A few blocks away from the Go Topless rally at Pack Square, a group of women and men gathered in Pritchard Park to discuss women’s rights and equality issues with their clothes on. About 50 people attended the event that was hosted by the newly formed nonprofit 3WF-Asheville Women for Equality.
Event organizer and nonprofit founder Christine Andaya-Wallace emphasized that the nonprofit event was planned in honor of Women’s Equality Day, not as a complimentary event to the Go Topless Rally.
“Their focus is obviously different and I think it’s really sad. Part of the reason why we are still where we are is because people have been focused on other things, and we really need to bring focus back to getting the Equal Rights amendment passed,” she says, wearing an ERA sticker. ““I find it very disappointing that they’re putting their energy and time into something that is really inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. They would rather lose rights to plan their pregnancies and be paid as much as men.”
Introduced in 1971, the ERA failed in 1982 when only 35 states approved the amendment, 3 less than the required 38 necessary for ratification. However, Andaya-Wallace says there is still more work to be done. In addition to a discussion about getting the ERA passed, the event featured talks about topics ranging from fair pay to reproductive rights; from violence against women to women in politics.
According to event attendee Melody Carmer now is not the time to lose momentum.
“I was born in 1940, so I fought for women’s rights to begin with, and I see them eroding. And, I don’t want to go back,” Cramer says, adding, “This is really a family matter, it’s not just a women’s matter.”
For Susan Fischer the event itself was a family matter. “I brought my daughter with me so that she can continue the legacy of fighting for women’s rights,” she says. “I think it’s so important in what we are seeing in our political arena and things that they’re trying to take away from women.”
According to House 115 candidate Susan Wilson, who spoke at the event about violence against women, the political arena benefits when women are elected to public office. “We bring an entirely different set of skills to about any problem and there is a difference in the way committees work if they have women on them. They tend to run better, tend to be more collaborative, so the answers people come up with tend to be more all-encompassing,” she explains.
As a female candidate herself, Wilson notes she has encountered unique differences while running for public office. “It’s much more difficult for women to ask for money, and when they do ask for money they tend to get less than a man would,” she says.
Moving toward the November election, Andaya-Wallace says she does not envision anything happening for the nonprofit between now and late October. However, she adds, “Beyond that, we’re going to be trying to provide opportunities for people to raise their voices through petitions, letters and knowledge.”