Toward Unequal Rights

Janet Aiken

[Reprinted from The Freeman, July, 1942]

There is a lady down in Washington, D. C., who was roused by the back cover of the May Freeman to send a postcard and letter of comment. "Surprising how many Georgists there are who do not believe in equality under the law for men and women," she postcards, and then In the letter explains that she is impatient over the slow progress toward passage of the equal-rights amendment to the Constitution, which provides that "men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and in every place subject to its jurisdiction," Bitterly she quotes the Freeman back cover: "Woman -- beloved of man!" and asks "Of what man?" The editor must have thought I knew, for the matter was turned over to me. But I don't know what man.

The Georgists that I know are in favor of equal rights for men and women and some would even agree with a discernible contemporary notion for giving women all the rights there are and men the rest. I think the general apathy to the proposed equal-rights amendment probably arises from the fact that few of us, whether women or men, actually suffer from the laws as they now exist. Few of the fair sex seem to have smarted under the legal machinations of the unfair sex. We women may have had our troubles .but we are a bit skeptical that the passage of the equal-rights amendment will remedy them.

This is not to say that living in a man's world is good for women. Living in a man's world has induced some of our most vocal citizens, among them Pearl Buck, Claire Boothe, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Gabriel Heatter, to come right out and say that they think woman could do a better job of world management, and that they wish men would go back to the kitchen where they belong. Look about you and see what a man's world amounts to. Enumerate the dictators and see if you can find a woman among them. Canvass those who order and those who perform acts of wasting and killing and destruction and pillage and violence and murder. All men.

Men in Russia have gone so far as to promulgate the idea that civilization's most elementary right, the right to produce and exchange and consume, is not a right but a privilege to be allowed and disallowed at the will of the state. And some people even profess to see, in the fact that men here are ordering the school-teachers of this broad land to donate their golden hours of leisure in registering the population for scarcity, a threat that totalitarian practices are not so remote from the United States as is Berlin. Our people are restive and uneasy. They distrust man's guidance.

I am almost ready to agree with the apostles of unequal rights and a women's world -- until I remember that most of toe prophets of equality and justice have been men, Henry George among them. Then I wonder whether it is not after all just another red herring which Eleanor and Pearl and Claire and Gabriel are drawing over the rocky road of progress. I have my doubts whether it would fee any easier to find a woman than a man capable of running this country. Perhaps after all we had better stick to ideas and forget sex.