Conner Cummings, Zoom Autism Ambassador and Photographer, and Sharon Cummings, Editor-At-Large, met actress and activist Alyssa Milano at a woman’s rights event. Alyssa’s activism supports all women’s rights for a better, safer and equal world. When she found out that this issue of Zoom Autism Magazine is about powerful autistic women, she said, “Yes!” to being a part of Zoom Issue 15 to show her support for their voices.
We met you when you spoke at a viewing of the movie on Women’s Rights – Iron Jaw Angels. What made you think Virginia could be the 38th state to ratify the ERA?
ALYSSA MILANO: Virginia’s state constitution was amended in 1971 to include an explicit ban on discrimination based on sex (a state “equal rights amendment”). This victory, however, was erased by a Virginia Supreme Court decision holding that the state-level ERA should be read to provide no greater protection against such discrimination than the federal constitution, which includes no such protection. So, even when the text of the state constitution, the highest law in Virginia, would seem to provide protection from sex-based discrimination that appears more comprehensive than federal protections, those protections can be and have been eviscerated by the opinion of seven jurists. Virginia should ratify the ERA and make real what most Americans believe – the Constitution of the United States should guarantee equal rights for all. We only need one more state. I’d like for it to be Virginia.
How and why did you get involved in women’s issues?
ALYSSA: I’m a mother and I want equal rights and a safer world for my daughter. I also think it’s important to start talking to your kids now and teach them what’s right and wrong. I make sure my son understands and values girls/women. I don’t want Bella to face the same gender discrimination I faced.
How do we make sure the ERA protects all women—women with disabilities and autistic women—so that we aren’t immediately faced with the need to fight another battle for another law to protect the next group in need of equal protection?
ALYSSA: Establishing equality in the Constitution will serve as a bedrock of support as we continue to fight for equal rights, equal pay & equal respect in ALL arenas. There’s no way I’d be fighting this hard if the ERA left anyone behind.
We understand you have a niece on the autism spectrum. How is your family working to raise her as a strong leader?
ALYSSA: Her parents are miraculous people who have worked very hard at insuring she has opportunity to grow and thrive. They were never fearful. They embraced her differences and cultivated her brilliance. I love her so much.
What can autistic women do to help unite women ALL as one?
ALYSSA: Never doubt your ability to drive change. Dare to make a difference. Dare to raise your voice. Dare to speak out. Fight for what’s right and help others. We must lead by example.
What are your next steps with the ERA and helping to unite women?
ALYSSA: I am a member of the ERA Coalition Advisory Council. I will continue to fight for equal rights for women. It’s not over until it’s over.
What advice would you give your younger self?
ALYSSA: Your self-worth is not wrapped up in anything that people can see.
*Special thanks to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington D.C. for allowing us access to their Presidential Suite for our Cover Story feature and interviews.
READ MORE ARTICLES:
Editor’s Letter: In this Issue: Fierce Advocates for Women and Autistic Rights
Powerful Women Cover Story Interviews
- Julia Bascom on the Amazing, Vibrant and Resilient Autistic Community
- Sharon daVanport Finds Power in Her Joy
- Mia Ives-Rublee: Stop Listening to the Naysayers & Fight for What You Believe
- Hala Ayala: Seeking Out and Learning from Diverse Voices
- Senator Duckworth: A Lifelong Mission of Supporting, Protecting and Keeping Promises
- From Feeling Powerless to Owning My Power by Morénike Giwa Onaiwu
- Advocating for Others by Advocating for Myself by Chana Bennett-Rumley
- Facing the Music and Changing My Life by Michelle DeVos, Esq.
- The Three Amigas: An Unexpected Friendship by Dani Bowman
In Every Issue
- Cummings and Goings: Finding Power in Who You Are by Conner Cummings
- #AskingAutistics: Have You Ever Been Accused of Acting MORE Autistic? by Christa Holmans
- Don’t Get Me Down: Fighting Autistic Inertia by Becca Lory Hector
- The View from Here: Starring in the Real-Life Drama as “The Good Anesthetist” by Anita Lesko
With Updates from Jacob Fuentes and Carly Fulgham at end of article
Big Question: What Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Self?
Discover more Zoom Issues:
- Issue 13: Family
- Issue 14: Trailblazers
- Issue 15: Powerful Women
- Archived issues on the Zoom Home Page
Listen to an audio version of this article