Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Phyllis Schlafly: the Queen of Conservatism Who Made Women Second-Class Citizens

by Nomad

At ninety years old, Phyllis Schlafly is still actively spreading her own gospel, persuading a younger generation of women that being second-class citizens is just Nature's way.  


It has been said that half of the work done in this world is to make things appear as they are not.

One of those who has spent her decades in this pursuit is Ms. Phyllis Schlafly. Here's a woman who has spend a good part of her life trying to convince people that equality for women is a dangerous thing. All in all, her mission. much to the dismay of feminists and progressives, has been surprisingly successful. 
To some, Schlafly is an annoying fossil from the apex of the Reagan era that should have been forgotten a long time ago.  

Schlafly and the ERA

Although she might these days be just another crackpot on the Far Right, Schlafly will always be famous (infamous) for the part she played in defeating the proposed amendment to the Constitution. The Equal Rights Amendment  (ERA) aimed at specifically protecting the rights of all women.
The 1868 14th amendment, which gave equal protection to all citizens, should have offered enough civil protections, but  women were not always thought of a specific class or a minority in need of protection.

However, this attitude began changing in America around the 1920s. Since that time, specific legislation had been debated whether women by virtue of their gender, needed specific protections. 
That debate lasted a full half century.

When the 1964 Civil Act became law protecting the civil rights of minorities, progressives and feminists demanded a new look at equality for women as well. When the   ERA passed both houses, it looked as though it was a sure thing.

State legislatures were required to ratify the proposed change to the Constitution and throughout the 1970s, it seemed as though passage was inevitable. Of the required 38 state ratifications, a full 35 were obtained by 1977. When the deadline approached with the count just shy of the full ratification, deadline was extended to 1982.

Women's Rights
And then the unthinkable happened. Ronald Reagan- the conservative crusader-  landed in the White House in a landslide victory against Jimmy Carter. In no time, Reagan declared war on the ERA and what a battle it was. 

Every trick and misrepresentation in the book was used at a state level to challenge the proposal.
From painting equality for women as an attack on American values and traditional gender role models to making the ridiculous claim that it would lead to women being drafted into combat. They also claimed that the court would soon be repealing laws requiring child support for mothers if the amendment was added to the Constitution. Equal rights for women was an attack on Mom and apple pie. Inequality suddenly became an American value.

In fact the level of hysteria (and what else could defeat equality?) reached stratospheric heights. The ERA, Americans were told, would lead to uni-sex public bathrooms. The easily manipulated Far Right voters were appalled and indignant. After all, how dare liberals force our children to share toilets!

STOP ERA Phyllis Schlafly
 One conservative activist, Phyllis Schlafly, was one of the worst promoters of this kind of anti- ERA hysteria.

Back in her prime of the 1970s, the St. Louis-born "Queen of Conservatism" had become the champion against feminism which she declared was public enemy number one. With the conservative revolution in full swing, she led the campaign at defeating the Equal Rights Amendment.  

Back in the thick of battle, Schlafly told her conservative supporters that she was not trying to limit the freedom of American women. She was actually defending their rights.
What I am defending is the real rights of women. A woman should have the right to be in the home as a wife and mother." 
(As if the ERA was taking away anybody's right to choose for themselves.)
Feminist critics were quick to point out that Schlafly had no problem with working outside the home. Her excuse? She hadn't meant for women to abandon public life but that the duties of being a wife and mother must come first. It was, they claim, abject hypocrisy on Schlafly's part. 

Not only did Schlafly inspire dread and outrage among feminists and liberals, she also played upon the fears of women. The ERA, she claimed, gave an unfair advantage to young career women. If equality for women became a law, then the security of middle-aged housewives with no job skills would be endangered. 

It was a masterwork of confabulation and argumentative contortions. Despite her failed logic, she somehow managed to convince a majority that equality for women would destroy the fabric of American society. ERA was actually an attack on women. In one of her more famous speeches, Schlafly told her audience:
"The truth is that American women never had it so good. Why should we lower ourselves to 'equal rights' when we already have the status of special privilege?"
In the end, the ERA initiative fell short of the mark and died a miserable death.

The Long Term Effects

No matter how backward, Schlafly has never been exactly shy about promoting her world view. In a recent column by Schlafly, she said: 
“The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap.”
Schlafly must certainly be pleased with the results of her life's work.
According to The American Association of University Women (AAUW): the idea that working women deserve less has become institutionalized in American workplace. 
  • The pay gap has barely budged in a decade.
    In 2013, among full-time, year-round workers, women were paid 78 percent of what men were paid.
  • Women in every state experience the pay gap, but some states are worse than others.
    The best place in the United States for pay equity is Washington, D.C., where women were paid 91 percent of what men were paid in 2013. At the other end of the spectrum is Louisiana, the worst state in the country for pay equity, where women were paid just 66 percent of what men were paid.
  • The pay gap is worse for women of color.
    The gender pay gap affects all women, but for women of color the pay shortfall is worse. Asian American women’s salaries show the smallest gender pay gap, at 90 percent of white men’s earnings. Hispanic women’s salaries show the largest gap, at 54 percent of white men’s earnings. White men are used as a benchmark because they make up the largest demographic group in the labor force.
  • Women face a pay gap in nearly every occupation.
    From elementary and middle school teachers to computer programmers, women are paid less than men in female-dominated, gender-balanced, and male-dominated occupations.
  • The pay gap grows with age.
    Women typically earn about 90 percent of what men are paid until they hit 35. After that median earnings for women are typically 75–80 percent of what men are paid.
  • While more education is an effective tool for increasing earnings, it is not an effective tool against the gender pay gap.
    At every level of academic achievement, women’s median earnings are less than men’s earnings, and in some cases, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education. While education helps everyone, black and Hispanic women earn less than their white and Asian peers do, even when they have the same educational credentials.
  • The pay gap also exists among women without children.
    AAUW’s Graduating to a Pay Gap found that among full-time workers one year after college graduation — nearly all of whom were childless — women were paid just 82 percent of what their male counterparts were paid.
All those figure must be music to her ears. 
In another article, this one in the Christian Post, she claimed that women were "voluntarily choosing lower pay" than men. Why? What could motivate a woman to do such a thing?

To answer this, Schlafly offers us an example of her typical debating style of relying on stereotypes and a superfluous factoid to make it sound like sage reasoning.   
Women place a much higher value on pleasant working conditions: a clean, comfortable, air-conditioned office with congenial co-workers. Men, on the other hand, are more willing to endure unpleasant working conditions to earn higher pay, doing dirty, dangerous outside work. In 2012, men suffered 92 percent of work-related deaths.
She doesn't stop there. Women who earn more may have a harder time finding a mate, she warns,
Another fact is the influence of hypergamy, which means that women typically choose a mate (husband or boyfriend) who earns more than she does. Men don't have the same preference for a higher-earning mate.
Women do not need wage parity, she implies, since women prefer to marry up with men who earn more.
Suppose the pay gap between men and women were magically eliminated. If that happened, simple arithmetic suggests that half of women would be unable to find what they regard as a suitable mate.
There are so many problems with this way of thinking it's hard to know where to start. The whole idea that women are by nature social parasites, looking for a mate to exploit financially is offensive to most women. (This view, besides being offensive to women, supports every misogynist stereotype of the predatory female, on the prowl for a victim.)  

Women in the Labor Force

Echoes of the Past

Schlafly ideas of women's social position are antiquated and a pleasant fiction for conservatives. The world Schlafly lives in has changed- despite her own efforts. 

Married women might have been economically dependent on their husband from 1940 to 1980. Today, however, completely dependent wives constitute a distinct minority.

A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The share was just 11% in 1960.
Keep in mind the words "sole or primary." This 40% figure excludes women who supplement the family income with part-time employment. Add that and it nearly doubles that 40% figure.

There are other holes in Schlafly's argument that women should forgo an education, find a suitable husband and concentrate on baby-making and domestic things. All well and good but life has its surprises.
For instance, what about women who are widowed, or divorced? Having once been completely dependent on a male to survive, having skipped their education in order to devote all of their energies at being a mom and wife, what happens to these women? 

The Risk of Being Dependent

It's true that not every woman wants to work full time. Many do not want to even work part-time. If that's an affordable option then what's wrong with that? The answer is, of course, nothing.
However, being totally financially dependent of your husband is a life choice with risks.

Schlafly ignores the fact that women who are completely dependent on their husbands are much more likely to tolerate an abusive spouse. Furthermore, because they are dependent, they often have no choice but to return to the abusive partner. 
a significant proportion of women who return to the relationship attribute their inability to deal with their finances as a major contributing factor, which is often enhanced by the fact that the abuser often has all of the economic and social standing and complete control over the family finances.
This is probably universally true. The United Nations strongly recommended economic empowerment of women as a protective factor for violence against women in its Beijing declaration. A study in India found similar results and also found other factors can protect women.
Economic empowerment, together with higher education and modified cultural norms against women, may protect women.
Schlafly has her own ideas about domestic violence. Read carefully this quote.
“When marriages are broken by false allegations of domestic violence, U.S. taxpayers fork up an estimated $20 billion a year to support the resulting single-parent, welfare-dependent families.”
This ties in with her general concept that a wife forfeits the right to her own body the moment she marries. Here's what she said about marital rape.
By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape.”
Schlafly lives in a different age than the rest of the world. She is clearly trapped in the 1960s before the women demanded their rights. Until 1976, marital rape was legal in every state in the United States. Although marital rape is now a crime in all 50 states in the U.S., some states still don't consider marital rape as serious as other forms of rape.
Schlafly would consider those states as models of conservatives policy.

Rape and Higher Education for Women

Here's another sample of Schlafly message:

Phyllis Schlafly: Campus sex assault is on the rise because too many women go to college
The message that the queen of conservatives is pretty clear: college is a dangerous place for women, and unnecessary. Universities are a place for men and if women gets herself sexually assaulted then, they have only themselves to blame.

Schlafly's message is that women do not need (or even want) equal pay for the same work that men do. Women would rather, she claims, spent time looking after babies and tending to the needs of their breadwinner husband. Single women should not be chasing a career or a degree. They should be attempting to hunt down a mate before her time runs out. Unmarried mothers? Well, they shouldn't exist at all.

As she reaches her natural expiration, Schlafly will soon be a bitter memory for progressive women.Her ideas are hardly any different than what Queen Victoria in 1870 espoused:
"Let women be what God intended, a helpmate for man, but with totally different duties and vocations."
Schlafly's ideas will, sooner or later, become an echo from the past, like parasols, girdles, bustles and female labor in sweat shops. 
Sadly, in some respects,  her legacy lives on with the conservatives who are even in this generation fight equal pay for women legislation, such as the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

These are the people that laugh at the very idea of a war on women. A liberal invention, they scoff. What nonsense! they say.
Like blacks in the ghettos and gays in the closet, women just have to remember their place. 


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