Women’s Activist & World Muse Founder Amanda Stuermer gets a feminist fluoride treatment from icons Gloria Steinem and Amy Richards.

We hear ERA and think of burning bras and grainy photos of Gloria Steinem from the 70’s. An equal rights amendment seems like an item on our feminist to-do list that has been checked off. Sadly, it’s hasn’t. The federal ERA was introduced in Congress in 1923 and passed in 1972, but it was never ratified. It’s been 91 years. Where’s our outrage? Shouldn’t we be burning our custom-fitted under-wires?

This past fall, World Muse held an event to support and celebrate the statewide ERA Ballot Measure 89 that passed in November. Surprisingly, less than a handful of the 400+ equality-minded attendees knew it was even on the ballot.

Two feminist icons, Amy Richards and Gloria Steinem, shared some of their recent musings on the ERA matter with me.

Why didn’t the ERA get ratified back in 1972?

Gloria Steinem: In retrospect, I think the anti-ERA forces succeeded for a mix of reasons. First, they knew very well that equality would cost a lot of money and they were motivated to stop it. Second, they had crucial influence in many state legislatures where business interests reign. Third, many or most anti-ERA women were operating out of an unfounded but well-cultivated fear that the ERA would weaken rather than strengthen their ability to be supported as dependent homemakers or to get child support if divorced. They gave the press an image of women against women.

In Manifesta, Amy Richards wrote “the presence of feminism in our lives is taken for granted. For our generation, feminism is like fluoride. We scarcely notice we have it – it’s simply in the water.”

Is that why we are currently so disengaged with the ERA?

Amy Richards: As much as younger women are infused with a greater sense of possibility than most women of proceeding generations, as a generation we are generally politically disengaged.

Plus the goal of equality seems to disproportionately burden women – since it’s assumed that they have to assume more responsibility while men can remain the status quo. Women have to do all of the catching up.

So we are disengaged and over-burdened. Sounds like it is time we ditch the complacent fluoride-in-the-tap-water-feminism and get re-energized and re-inspired. Yes, we passed a statewide Equal Rights Amendment in Oregon, but we have yet to get an Equal Rights Amendment in our federal constitution. We can’t stop now.

At our recent Muse Women’s Conference, Gloria Steinem sent us a personal video message telling us to make history.

What would the Founders of our Democracy think about the ERA?

Gloria Steinem: The truth is that our democracy is a work in progress. We are all its Founders. We are all learning that we are linked and not ranked.

We are linked and not ranked. Muse on that, and then let’s go out and make some history.

For more about World Muse: theworldmuse.org