a gut feeling if one of those Walmart whiners applied for a job with you, that you would not hire them either for the same reason Walmart didn't promote them - plain and simple, they are whiners and complainers and nobody likes them.  Just the fact that they were working for Walmart at store level in the first place indicates that they are basically unemployable.

Nearly all of my support staff is women.  They work as hard and as smart as men but they have undercut their male counterparts in the wages they have offered to work for.  I have no choice but to hire them and discriminate against the men.  My accountant charges $50 and hour and her male counterpart wants $65.  My attorney charges $175 and hour and the male in her office charges $225.  My IT person charges $50 and hour and her male counterparts want $75.  My last real estate deal my female agent agreed to drop her commission to 4% and a cash kickback,  while the males acted insulted and wanted to stick with 6%.  My housekeeper charges $25 an hour and I can't find a male servant at any price if I tried.  I go down to the Mexican barber shop where pretty and talented women will cut your hair for $10.  Its a 45 minute process that includes a shave and shoulder massage.  They have undercut all the men hair stylists and are busy all the time.  Even my female doctor will take my insurance which only pays Medicaid rates.  Her male partners in the practice won't accept Medicaid patients or my insurance because they can't make enough money.  My female dental hygienist cleans my teeth for free if I will take her out to dinner afterward.  To find a male hygienist I'd probably have to drive to Chicago.

KC, your daughters shouldn't need any kind of ERA laws to keep them from being discriminated.  That's for losers and I'm sure your daughters would never fall into that category.  They will excel because they are competitive and intelligent.

I don’t even know where to start on this one...

I’m not sure I’ve ever run into the argument before that women are in fact dominating the marketplace by undercutting men on wages and benefits ... and that this is the real reason that women don’t get paid the same as men for the same jobs.

It is an innovative argument. But somehow, I suspect that it only seems logical to people with testicles.

But only, I hasten to add, some people with testicles.

The problem with your argument isn’t that it is wrong for people to undercut other people on wages or benefits and get work that might not be available to them otherwise, but that you turn a competitive tactic into an issue of gender. It is telling, I think, that you make a point of having a female accountant, attorney, barber and dental hygienist ... and that in each case you pay them less than a man asks for. Are these women being competitive in a tough marketplace? Are they being taken advantage of? Or do they feel this is the only at to succeed in a man’s world? (Or at least your world?)

I am, to be honest, a little taken aback by the objectification of women in your email. Ten bucks for a haircut, shave and shoulder massage from someone you clearly describe as a Mexican woman? I don’t know about anyone else in the MNB community, but I’m a little weirded out by this.

Finally...If my daughter becomes a dental hygienist and then comes home and and tells me that she’s begun trading free cleanings for a dinner out, I’m going to question her sanity. And choice of careers. And maybe her self-respect quotient.

Maybe that’s just me. But if I did any of the things that you describe and then talked about them in the way you do, I’d feel like I was exploiting people. (BTW...I have a woman accountant, and I pay her more than I paid my last accountant, who was a guy. It has nothing to do with gender. It has to do with the fact that I like her work, and she is a pleasure to deal with.)
KC's View: