HomeLearning CenterThe Fight for the ERA Goes to TikTok

The Fight for the ERA Goes to TikTok

Originally published by Emma Hinchliffe and Joseph Abrams for Fortune

TikTok on the ERA. The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress 100 years ago. A half-century later, after the ERA’s passage in 1972, feminist activists campaigned to get states to ratify the constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal treatment for women.

Carolyn Maloney, the former New York congresswoman, remembers how they fought to get support for the ERA. “We were working with memos and press conferences and meetings,” she recalls.

Another 50 years later, the campaign to ratify the ERA continues, and it’s taking place in a new space: TikTok. The ad agency Ogilvy teamed up with the ERA Coalition, an organization Maloney now chairs after leaving office in early 2023. Called “Shout for Equality,” the campaign asks people to record themselves shouting via voice memo and turns those “shouts” into signatures on a petition demanding the ratification of the ERA. Thirty-eight states, the required three-fourths, have ratified the amendment, but five have voted to rescind their ratifications as the amendment has become less popular among Republican legislatures. Well past the initial deadline for ratification, activists are now pushing Congress to override that deadline.

The campaign was designed with TikTok and its viral sounds in mind; on the platform, users often post videos with the same clip of music or sound to participate in a trend. “Getting this amendment passed is going to impact the generations that are existing and living on their phones and on social,” says Ogilvy California chief creative officer Lisa Bright. “So it was really important for us to create something that was going to meet them where they were.” The campaign will also run on other social platforms, including Instagram.

Ogilvy has developed some other campaigns for women’s rights, including a 2020 ERA campaign and the 2022 effort “WomanCorp,” which argued that “the American government protects corporations’ constitutional rights more than the rights of human women.”

Since the 2020 ERA campaign, TikTok has only become a more influential source of information and connection. The average U.S. user is an adult, not a teen, the platform says. In the U.S., the TikTok user base skews female. Making the ERA go viral would be a feat on the platform that’s recently boosted the popularity of content about “trad wives,” short for “traditional wives” who cook and clean for their husbands.

Maloney says that falling short of ratifying the ERA is her “biggest regret” from her 30 years in Congress. “A lot of them don’t realize how it affects them,” she says of young adults and the ERA today. She hopes that encouraging people to scream loud for the ERA earns new, younger supporters for the 100-year-old amendment.

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