With 'Shout For Equality,' The ERA Looks To Reclaim Its Moment

The Equal Rights Amendment makes so much sense that 80% of Americans believe it is already law. But 100 years after its introduction and two generations past the ERA’s 1970s rise to oh-so-close passage, America remains one of the few countries in the world with no such gender protections. With the launch of “Shout For Equality,” the ERA Coalition hopes to make the ERA a reality -- and make it meaningful to a new generation. President and chief executive officer Zakiya Thomas explains the new approach.

Marketing Daily: The idea behind this campaign is to use social and digital tools to raise awareness, especially among younger voters. The bill was introduced in 1923, and I’m old enough to vaguely remember the bipartisan momentum behind its almost-success in 1972. Is selling something that has failed for so long the hardest job in the world?



Zakiya Thomas: No, this is the best job in the world. I get to talk about equality every single day. The ERA has already met all the requirements to be added to the Constitution. It just needs to be put in there – most people think it already is. Our goal is to make sure more people know the ERA is not in the Constitution and that it could be if there is enough political will and pressure.

Marketing Daily: There are so many pressing concerns among Democrats and progressives, especially about America’s shrinking access to healthcare, including abortion and birth control. Those feel urgent, while the ERA can feel more … like a civics lesson. How do you make the ERA more relevant?

Thomas: This is not about making the ERA relevant. We’re showing people that relevancy already exists. All of the issues that are under attack right now -- equality, the LGBTQ community, gender-affirming care, abortion access, voting rights -- are under attack by the same forces. It's all the same fight. We're trying to show that through our coalition of over 300 partners. Even though we all may come at the issue from different points of view, we all understand that if we don't have these fundamental rights in our Constitution, we'll never have true equality.

Marketing Daily: So, in a sense, you’re selling intersectionality. Is that an idea people fully understand these days?

Thomas: Most of us live intersectional lives, whether we realize it or not. Maybe we’re women, mothers, people of color. Those identities overlap. That’s a beautiful thing. Diversity is what makes us a stronger and a better country.

 Marketing Daily: This campaign is linked to International Women’s Day, kicked off with a speech from U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and uses Ogilvy-developed QR codes and bots to let people shout a message out. Why “shout” for equality now?

Thomas: The ERA has been ratified. It just needs to be published, which hasn’t happened for political reasons. We're shouting because we're so tired of this and trying to amplify our voices. The first step is to sign a petition to get members of Congress to understand that the ERA isn't a niche issue. It will impact people's lives on a daily basis.

Marketing Daily: In 2020, FX made a big splash with “Mrs. America,” starring Cate Blanchette as Phyllis Schlafly, dramatizing her “Stop the ERA” efforts. Did that help renew interest in the issue?

: That show helps by getting people talking about the ERA. The downside is that it gives just one perspective and doesn't consider the breadth of what that fight was about. There was a fueled movement to push Schlafly forward, and most people didn’t realize she was a Republican operative.

Marketing Daily: Who opposes the ERA?

Thomas: People who benefit from the status quo. They have a vested interest in coming after equality and voting rights and dismantling affirmative action.

Some are religious institutions. In the 1970s, the insurance industry was an active opponent of the ERA, and there are still some remnants.

Marketing Daily: Your end goal is to see the ERA published in the Constitution. What are some intermediate benchmarks?

Thomas: We’re already at 80,000 signatures. We’ll feel good when we get to 250,000, and we want to get to 1 million. And we have a discharge petition in the House right now that would compel a vote. We need five Republicans in the House and just two more in the Senate. So, seven people are holding up equality across our country.

Marketing Daily: Given the vast spending on political advertising this year, how impactful can a pro-bono campaign be?

Thomas: We're a nonprofit, relying on volunteers and supporters. We’re being strategic. In New York State, for example, the Equal Rights Amendment is on the November ballot. We're urging Republicans in Biden-favoring districts to recognize the potential voter impact.

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