Kamala Lopez, by Anthony Mongielo
Phyllis Schlafly, who dedicated her life to stopping the Equal Rights Amendment, passed away in early September, bringing the historic battle for women’s equal rights back into the news. No one knows that history better than actress, filmmaker, and women’s rights activist Kamala Lopez.
In her newest film, Equal Means Equal, Lopez sheds light on the discrimination and inequality that women face today.
I spoke with Lopez by phone to discuss her latest film and the progress of women’s rights. Lopez is a featured speaker at The Progressive’s Fighting Bob Fest on September 17, in Madison, Wisconsin, and a clip of her film will air at the Bob Fest kickoff at The Barrymore Theatre in Madison on Friday night, September 16.
Q: Tell me about Equal Means Equal and why you wanted to make this film.
Lopez: Equal Means Equal is a movie that came out of a project that I started in 2009, called the ERA Education Project. It started because I found out that women and men did not have the same rights under the law. I see Equal Means Equal as the tool to make that change.
Q: Why is this film important now? Why this big push for equality now?
Lopez: My feeling is that it's now or never.
Q: The Equal Rights Amendment faced immense hurdles, requiring thirty-eight of the fifty states to pass it before it reached Congress. ERA supporters came so close and failed to meet the requirement by three states. What has changed now that would make ratification possible?
Lopez: The fact that gay marriage is legal but women don't have equal rights is so redonkulous that I think it just doesn't stand the light of day. There are various movements that gained a lot of momentum and achieved a great deal since the ERA failed in 1982. What happened is our society is so far past it that they can't even believe that it is an issue.
Q: What were your thoughts when you heard that Phyllis Schlafly, the Equal Rights Amendment’s most powerful opponent, had died?
Lopez: It's so weird because I had a really, really long intense interview with Phyllis Schlafly. I flew out there and had this incredible interview with her where she said things that you would not believe. Then I put them in the movie, and she used to be all over the movie. But then two things made me completely remove her from the film. I only had ninety minutes for my film, and I didn’t want to waste any time that could be used to present my message and what I wanted to film to encompass. She was also very old by then, and her ideas were from another time. It really made her look pathetic, and I felt that would be disrespectful. So I didn't feel right about it and didn't want to make fun of her.
Q: What is the significance of Hillary Clinton, the first major party female candidate, running for President?
Lopez: I'm not really the person to ask that question because the Equal Rights Amendment is a human- and civil-rights issue. It's not a political issue per se in terms of parties, because women have been a political football between these two presumed different parties for two centuries now. I don't engage in that because I don't buy any of it.
Q: How do you feel Hillary is portrayed by the press?
Lopez: I think it's clear that women are treated terribly, and people are allowed to say horrible things about us. When you tell women that they are, and you train them to actually believe that their value is involved with, the commodification of their sexuality, then you open the floodgates to this kind of absurd sort of reductive view of a human.
Q: What are your thoughts on all of the attention surrounding her recent illness?
Lopez: This is the big subject of the day. That's also part of the scam. It's part of the creation of this ADD culture so that you don't look and see the reality, the truth, which is large and slapping you in the face because you’re worried if Kim Kardashian's dress was too sheer.
Q: What’s your message to young women? What do you think are the most important issues we face today?
Lopez: My message to young women is to educate yourself by watching Equal Means Equal and telling the people around you that you don't have the rights you think you have. It’s a purpose that brings us all together, working for something larger than ourselves. All of my hopes and dreams lie with young women.
Ashley Maag is an editorial intern at The Progressive.