John Oliver mocks the rotting corpse of right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly
John Oliver (Photo: HBO Promotion)

A number of states are creating laws that disproportionately restrict the rights of women, but John Oliver has the solution using one state that could fix all of them.


This week marked the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote, but HBO host John Oliver can't understand why women still aren't guaranteed equal rights under the Constitution.

In an expose on the Equal Rights Amendment, Oliver noted that only one state is needed to pass the ERA, but many southern states are still holding out, including Florida.

In a local news report, a journalist asked two young women their thoughts, informing them Florida was one of the states that had not ratified the ERA.

"Oh my god, why?! I'm so tired of living here!" the young woman shouted.

But it was long-dead, right-wing, anti-women activist Phyllis Schlafly, who make up false things in the ERA, that angered Oliver. He outlined the horrifying way she distorted the facts of the law to fit an agenda that sought to restrict women's rights.

One example was an interview with Barbara Walters, where Schlafly said that under the ERA one child would go with one parent and the other would go with the other parent during a divorce because this was "equal."

"Now, if one of the children is better than the other one the Equal Rights Amendment says you have to cut off a little bit of the first one and give it to the second one," Oliver said. "Because everything's got to be exactly equal from now on. So you've got to give your son his sister's big toe. The ERA says that. It's a fact."

The host explained that it's obviously not what equal rights means. "But that didn't matter to Schlafly. She was basically a pre-internet internet troll."

In a clip, Oliver showed Schlafly thanking her husband for "allowing her" to attend an event. She said that she loves saying it because it "irritates the women libbers more than anything I say." Oliver noted that her husband was likely more than happy to be rid of her.

"If I had to guess, Fred was absolutely OK with Phyllis getting out of the house for the day. The night even. I mean, where is this rally? If it's more than ten minutes away it might just make sense to stay over," Oliver mocked.

Oliver noted that the law was to be ratified by the states by 1982, but Congress could easily change the date, and one state could ratify it and pass the ERA.

While this isn't something that many people are thinking about right now, Oliver explained that the one thing the law could do is protect women against President Donald Trump and his anti-women policies sprouting up in so many parts of his government.

He showed a clip of an Arizona Democrat, begging her state to make history and have the state be known for something positive and affirming. In a world of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, however, that seems like a tall order.

Virginia is another of those states, which Oliver said owes us all.

"It really could be you," he told the state of Virginia. "Plus, you're the birthplace of Chris Brown, Rick Santorum, and Pat Robertson, so you f*cking owe America, then."

Of the list, the most likely option is actually Virginia, with a split legislature and elections not far away.

Watch Oliver's pitch below: