But remember, the issue is never legal equality. The issue is ALWAYS vindication of the individual. That's the problem with the organized feminist movement, just as it was the problem with the Civil Rights movement. Both stopped at legal equality--racial legal equality or gender legal equality. The issue is NEVER legal equality.
James Madison wrote in the Federalist papers that the Constitution prevents "every assumption of power in the Executive and Legislative." This quotation was often used by Justices Marshall and Brennan. The word to focus on is "every." What does that mean? It means the individual is vindicated with respect to EVERY fact of the individual. What is a fact, or indicium, of the individual? Answering that question is the meaning of living in a society with a Constitution. By the time the Constitution came to be written, the Founders were certain they had established certain facts of the individual: speech, assembly, religious expression and others. What is the importance of the word "every" with respect to these facts. The importance is, how cases are decided. When the fact of an establishment of religion is made, it is prevented in EVERY case; there is no balancing, that is, no considering various interests which might mean an outcome in favor of an establishment of religion.
It is no easy matter to determine a fact of the individual: deciding such facts is a process of centuries of evaluation. To see just how long it took to come up with black-letter formulations of just the rights in the Bill of Rights, read the two most important books ever written about the law (both written by women, by the way): From Resistance to Rebellion, and The Crisis of the Constitution.
Since the Bill of Rights, a scant two hundred years ago, the question has been--as it always is--what are other facts of the individual. Actually, racial legal equality and gender legal equality were "decided" long before they became political movements--that is, among legal theorists, the questions had been entertained and decided in favor of both ideas many centuries before the movements. It was then just the "minor" question of getting it enforced (and, of course, it is still a question of enforcement).
Much more difficult to determine have been other proposed "facts" of the individual, but haltingly, more quietly and often entirely out of the public eye, this debate has been going on for two hundred years. Today I think there is a "consensus" that these are other facts of the individual: liberty, housing, medical care, maintenance and education. How to give them black-letter expression? Well, they tried in the early 1970s with the affirmative rights movement, which sought to impose such black letter laws as "Government shall provide education to all individuals." But that was a mess and the Court struck it down, as well as other laws like it. Why? Because it tended to drag the Court in to making executive branch decisions due to the need for constant monitoring of the executive branch in carrying out the proposed mandate.
Times have changed. Today, the black-letter formulation of such rights begins "on the ground," by dealing with life as it is lived right now. If these are facts, then they are happening right now and nothing can be permitted to interfere with them. If that is the view, then the wording is changed to resemble the anti-slavery 13th Amendment: No individual shall be involuntarily deprived of education. Look at the difference:
Government shall provide education to all individuals.
No individual shall be involuntarily deprived of education.
That means that, if you are enrolled, and can't pay the tuition, you can't be kicked out of school. If you are housed, and can't pay the rent or mortage, you can't be kicked out of the housing. EVER, for ANY reason.
Why this long-winded prelude to a response to a question about feminism? Because when it came time to move BEYOND gender legal equality with respect to existing individual rights, the feminist movement faltered, as did the Civil Rights movement. Why? Because the extremely right-wing American middle class is, quite simply, not prepared to take these next steps. Consider, for instance, two provisions of this new bill of rights: no individual shall be involuntarily deprived of liberty, no individual shall be involuntarily deprived of housing. Well, if you can't remove people from housing, how can you drag them off to prison if they commit a crime? You can't. I can tell you right now, the vast majority of Americans are not going to give up the power to incarcerate, even if it means they deprive themselves of a right to housing. I don't blame Civil Rights or feminist leaders for getting all they could and can get--they simply faced the reality that either they themselves didn't support a right to housing, for example, or, if they did, that there was no way they could advocate it without crippling the struggle for things they could achieve if they jettisoned it. So they did.
Anyway, that's where we are, folks, when it comes to the further implications of legal equality movements. Legal equality as to what? The right to have your medical care terminated? And remember, there's no wiggle room on individual rights. Every means every, so you better be clear with respect to what it is you want to prevail in EVERY case. By the way, debate about new individual rights is by no means restricted to those listed above: those are just the ones on which there appears to be the nearest thing to consensus. Another one being discussed is transportation. No individual shall be involuntarily deprived of transportation? Well, it has interesting aspects. So far, I myself think it is subsumed under the other new rights. But just remember: there were Founders who felt the abolition of slavery was subsumed (and would therefore speedily take place) under the Bill of Rights. There was no way. You get what you write, when it comes to individual rights--and no more!