Disney CEO Bob Iger announced this week the Frozen franchise will continue with a third installment. The announcement on March 8 coincided with International Women's Day, a global holiday celebrating the Women's Rights Movement, signaling attention to gender equality, reproductive rights, violence and abuse against women around the world.
The film and its sequel earned $3 billion at the box office, sold 8.1 million soundtracks, and has been streamed over 100+ million times since 2013. The franchise expanded into a book series, TV specials, video games, merchandise, Broadway musicals, Ice Shows and theme park attractions. Ten years on, it can fairly be said the Girl Power franchise has captured the world’s imagination.
On this side of the screen, International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed for the last 112 years, and while the theme forever changes this year’s focus is #EmbraceEquality. Since 1911, suffragettes have championed women's right to vote, work, and hold public office but this year the organization says mere equality is no longer enough. Equity is the latest war call whose day and time has come.
Equity v. Equality
Etymologically, the Latin equity (aequitas) and equality (aequalitas) mean even, fair or equal. But despite their similarities on the surface, equity and equality are radically different concepts. IWD’s #EmbraceEquity campaign explains, "equal opportunities are no longer enough on a playing field where the majority have a real disadvantage.” The Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University explains;
Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
While equity is a solution for addressing imbalanced social systems, only Justice can fix those systems in a way that leads to long-term, sustainable, equitable access for generations to come. “The route to achieving equity will not be accomplished through treating everyone equally,” says the Race Matters Institute. “It will be achieved by treating everyone justly according to their circumstances.”
However, while democratic governments tout justice and equality their judicial systems aren’t inherently equitable. Common Law, for example, which originated in the courts of the English kings in the centuries following the Norman Conquest in 1066, spread the English legal system throughout their colonies. Civil Law, by contrast, codifies its principles into codes that don’t recognize judicial opinions.
In the United States, Common Law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is defined in Black's Law Dictionary as "The body of law derived from judicial decisions rather than from statutes or constitutions.” In fact, Common Law refers to the body of law decided by judges, and is distinguishable from statutory law and regulations enacted by legislatures. In legal systems that recognize Common Law, precedent and judicial review take precedence over statutes.
Today, one-third of the world's population lives in Common Law jurisdictions or in mixed legal systems, including the United States. International Women's Day challenges those institutions by drawing attention to the status quo.
Stirring examples of the United States Supreme Court weighing in on woman's issues include Griswold v. Connecticut (1965); The High Court decides the U.S. Constitution protects the liberty of married couples to buy and use contraceptives. Roe v. Wade (1973); The High Court decides the U.S. Constitution protects a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion. Finally, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022); The High Court decides the U.S. Constitution doesn’t confer the right to an abortion.
Equity Talk, Equity Walk
On January 20, 2021 Joe Biden marched down Pennsylvania Avenue after his inauguration to sign an Executive Order. "Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government" begins;
Equal opportunity is the bedrock of American democracy, and diversity our country’s greatest strength, but for many the American Dream remains out of reach.
Entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies, and in our public and private institutions, often deny equal opportunity to individuals and communities.
The Federal Government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all; including all those who’ve been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.
While Frozen is a Girl Power fantasy franchise which captured the 21st century imagination, it's 1844 inspiration The Snow Queen was the first fairytale to use the term “underserved.” For nearly 200 years, it’s riffs and dramatic turns have been telling a rather practical story about sweat equity. It's about a girl enlisting an underserved community to save a boy. In a kingdom, if you please, where handheld mirrors created by demons can shatter the reflection of anyone.
Today, nearly 2.4 billion working women aren’t afforded equal opportunity, and 178 countries maintain legal barriers that prevent their full economic participation, according to World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2022 report. In 86 countries, women face some form of job restriction and 95 countries do not guarantee equal pay for equal work.
Just 12 countries, according to the OECD, have legal and economic gender parity. They include Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg, Greece, Iceland, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Latvia, Sweden, and, of course, the Snow Queen’s own Kingdom of Denmark.