Faculty voice:

Alexandra Hidalgo: How the battle for the ERA rescued me

May 20, 2020

Alexandra Hidalgo is assistant professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures. She is the co-director of The Documentary Film Lab.

A few days after MSU moved to online classes and my sons' school closed, I found myself wondering how I was going to keep up with my classes and scholarship while teaching my five-year-old how to read and helping my eight-year-old get over his resistance to writing the daily essay prompts his teacher had assigned. With my usual focus, it might have seemed doable, but I felt listless and scattered. 

As I contemplated the impossibility of the task ahead, I received an email from Ariel Dougherty, the co-founder of Women Make Movies, inviting me and five fellow feminist filmmakers and activists to join her in asking the media to pay more attention to the current strides being made to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

FX’s show “Mrs. America,” currently streaming on Hulu, tells the story of the ERA being ratified in 35 states four decades ago, falling short of the 38 required for it to become an Amendment. Yet, while “Mrs. America” recalls past setbacks, the 38th state, Virginia, ratified the ERA this January, and the battle for it to become the 28th Amendment is poised to go to the Supreme Court. Ariel invited us to use “Mrs. America” to remind everyone that the battle for the ERA was happening now and hardly any outlet was reporting on it.

The logical response should have been to thank her for thinking of me and return to my ever-growing pile of to-dos, but for the first time since COVID-19 altered our lives, I felt energized.

Within days I was collaborating with Ariel, Jennifer Hall Lee, Kamala Lopez, Ivana Massetti, Barbara Ann O’Leary and Barbara Winslow on an open letter to the media requesting more ERA coverage. The letter was signed by Rose McGowan, Mick Jagger, Tommy Hilfiger and Caitriona Balfe, among 500 other media professionals and activists.  

We are now working with Generation Ratify, a youth organization focused on passing the ERA, to organize “Rethinking Sisterhood: The Role of Media in Passing the ERA,” a weekly webinar series in which filmmakers, politicians and activists come together to discuss ways in which we can fight for gender equality today.

All webinars are live on Thursdays from 5-6 p.m. EDT and later posted on YouTube. I will be a speaker on the closing June 4 webinar, which provides strategies for attendees to create their own feminist content and help make gender equality a reality, even in a world that’s been turned upside down by a pandemic. There’s nothing like hope and a sense of purpose to get us back on track as we steer through uncertainty.