BY Sonya Rashkovan MAR. 10, 2021
March 8th is International Women’s Day, but it’s not about flowers and candy; it’s about the fight for gender equality—and Generation Ratify, a nationwide organization with over 500 members on a national Slack channel and thousands of followers on Instagram, is on the frontlines of the fight.
Ritwik Tati, the Organizing Co-Lead at Generation Ratify, who identifies as non-binary, finds it incredibly important to make it clear that gender equality is a fight across all genders: to not only uplift women and women’s rights, but also people across all genders and across the spectrum of genders. Rachel Landis, the National Policy Director at Generation Ratify, sees International Women’s day as being about liberation and celebrating how far the movement has come—and will come.
Generation Ratify is organizing around 80 passionate equal rights activists for a virtual lobby day on Congress Hill for International Women’s Day. The COVID-19 pandemic helped the National Organizing team make advocacy more accessible; according to the team, the fact that virtual lobbying is a thing now “is beautiful,” since activists who couldn’t fly to DC for a lobby day can voice their opinions to their legislators.
Because Lobby Day is happening in the virtual space, Generation Ratify was able to get representation from 30 districts from across the nation. They will meet with their Congress members and Senators to voice their support for the S.J. Res 1/H.J. Res. 17: Removing the Deadline For the Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, an amendment that will remove the 1982 deadline placed on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Congress will be voting on the amendment on the week of March 15th.
“You might wonder, why is feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment important?” Rosie Couture, the Executive Director of Generation Ratify, said. “The fact that Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is not in our Constitution already is the reason enough to be a gender equality activist. When I come across this question, I always say, ‘Love, where are the marginalized genders in our Constitution?’ Passing the ERA is the very first step for more gender equality resolutions that are extremely hard to pass since we don’t even have gender equality in the Constitution. The ERA is about setting a legal precedent for gender equality in the US, so marginalized genders get equal access to opportunities and resources.”
Despite the size of the movement, the project all started from a library in a Virginia high school. Couture, a self-proclaimed policy nerd, was looking through proposed legislation in the Virginia General Assembly in January 2019 when she saw the Equal Rights Amendment bill was among the ones discussed during that session. After her initial excitement over the bill subsided, Couture was shocked to discover that equal rights for women and gender minorities weren’t in the Constitution already.
That summer, Couture and her friend, Belan Yeshigeta, became increasingly interested in women’s rights, so the two decided to open a Women’s March chapter at their school. Though that idea was short-lived, they later transformed it into the organization now known as Generation Ratify.
Couture and Yeshigeta’s main focus was to educate their peers and get students involved with ERA advocacy. Unlike many adult-run equal rights organizations, Generation Ratify makes intersectionality, queer liberation and access to reproductive health care their primary focus when it comes to gender equality.
Intersectionality is one of Generation Ratify’s biggest priorities because “it’s key to build a movement that includes everyone and is holistic in its approach, but also effective because the more you can see yourself in the movement, the more you are driven to fight for it,” Landis said. “If you think that what is going to work for you, and your equality is going to work for everyone else, then you are actively upholding other systems of oppression.” For example, when Generation Ratify discusses equal pay, it’s not enough to show only the wage gap between white men and white women; the organization also draws attention to the disparities in wages between white women and women of color.
In February of 2020, when the Virginia General Assembly voted to ratify the ERA, Couture and Yeshigeta decided to go nationwide and to open their organization to student organizers all around the country. Since their first additional chapter was established in Florida, they have expanded to 60 chapters all around the country.
Yeshigeta underscored the importance of student activism. “The issues we are advocating for today are impacting us; actions we are taking right now will impact us in a very near future,” she said. “We want Congress members to be aware that even if we can’t vote right now, we can vote them out in two years.”
Couture concurred. “Young people are going to be people most affected by the policy,” she said. “[Lawmakers] need our voices because we are the most important voices and the ones who are going to suffer the inaction or action decades from now.”
According to Couture, getting involved is easy. “If you want to support the ERA and gender equality in general, go to generationratify.org and send an email to your representatives to support the Equal Rights Amendment,” she said. “It takes two seconds to fill that out and it will automatically send an email to your representative in Congress to urge their support for the ERA.”